Now we are the tāpānak

July 10, 2021

I want to continue my lament, mainly about Manitoba’s racist premier Pallister, but I needed to ‘take ten’ after I heard him ‘imply’ that Indigenous people “only destroy rather than build.” Those hunks of metal become meaningless when you look through a wider lens at the oppression and devastation, the genocide, that these two women perpetrated.

In my view, the countries which they governed, ravaged and destroyed cultures in every Indigenous land that they stepped foot on, so I view them as criminals, no less than thieves and murderers. Those hunks of metal which formerly stood by the Legislative Building should go back to the country that they represent, the country that became filthy rich from all the land and resources that were stolen.

Oh, but immigrants are good because they come to build. We are so good to allow them to come to our country and enjoy what we can offer them. We are such good people to bring others here to escape persecution/poverty to find opportunities. It was a home of hope to many, Pallister says, but he neglects to mention that it became a home of horror to Indigenous people when colonialism started tearing down our democracies, our freedoms and our independence, our families and our family connections, our ability to parent, our cultures and languages and our sense of who we are. They have built and given us a heritage, he says about the settlers, but neglects to add that while their heritage was being built, ours was being destroyed.

Many know about the CDC’s (Centre for Disease Control) ACE study about ‘adverse childhood experiences,’ and the tremendous impact these experiences have on future violence victimization and perpetration, on lifelong health, and opportunity. Any traumatic event that occurs in childhood, such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community or having a family member attempt or die by suicide, these are all linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential. Impacts of poverty and systemic racism are also examples of ACEs, so I would guess that the majority of Indigenous people in Canada have had more than a handful of adverse childhood experiences in their lives.

We all know Canada’s history and the way our people are treated even today; by the education system, by the child care system, by corporations, (no one guiltier than Manitoba Hydro), by the Indian Act which dictated every aspect of life, where you could live (reserve system), where your children should be educated (residential schools), whether you could leave your community or not (Pass System), whether you were capable of raising/providing for your family or not (60’s scoop), whether you are a human being or not. A person lost status if they graduated university, married a non-status person (if they were a woman) or became a Christian minister, doctor, or lawyer. This is what angers me most; when a woman without Indigenous ancestry married a man with Indian status, she would gain Indian status. Alternately, if a status Indian woman married a non-status man, she would lose status, or become “enfranchised.” The list goes on. We know it. And we also know the intergenerational effects of that whole entire history.

They put our people on reserve land (iskonikana – the leftovers) but later when they saw the wealth in those lands, they started taking them back little by little, by extracting resources from those same lands – mines, generating stations, forestry, water, fossil fuels, and they proceeded to devastate that land we considered as extremely valuable once they tasted their own greed.

The tragedy of colonization is that the resilience factors were also taken away. Resilience is grounded in culturally distinctive concepts and when the language and culture are lost, and the families are torn apart, the sense of belonging is gone. It is no wonder so many of our people are feeling purposeless and hopeless. The bonds that had remained unbreakable for centuries became broken. In my language, we have a term tāpān, which means something you pull along like a sled. nitāpānak refers to my great-grandparents, as well as my great grandchildren. (kitāpānak – your great-grandparents, great grandchildren, etc.) More endearingly, we soften the t to a ts sound, represented by a c. (nicāpānak) There are 7 generations between those two sets of wāhkomākanak (relations). When our parents both had died, an Elder explained that now we were the tāpānak, our task being to bring the history into the present and the future tāpānak would carry the present into the future. It is these connections, these 7 generations of relations that we try so hard to repair in order to make us more resilient to overcome what we have experienced.

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