Monday, December 21, 2015

Poverty of spirit and of body

I will preface this posting, that I will cover a sensitive subject and I don't have any intent to offend.

pepsi baby  mixed media on canvas, by Christian Chapman, Ojibwe:
pepsi baby , by Christian Chapman, Ojibwe
In recent weeks we have been too several events that we attended with the expectation of cultural engagement.  We went for drums and smudging.  We went to share songs and to find strength in a shared culture.  While these things were part of these events, there were also many attendees from the LSE (lower socio-economic status).  These people seemed to be at these events for the supports that were offered.  That is a good thing.  There were getting supports that they needed.  But meeting their needs interfered with the other reasons for these gathering.  The kokum was ignored as she gave her prayers and offered the sage.  The women drumming were not listened to.  The song for the missing sisters was drowned out by people talking who were not paying attention to what was going on around them (but who could be quiet when the raffle numbers were drawn).

Who am I to judge?  I grew up poor and some of my discomfort is the guilty relief that I got out.  Some of it is a deep fear of knowing how easy it can be to go from one to the other and wanting to ignore that knowledge.  Some of it is lingering colonization and related ideas around behavior and organization.  Some of it is deep cultural beliefs around the poor and distinctions of the "deserving" and "not-deserving" that the collections of societal level data following the French revolution allowed us to construct and perpetrate.  Some of it is being sheltered from how some people live.  I know that many indigenous people live in poverty and I know that there is no shame in that state when it is the result of a systematic practice to take away the tools and resources indigenous people needed to succeed.

Are these events being run like church where people come for the food and they hope you leave with the cultural/religious practice?  How do you bridge these two realities?  Am I just naïve sitting here writing about theory and voice and abstract ideas?  Am I really part of something or just wanting "indigenaity" as a handy consumable? (see previous articles here and here)  Is any of my writing useful?  Or is it part of creating another space which moved beyond the stereotypes of indigenous people?  What do you think?

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