The colonial Government sets standards of worth, and we all somehow manage to align with them (whether we like it or not). Basically we are constantly separating ourselves from others… When we must remember that many Indigenous peoples understood that everything is connected. Many of us will say this about “white people”… that they just don’t get how all things are life, and all life are beings, and all beings can teach us… But, by speaking that way, we’re falling into the same ideation that the Colonizers treated us with. That we are separate. We’re creating the very separation that we accuse invaders and settlers of having. We make them an “other”. Which is making them a non-life, non-being, and incapable of learning and teaching. And we can argue lots of reasons why we do this… but it usually boils down to “they started it!” So, the question is, if “they started it” how can we end it?
Well, I don’t know the answers, but we can always question our judgments, “Is this what my ancestors would think? Is this what the Queen would think? Is this what John A. MacDonald would think? Is this what the Premier or Prime Minister would think? Is this what my teacher would think? Did I even like my teacher?” and “Is this what I TRULY believe?
So, if we say, “People who can’t spell don’t deserve $15 an hour.”
“Is this what my ancestors would think?”
“Well, no, we didn’t even have a writing system. Our currency, for the most part, was food, wool-woven and cedar-woven blankets and regalia, jewellery, and products of craftmanship (i.e. canoes). Food was a right for all people. If someone was “rich” they would have owned the woven regalia and blankets and canoes. Everyone was expected to contribute, but it was understood that if you contributed you’d be well fed and aptly housed with your family within the longhouse. And, if you felt you could gain more esteem in the community, it would mean you would master a skill, like weaving, hunting, fishing, healing, longhouse building, canoe building, etc. That esteem was received by being exceptionally skilled. Example, if you were THE BEST canoe builder, and I wanted a canoe built by YOU. It would be expected that I have a lot to trade with you so I can obtain a canoe built by you. A young builder might just get food, and some materials for building tools maybe. But, a master canoe builder might get the same goods, but also some regalia, or baskets, perhaps some jewellery. Who knows, this is just my imagination based on what I’ve been taught.
So, if someone has a willingness to work, then they can be loved, respected, and provided for in an ancestral worldview (as I imagine it to be). Nobody goes without. It’s evidenced when someone in our community experiences a loss. They are encouraged NOT to work while grieving, and much is done for them – cooking, childminding, harvesting. It is understood that this will be returned to you someday. So, no, this is not how my ancestors would think. We were all provided the chance to learn how to live on the lands we belonged to through learning the ways to harvest plants and animals, and were expected to help others in their times of grief or illness, and could expect help in return. The catch is, if you decide you don’t have to work, or support, or give away excess wealth, then you could be seen as a problem. However, this conclusion that you were either too greedy or too entitled was not came upon lightly.
I say the Queen, because she is the one who colonized Canada. She is still on Canadian currency. I believe it was my Grade 8 Social Studies class that informed me that the people sent to Canada were prisoners and the impoverished. If this is the case, I’m sure somewhere, there’s a document somewhere that has the Queen or one of her officials speaking to their own belief of these people – their own countrymen – as disposable. And, I’m sure they arrogantly cite illiteracy as one of many reasons they consider them useless and expendable.
John A. MacDonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada. He wanted to wipe out Indians and assimilate us into what he was taught was the “right” kind of culture of colonialism and colonial education and colonial identity. So, residential schools were created to make Indians like white people. And, he felt only white people should shape the minds of the Indian, because if they were allowed to be with their family, then they would never learn how to be white. I’m not joking, nor exaggerating. He enforced there was only one way in which people can learn and operate in his country, and if you conformed and assimilated to his idea of a proper colonial, then your life was, possibly, spared. This is proven by “enfranchisement” which basically stated that if an Indian were to gain a degree, join the military, or become a professional, for example by articling to become a Lawyer and taking the bar exam, then they must give up their Indian status in order to legally receive payment and operate as a businessman. So, basically, he set up this country on a foundation that there must be only one acceptable way of consuming education, and only one set of values must be upheld, and it’s very prescriptive and exclusionary.
I say the Premier or Prime Minister, because they’re the ones we rely on to govern our collective values as well as maintaining old (intentionally or unintentionally) outdated values. Are they saying they care about minimum wage? Are they doing something about it? If so, why? If not, why not? Do they feel like the collective of your province or country don’t believe that illiterate folks deserve a living wage? Are they maintaining capitalist ideals which keep the rich rich and the poor in poverty? Do we know the difference?
I say “What would my teacher think?” because my teachers spent more time with me than my parents did. And, my grade 2 teacher told me, “You’re late again Tiffany. You’re fired.” As a way to “teach” me that to work and function in the colonial society, I must always show up to work on time or I’ll be fired. Which basically teaches me that I cannot be on time for work if I cannot be on time for school. Is that real proof? Is that a real way to measure my success outside of school? It sure teaches students that. However, that’s not really how motivation works. We procrastinate for a lot of reasons, but I resisted school because it’s just not the right place for me to learn. I resisted school for a lot of reasons, self-esteem being a huge factor, but none of my teachers ever asked me why I had such low self-esteem. So, I don’t know if my teachers would agree with the idea that poor spelling = unworthy of a living wage, but I’m pretty sure they tow the line that supports that concept, whether they want to, or not. The education system has supported this idea for a long time. And, I’d like to think it creates a lot of inner conflict with at least some teachers.
And, I think the most important part to address is how did you feel about all these people??? For myself, for the longest time anytime I imagined Premiers or Prime Ministers thoughts or feelings on anything; I just felt this giant void in my heart. When I think of my grade two teacher, I feel like she definitely doesn’t align with what I FEEL to be true, but she lined up with THOUGHTS I had about myself and the world. She was mirroring my sense of self worth, and that’s important information to know. When I think of my ancestors, to be completely honest, back when I was a kid, it felt like their ideals on the world felt impossible, for even I lacked the amount of compassion my people seemed to hold, but also I was aware of the times they didn’t have compassion, but I’ve woven a story that the people who were held to the highest standards had the greatest consequences. If you were admittedly an average citizen, I feel like you were given more chances because you were honest enough to admit your flaws or shortcomings, and didn’t try to pretend to have esteem you didn’t have. And, even if you did, the proof would be in the pudding, so to speak. Our measure of wealth was how well you took care of yourself and your community. That’s something that’s hard to fake. So, I’ve used that as a guide. I can also say that it did not support me in a loving way. It gave me self-esteem issues. I didn’t feel worthy. But, at least I know what creates limiting feelings inside.
So, whatever beliefs you come down to, just decide for yourself what feels right. The mistake we make as humans is we make a lot of decisions because we want to be good people. Even the gravest genocides were thought to be actions of what was “good” for everyone. Even insulting someone’s spelling ability is because we think we’re “good.” Some of us think that if we embarrass someone about their lack of ability, they’ll be motivated to become more able. However, that’s just not how motivation works. I don’t really honestly know how positive motivation feels, but I know if you try to insult me I’ll feel inclined to fight you or to never see your face again.
After sorting through all the influences, then it’s a matter of just sitting with yourself and having a conversation with yourself about all these people lol. Ask yourself what they taught you feels like a loving act. I think what feels loving is that we help people know their strengths. It’s important to keep the definition of worth and success as wide open as possible, so that the world is filled with people who love what they do. Ability to spell is not the only way we can assess someone’s worth. Learning how to read each other on an emotional level is so insanely necessary. It’s insane that we don’t know how to do this! If we did, we’d be able to be like, “Hey, you can’t spell fries, but you’d be really happy working in landscaping. When I look at your higher self you have grass-stained khaki overalls and dirt smeared on your face and you smell like roses.”
I wrote this blog to do my best to help people understand how my thought processes have worked throughout my life. I write this also, because I feel like I can jump to core beliefs or traumas on people and they’re like, “whaaa?” And since I don’t really know how to explain why I think what I think about people, this can show that I have spent a lot. of time. thinking. about a lot. of things. Lol. And this is the best way. This isn’t even taking into account the 1000s of potentials related to all of these things…. nor the tears shed when I would think about these things. But maybe that sort of comes through because I keep changing tense. Maybe I just confused you more. LOL.