January 25, 2017

buffAbove photograph: Buffalo at Silver Heights, Winnipeg Manitoba circa 1884-1887 by William McFarlane Notman – National Gallery of Canada

When I was just a young boy, my mamma said to me: Take a look at this picture (the one seen above). It showed a few of the last survivors of the great, wild North American herds of bison (buffalo). I remember that image really affected me. It was such a tragedy. The last remaining wild “free-range” buffalo out of millions and millions. The photo was taken on land that is now present day Winnipeg, on Treaty One land, just across from where banks and shopping centres are today. And just across the river from where Neil Young grew.

The bones of the buffalo were piled high along rail lines. The damage was done.

The people of the plains relied heavily on the bison. The direct and indirect destruction of a nation(s) or ethnic group(s) was in full swing. Genocide – the parts of the word combines the Greek word génos (meaning race, people) and the Latin cide (killing). We were making room for the waves of immigrant farmers (some were my ancestors in the 1880’s) coming to the heart of North America; Dakota Territory, Minnesota and Manitoba. We justified the killing, the slaughter, the genocide. How could people farm, raise livestock and grow food if there were wild animals and wandering tribes of nomadic people trampling upon the fruit of their labours? It was incompatible. Irreconcilable differences. Cross purposes. So the men with the power behind them trampled upon indigenous life first to make room for the “people that mattered”.

A wise woman uttered these words a few hours ago: “Indigenous existence is incompatible with western ideology. They are inherently antagonistic. One exists at the death of the other.”  This notion makes one thing finally clear. Assimilation does not honor ancestors. Continuation of the status quo is a death sentence. Is there a solution to this tale of cross purposes?

Confuse and deflect – the art of winning:

Today, as business and governments willfully pass laws and make decisions that negatively affect people and planet, we are carefully directed away from real issues. Exhibit A: The reaction to the mistreatment of animals in the Hollywood movie “A Dog’s Purpose”. Everyone’s talking about it. From a Hollywood perspective,  it diverts our attention from the continual practice of “Indian” actors put in roles and saying words written for them by the movies’ non-indigenous creators (we’ll tell you what to say and how to act). Nobody’s talking about that. Exhibit B: Oscar nominated movie “Hell or High Water”, under the guise of political correctness with written lines like “We’re like Comanches, raiding where we please.” But the destruction of a people and their lives is not as important as how a dog may or may not have been treated. Interesting. Build them pipelines.

There are a few survivors of the genocide alive today, a fraction of what once was. And the railroading continues unquestioned. Some of the survivors have even been given trinkets to assume the position of the powerful. The indirect ethnic cleansing by the power brokers continues as we sit by and gawk. We watch the sacrifice of a forgotten people and land to make unimaginable piles of money for the few. And we justify it. Pity. Sad.

From Hollywood to missing and murdered indigenous women:

Pocahontas, the Hollywood version, was the idealized “Native American” as created by the minds of colonists. The Princess who saves the life of an Englishman by falling across his body just as her people were about to kill him. Unreal.

Neil Young – Pocahontas from MTV Unplugged 1993

YT post by cyrille brand


Aurora borealis
The icy sky at night
Paddles cut the water
In a long and hurried flight
From the white man
to the fields of green
And the homeland
we’ve never seen.

They killed us in our teepees
And they cut our women down
They might have left some babies
Cryin’ on the ground
But the firesticks
and the wagons come
And the night falls
on the setting sun.

They massacred the buffalo
Kitty corner from the bank
The taxis run across my feet
And my eyes have turned to blanks
In my little box
at the top of the stairs
With my Indian rug
and a pipe to share.

I wish I was a trapper
I would give thousand pelts
To sleep with Pocahontas
And find out how she felt
In the mornin’
on the fields of green
In the homeland
we’ve never seen.

And maybe Marlon Brando
Will be there by the fire
We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood
And the good things there for hire
And the Astrodome
and the first teepee
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me


above: Two more Notman images. CPR railyards in Winnipeg and woman with child on her back c~ 1880s. McCord Museum and Stephen Bulger Gallery

Today women (and men) applaud the marchers who demonstrated to DC that they would not allow their rights to be trampled. Someone was forgotten. We’ve been there before.

Women water protectors. Givers of life.

Reality: from NoDAPL



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