Prince George Citizen

Nathan Giede, a contributing writer for the Prince George Citizen, has come charging to the defense of a group of Canadian writers and editors who recently sparked a racially tone deaf debate about cultural appropriation. Giede is another individual, draped in the mantle of Western values, trumpeting his and Canadian society’s right to consume and shape what is considered to be ‘useful’, ‘titillating’, and ‘exotic’ from other cultures. His article, “How cultural appropriation saved the world,” celebrates the value of appropriation to Western society and with his narrowly focused perspective, threaded with lines of racism, does not consider the impacts of cultural appropriation on long-marginalized groups, most notably First Nations in Canada.

Giede places himself within the dominant Canadian context, the “anglosphere,” and his perspective in this article contributes to the constant messaging we all experience in the history books, media, advertising, religion, etc. that the dominant society are better and more important than indigenous people. While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of anglo superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream Canadian culture. Appropriation shows disregard for another culture. You borrow one aspect of a culture — say, wearing a sacred First Nations headdress, or using caricatures of Native Americans in sports team names– we are mocked and stereotyped, nothing can be more offensive.

Giede’s writing in this article paints historical imagery of a benevolent, gracious and benign European society embracing, saving, and adopting indigenous groups as they moved into new territories and established the structure of colonization. This is a narrow and dangerous revision of history that must be resisted as it lays the foundation for future abuses and the continuing spread and strengthening of colonial imperialism. The truth is colonialism destroyed indigenous societies in North America, where some estimates are as high as 90 per cent of indigenous populations. Furthermore, indigenous peoples are losing their languages at an unprecedented rate because of colonialism. First Nations have lived the truth of European “benevolence” and cultural genocide in Canadian society for more than 150 years as the state attempted to force assimilation on them through the residential school system. No amount of cash compensation can make right the pain and losses endured by First Nations families and communities during this time. It is only one step of a very long process of reconciliation, which Giede doesn’t seem to understand as he seems to imply that First Nations should take the money and get over it.

Much pain and loss has been expressed by indigenous writers and artists since the proposal of a “Cultural Appropriation Award.” Giede’s article continues to build and spread the anger and frustration that has been explicitly expressed as indigenous peoples across Canada vigorously push for systemic and institutional change. The voices of indigenous peoples are not being listened to and this article demonstrates this fact.

Mr. Giede, as an individual who is seen as a “leader” and is given a platform from which you trumpet your opinions, I encourage you to examine your moral and indigenous values and embrace a new code to resist and condemn cultural appropriation. In this time of truth and reconciliation, and in the year of Canada’s 150th birthday, I believe there will be no celebration in First Nations communities so long as cultural appropriation and stereotypes exist.

Terry Teegee,

Tribal Chief, Carrier Sekani Tribal CouncilPrince George

 

An open response to Chief Terry Teegee’s comments above

Dear Mr. Teegee:

I have never before felt compelled to respond directly to any author’s comments, accusation, or letters about me, my writing or philosophical-political stances. But as you had the audacity not only to call my words racist but to address me directly in the final exhortation of your letter dated above, I believe it is only right and just that I have a chance to respond, though I promise to be more concise.

I will answer your exhortation with one of my own: in your alleged position as a leader of a “long-marginalized group,” I beg you to pick your methods of liberating our people and seeking justice carefully.

Or put more bluntly – cultural Marxism will not save our people but only result in you and your peers becoming the very monsters you currently seek to destroy.

Please do not go any further down this path by using Marxist language or allying with the unprincipled practitioners of this ideology.

You may dodge this label as you please, but unlike your accusations towards me, my label of your actions is based on a factual definition.

“Cultural appropriation” is a Marxist term invented by leftists attempting to redefine the aboriginal story post-contact as one of class, cultural and racial struggle; whatever grains of truth there is to this point, they have been dissolved into a large and wicked lie that has one purpose: to overthrow “oppressors” by any means necessary, even violence.

Regardless of your own caveats, the philosophical outlook you are espousing boils down to treating Canadian society, the legacy of post-contact relations with Europeans, and, by extension, all those of European ancestry as “others,” casting all of them in a single mould as “oppressors.”

Even those who want to help our people heal are forced to kowtow to this unsubstantiated meta-narrative, by acknowledging “traditional territory” or assuming ever more guilt to assuage aboriginal outrage.

Let me make this unmistakably clear: I will never, for any amount of money, signs of friendship or outright coercion endorse you and your peer’s current methodologies or fall into step behind the supposed leadership of movements who ultimately do not care about truth and justice but rather only about attaining absolute power.

The power to dictate how the future might unfold and to revise entire centuries of history without any due process. These methods will never liberate our people in any way.

If you truly care about our people, take my advice, abandon Marx – who would have liquidated our people due to our lack of technology – and look to a different Hebrew: Moses of the Old Testament.

The only oppressed group to truly overcome their oppressors were indeed the Hebrew slaves who left Egypt.

Unlike contemporary native leaders, they didn’t seek rent from their captors; rather they plundered them once and then set off to become a free, independent people in their promised land.

I put to you that this method was uniquely successful for a reason: they left exploitation behind, bound themselves to a law of justice for all and defended it by remaining apart from others.

What might that look like for we, the inconvenient Indians, of the modern day? First, it would be an acknowledgment that trying to preserve our pre-modern culture, especially its notion of “sacred space,” within the modern paradigm is a fool’s errand.

Second, if our people are to survive as a distinct society, we cannot stay within the confines of this same culture. It will inevitably turn us into overweight, Netflix watching, debtor-slaves just like everyone else. To live, we must die to this world.

Finally, especially amongst the most marginalized, the promise of one’s own home and land to work for food, on those reserves already numbered for us, would become a rallying cry remembered for generations.

Utilizing already existing infrastructure, people long disenfranchised could finally have a place to call their own, and once made self-sustaining our culture would not just survive, but grow.

I pray that you and your peers put aside your current weapons and fight for the real change I’ve outlined above.

Perhaps we really will achieve freedom one day – and not just a token Aboriginal Day.