And The Beat Goes On
The Stardale Women's Group began 2020 with a special expanded circle which welcomed several special guests including our elder, Wanda Fast Rider and special guest Dr. Linda Many Guns from the University of Lethbridge Indigenous Studies Department.
Wanda began the evening with a Blackfoot prayer and by lighting some sage, describing to the girls what she was doing, and why. Helen began the discussion by asking about the traditional place of women in First Nations cultures. And what has happened since early times to create the situation where indigenous women are much more likely to be the victims of violence than any other group of women in our society.
It a tough history to listen to, shameful and brutal. Especially when you hear about the whole residential school debacle from people (like Wanda, and another guest, a Cree woman from Saskatchewan named Eva) who survived it.
The continuous generational progression was fractured for at least 100 years. Traditions and stories and even languages were lost. Linda spoke of systemic racism that did nothing but alienate and destroy a culture. It was a very heavy evening, to put it mildly.
I was thinking of the concept of systemic racism, all the various systems involved in making integration virtually impossible for indigenous people when I came upon a story the next day that was in the news - the sad (pathetic, really) story of the first nations man and his grand daughter who tried to open an account for her at a BMO in Vancouver and who ended up being handcuffed on the street outside the bank. And then the subsequent defending of police actions by the Vancouver Chief of Police.
Helen had asked Linda when this systemic racism had begun and Linda replied, "As soon the ink had dried on the treaties."
And the beat goes on.
The next week I spoke with the girls about what Wanda and Linda and Eva had talked about the week before. I asked if they would share any thoughts or experiences they have of prejudice, either because they are First Nations or because they are girls.
The writing the girls do when given such prompts will eventually, with some editing, become the script for our performance piece titled The Road, which we will be presenting this spring at various venues around Calgary.
Here is one response I received from one of the girls this week. Of course, I never know what their life experiences have been, or how much they are willing to share, but this piece I guarantee will make the final edit:
The fear of being forgotten with all the other women and girls, left behind under water in a garbage bag because to most people we're not human we're just another piece of trash . . .
I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's difficult but important work.
And so we carry on.