In Honour of Loretta
by DARRYL LEROUX
Trigger Warning - This article deals with the death of Loretta Saunders, an Innuk woman who was found murdered on Wednesday, February 26th in Salisbury, New Brunswick.
""I refuse to speculate about Loretta’s death. What I do know is that our society has discarded indigenous women and girls in much the same manner for generations. These people were playing out a script that we all know intimately, but never acknowledge. I told a good friend of mine yesterday that there’s no conspiracy, there’s no mystery, Loretta will show up in a ditch like so many indigenous women before her. He was taken aback. I told him that's the pattern.
It's our doing, which Loretta articulated so clearly in her writing — theft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued dispossession = social chaos.
It is a recipe for disaster for indigenous peoples, and especially indigenous women. Who suffers most when access to land, to the ecological order at the basis of most indigenous societies, is limited, controlled, or outright eliminated? Is that not what’s at the basis of a settler society like our own, eliminating indigenous peoples' relationship to the land (and/or their actual bodies), so that can we plunder it for our gain?
All the while, through trickery and deceit, we convince our children that indigenous peoples are to blame for their condition, that through no fault of our own, they simply don’t understand how to live well in society.
When I discuss these issues with my non-indigenous students in an open, honest, and non-judgmental manner, I am continuously disappointed, though no longer surprised by their lack of knowledge.""" - Darryl LeRoux
How, how, how? This is tragic, I am just SO SAD about all this.
In my second year of university, at Emily Carr university, I sat outside on break from art history class, smoking alone. I find it hard to read people, if they are friendly or if they want company, so I often sat alone unless invited. Cigarettes were more reliable company than I had, in that lonely period (except Groupthink -I didnt use my real name here, then, and you guys were so kind when I needed it). I have a few friends now that i somehow managed to make then, and i think it says more about how wonderful they are than about my people skills.
We were studying Native American art, and we were covering residential schools and colonialism, disenfranchisement and using the writings of bell hooks and Ken Lum for our study. Our professor did an excellent job of covering the 'traditional' art history and balancing it with the alternate points of view, from the ripping off ancient art to remix in Orientalism, to Picasso's modern paintings directly ripped from African traditions. And now we were talking about Emily Carr's gleeful historicizing of Native American Haida who are still very much alive and making their own art.
In the group next to me, an assorted mix of Asian and Caucasian (to my memory, remembering I can hardly tell who belongs to which demographic, the same way others find it hard to get a read on me, Cree and Caucasian).
One spits, bitching. "Why do we have to learn this history? We covered it in foundation year (freshman)."
As though the tearing apart of our families and rampant abuse was over and done with. The generations who were tortured out of our native languages and who forgot how to love and how to be a family because of residential schools and bastardized Christianity are still alive. Their children, who were raised by broken people in devastated communities, who went hungry or were thrown into orphanages (a different kind of institution than the ones that ruined our elders lives), their children got what they had left: abuse, alcoholism, self medication, and worse. Some find their way out, some find Christianity (where else is salvation offered, By our Stockholm-offering countrymen?), some stop drinking, some have the flocks of children over to their house for supper, the herds of kids running around the reserve, sometimes one kid is so small they are in a stroller, mosquito bitten and pushed by older siblings. Some end up in foster homes, ostracized in a new way, some get grants and go to university. Some still go to trapline and some pick wild blueberries for dinner. We make bannock, all of us, a traditional food of government rations, the cheapest mix of lard and flour and baking soda, and yet its still really, really delicious. And then we see people dressing up like they think we do, spending more on costume feathers and blockbuster movies than we do trying to find a way in the new world that ruined our old one. And those of us who do best at that, who are in university or have jobs in governments or as teachers or lawyers wish we knew our grandparents language or that we could help our suicidal cousins, and we struggle along with student loans and try not to wind up in a ditch.
For what and for why?
And we want reconciliation, for everyone to find their way back to the still listening space in the woods, to be able to connect with nature like my mom does, since she was a little girl making dolls out of river rocks and playing with the dogs that ran free outside, no leashes. We want people to come back to nature and learn the language - there are more Asian kids taking Cree at the university of Saskatchewan, because its easier than English. ideas are stronger when shared. We want you to join us for ceremony, we want to rediscover the Creator and the harmony of the great mystery ....
But if we could do that without being mocked, stomped upon, or thrown into a ditch, it would probably go a lot smoother for all of us. And I think you want this, too. I don't think there is a single one of you that would have read this far, who actively thinks "Man, I would really like to throw you in a ditch"....
I want to live in a generous society, where we have enough wealth as a people to give away our knowledge and share our ways. We need more sharing, and its really hard to feel comfortable sharing in the colonial system, with its competitive money ways and victim blaming. We all participate and ignore at alternate times...
I think it can get better. RIP, Loretta.
RIP, Jodi Roberts