Speculating on Native identity

Greetings readers.

I’d like to start off by saying that the Native Student Council is currently in the planning stages for Native Awareness Week, which is set to be in late February. We met to do some brainstorming and are eager to finalize ideas and make this upcoming Native Awareness Week the best yet.

This semester, I decided to take more Native Studies courses.  I wasn’t going to let one bad (terrible, actually) mark get under my skin. I figure that I could learn some things about the current state of First Nations issues past and present.

The first class is “Native Cultural Identity and Survival” with Roland Chrisjohn. For the first class he brought up an interesting thought. He said that he tries to put himself in or around 1490, before European contact, and he wonders if there was a Native person wondering what it meant to be Native.

This of course is a time when Natives were the only people on this continent, so why would the question of identity come up? I’m not sure how I want to take this question.

For one, no one can prove that this question was or was not asked. It’s pure speculation. I can understand how today there is a question of identity, because everyone is different. But does not knowing the answer make a person less of what they actually are? Being in the white man’s world doesn’t make a Native less of a Native.

These sorts of questions have answers that are personal, not one-size-fits-all. I’m not trying to attack his statement, as he obviously put great thought into it. I’m just trying to throw in my two cents based on what he said. After all, I highly doubt Dr. Chrisjohn would think any less of a fellow Native for having questions regarding Natives in 2010.

My second Native Studies course is Mi’kmaq History with Andrea Bear-Nicholas (I’ve heard great things about her classes). This class seems more in line with a general history course from a Native perspective, so it won’t ignore details like genocide, disease and colonialism with regard to Canadian history.

I’m not sure how much I can learn about actual Mi’kmaq history at a school. After all, it isn’t like that stuff was written down and preserved by scholars, but I’m optimistic that I’ll learn something to bring back to you, the reader. I’m thinking that it will be more in line with Native issues with a Mi’kmaq twist.

Check back later in the week, I’ll have something else for you great folks to read.

Any thoughts? I am always up for discussion. My email is hbdjj@stu.ca, so feel free to email me your thoughts, questions, comments or complaints (put Native Issues in subject box) and I will get back to you as fast as I can.

1 COMMENT

  1. The issue of identity, if it is an issue that is, for an Indian in North America is up to those "Peoples" themselves. The recent article in the Montreal Gazzette is one surrounding this very issue:

    "Saying there are too many non-natives living in Kahnawake, the local band council has issued eviction notices to 25 residents, giving them 10 days to leave the Indian reserve on Montreal's South Shore."

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/natives%20bei

    Identity was viewed problematic and solvable during 1969 with Canada's proposed "White Paper", where all Aboriginals in Canada would become Canadians, effectively losing any indigenous semblance by a simple act of Parliament. That, fortunately, was met with stiff resistance.

    To suppose that question in 1490 as important as it is today, I think, was meant to be redundant as an example. So why is it important to explore the issue of identity now? Very important, definition is everything. For the First Nations in Canada, acknowledging the Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and keeping in respecting 'Treaty Obligations' by the Canadian Government, I assume the issue is not about identity, but a further stretch away from perhaps the obligations towards who is and who isn't a First Nation in Canada.

    Great topic, thanks!

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