I am not the typical “human rights activist” I didn’t realize how rare people like me actually are because I always just assumed I was normal. You see, I am someone who advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples but isn’t hardcore, left wing in all my politics. I think this confuses people immensely because they cannot just write me off as an extremist since I am, in fact , middle of the road.
I guess it works for me because I try to take all my beliefs on a case-by-case basis. I do not support or attack any cause simply based on the personal opinions of any single group, and I refuse to “go along to get along.” What I have noticed is that this means I catch hell from both sides of the fence when I state my opinions. It’s a good thing I have healthy self esteem and am not overly concerned with the feelings of others.
First, it’s important to understand that in Canada, indigenous rights are mainly supported by, and advocated by, the left side of the political spectrum. So most of the people I have to work with in order to get things done are usually hardcore leftists, with a few middle of the road types who are still usually more biased to the left. When I am advocating for the indigenous peoples of Canada or most of the worlds other indigenous peoples, this is usually fine, except that I’m constantly warning people to be careful about what sources they cite and terms they use, so that we do not lose credibility with mainstream Canadians. Most of my credibility with these people comes from me actually being quite active and always trying to follow my conscience and staying consistent. Many of the people involved in the native rights struggle know some of my politics are actually quite “controversial” for their side of the fence, resulting in some of them trying to gain credibility at my expense by ostracizing me , attacking me personally and denigrating my personal beliefs. I have always openly been very supportive of the rule of law and of Government involvement in certain aspects of our lives. This is not popular with Lefty people. Even less popular is the fact that I shoot guns for fun, enjoyed hunting for food and play tackle football (apparently football is a violent patriarchal contest for dominance rooted in man’s propensity towards violent behavior, and it encourages competition and violence). I never thought that deeply about it, I just like smashy smashy.
I guess, however, that I am pretty lucky, because as much as I can be a prideful, arrogant and forceful person, I am also pretty knowledgeable, strong willed and resourceful. But most importantly, I tend to get things done. So for most native people who have worked with me, they understand that and know that I am reliable and can be counted on. This is more than can be said about many of the people involved in our struggle. I do not just talk the talk, I walk the walk.
Then there is the more conservative side, who tend to not like me much because I advocate for indigenous rights, am against big oil, believe strongly in socialized medicine and think that legalized weed and prostitution would solve more things than would harm. I believe in doing your own research because history has been written by the temporary winner and is therefore usually very inaccurate unless viewed through several sources. I am not gullible and I refuse to simply do as I am told. So even though I have always supported peaceful negotiations and avoiding conflict, I am also not quiet about things I don’t like, and that includes corruption in native and white governments, and the fact that more than ¾ of all money dedicated to “Indians” ends up in white peoples’ pockets. Speaking openly about such things doesn’t endear me to many conservatives.
So I suppose I am a rare bird, I don’t just select my causes based on what everyone in my peer group supports. I take the time to study things in depth, not some simple skimming of Wikipedia and grabbing a few one-sided sources, but actual in-depth research. Since I was a small child, I would pick a subject and, for a few days, I would read everything I could find on that subject, from all sorts of points-of-view, until I felt I understood it well enough to be conversant with people considered to be experts. This is why I am rarely caught off guard in an argument or debate. I actually spend the time learning about this stuff, and am not regurgitating websites, or posting YouTube videos and passing that off as arguments.
Last year, I wrote an article about the indigenous status of the Jewish people. At first, a lot of Native people were really upset, because for almost 47 years they have been told that the Arabs are the indigenous people AND NOBODY EVER CHALLENGED IT. You see, for the Left, and this includes most indigenous people, men like Chomsky and Said have been Sacred Cows. They were glib, well read, and could turn a phrase very well. So nobody ever delved very deeply into their claims of Jews being settler colonists from Europe who were stealing Arab land. I was actually told by one Indian “Dude, Chomsky says the Arabs are indigenous, you are just an Indian from Paddle, you can’t argue with people like Chomsky.” I laughed and then brought out the big guns. First I asked that person if white people were indigenous to Canada because they have been here for almost 5 hundred years now. Of course he said “No of course not.” I then asked him if his people were no longer indigenous because they were not actually from the far North but had been transplanted there and thus displaced from their own ancestral lands. He responded “No, being displaced doesn’t remove our rights as indigenous people NO MATTER HOW LONG WE ARE DISPLACED FOR.” It was at that point I simply said “If people do not lose their indigenous status through being displaced, and people do not subsume indigenous status through conquering indigenous people and “replacing them,” then the Arabs are not indigenous to the ancestral lands of the Jewish people. Jews have been there for three thousand years and everything that makes them Jews began there.” It was an epiphany for him because he now posts and reposts stuff supporting the Jewish state of Israel, because he realizes that the same arguments used to attack the indigenous rights of Jews, are the same arguments used to attack ours.
What I am seeing is that more and more native people are using Google, which is good and bad, because there are so many horrifically biased sources out there, but at least now they are reading about the world, and it shows they want to be engaged. What’s truly awesome is that so many of them are getting upset at having been sold a bill of goods and having been used as a weapon against other indigenous people. These Native people are starting to become more vocal against those who would try to co-opt our cause and feed us lies.
People like Chomsky and Said are pretty much worshiped by lefties because they use terms like “ resistance” and “ colonialism” constantly. Yet Chomsky supported tyrannical regimes throughout the Middle East during the time when he was supposedly all about human rights, and Said constantly wrote distorted and biased versions of Middle Eastern history with some flat out lies included for good measure. Both of them consistently misuse the words “indigenous” and “native” in order to obfuscate the real history of the region and gain the veneration and support of Native people. They constantly said what they knew indigenous people wanted to hear, and then inserted their own twisted politics into the discourse and they were never challenged, But some of us Indians can read, and we do not like when people lie to us. We are not mushrooms. We do not want to be kept in the dark and fed feces.
I decided a long time ago that I would speak up when I see things I do not like. I will not remain silent because silence is complicity. I have the facts on my side, and I am a stubborn cuss who doesn’t like bullies and has a tendency to tilt at windmills that would make Cervantes blush. I believe I will eventually win because I’m just telling the truth.
Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good hamburger?
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