Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Day in the Life of Kevin Annett

I received this message via a Facebook group, "Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust," and I thought it was worth sharing. Kevin Annett's website and radio show tell the stories of Aboriginal Canadians, and their deaths, from residential schools and the death of native cultures to uninvestigated abuses and murders. This "day in the life" story provides a variety of examples of how natives realities and experiences in Canada could be considered genocide. White Canadians learn about native culture in school, about our history with them, trading fur and marrying metis wives, and then kind of flash forward to a reality in which Native people are angry at us, and nobody knows why. Except we do know why- we know about drunk natives, homeless natives, native children in foster care- but we've always treated addiction, abuse, poverty, family breakdown, criminality as problems native people inflict on themselves, never as the direct results of a campaign to wipe them out.

So here it is: A Day In the Life of Kevin Annett

I met Bingo this afternoon at his corner, our listening post at Main and Hastings. His usual joy at seeing me struggled through layers of drunkenness but the courage as always was there. A guy from WAHRS handed us some minutes from their meeting and we were scanning them when a big, particularly stupid cop, a sergeant, accosted us and stared over my shoulder at the paper, yelling,

"What's this shit, more propaganda?"

I folded the paper and turned away from the thug. He leaned over to Bingo and sputtered,

"I don't like you! You're a goddamned trouble maker!".

Word gets around. I turned to the cop and said,

"You don't know the half of it."

Bingo raised himself up, and replied,

"I don't have to talk to you!"

"Fucking trouble maker!" returned the cop.

"Don't say that" I said to the cop. "Come on, now."

I half expected a brawl but the sergeant suddenly bolted across the street to the cop shop after giving Bingo a very mature gesture.

Bingo and I, clearly, are known and hated by the downtown eastside cops, after leading our wave of sit-ins at the local churches. Why, I'm not sure. Why should it be any skin off their nose?

I hung around to see if the cop would return with help, but Bingo wasn't fazed at all. His main concern was how he was going to get a bottle of something to get him through the night.

"I don't remember much of what happened to me at the rez, Kev" Bingo said to me later. "But I got the hurt bad anyway, really bad. You don't have to remember for it to be there."


Earlier, at the Sweetgrass Centre, a native woman named Irene I met awhile ago told me how she still can't see her son more than an hour each week, and he screams whenever she tries to hold him. He's one year old and lives in a white foster home.

"It ain't normal. They're abusing him, I know it" she said, her eyes crazy with the pain.

"I gotta stop it, but how? The social worker ignores my calls."

"Some guy went crazy with a rifle and shot three people at the Pow Wow yesterday" said a man next to us, as he read a newspaper.

"Seems he was pissed off 'cause they wouldn't let him in drunk."

"But the soup is good" croaked an old guy, slurping the fish stew that Carol and others had slaved at all day.

Irene watched it all, her heart miles away. She studied me to see what I would do about her son.

"Come on my radio program, we can tell others" I said to her.

"Gotta do more'n talk" she replied, and to my surprise, added,

"We should picket their home. Picket the welfare office."

People came and went, signing the list, eating their stew and bannock, then hurrying out. Irene lingered, spreading the pain, sustained a little bit just by being with us. She kept patting the cat, over and over.


Deanna finally spoke on the air today, years in the making. But doing so sent her into a post-traumatic reaction and I had to talk her down for an hour after the program.

"I felt it all again. I felt all that fucking fear ..."

She spoke about almost being murdered by an aging john who took her to a weird looking room that had awful vibes, and sheets covering all the windows, and muffled stuff on the walls.

"I knew girls were killed there. I knew it" Deanna said. "I picked a fight and got outta there. I would have died."

She spoke about hearing a long, blood curdling female scream one night, a block away.

"We ran around, trying to find out where it was coming from. But we couldn't. It sounded like murder."

I commented about the house at Jackson and Hastings where girls had been killed and then buried under the floorboards. The whole place was gutted and asphalted at the start of the Picton trials.

"Everybody knows that place. I stayed away from it but I lost some friends there. Every day, we wonder who's gonna disappear next. It never stops for us."

One of the station staff people kept walking by the studio, flashing me angry glances. A prostitute, on the air?

Deanna started crying when Carol spoke about the pedophile rings at the Campbell street apartments, where six year old kids dressed all fancy are taken on Friday nights. She didn't stop crying.

I didn't cry. I never do.


William sat through the entire program, saying nothing, sober for once, and thus deep in his pain. He smiled only once when Molly, our operator, brought her new born daughter with her into the studio. He didn't dare touch the baby when Molly offered her to him.

Molly had arrived late, in tears. A cop had ticketed her and yelled something at her for not wearing a bike helmet. She kept wiping her tears with one hand and breastfeeding her baby with the other.


[The entire original message is not included]


Alienation said...

This is so depressing. Enough Said.

I'm glad you shared this information with us.

We don't really hear much about indigenous people here. Wow's all I can say.

uppitywhore said...

i actually felt like a shit after posting this for editing myself and using weak language to call it genocide. indigenous people's rights are a touchy issue is canada- too much support for them can leave a person a lot less popular. and i gave in to that... because i was afraid no one would read it otherwise, because i was afraid it would make people so angry that they wouldn't get the point.... the consequences of levelling charges of genocide aganst the great liberal nation of canada.
what indigenous people have to live with in our ever-present and continuing colonialist empire is sickening. the same man who told this story sent me another one recently, about a police assault against homeless people who were trying to sleep in a park that had been fenced off to protect vancouver's image in the build-up to the olympics. while the assault was taking place, the mayor announced the closure of two more homeless shelters, also for the sake of the city's image. they were not charged, nor were they released after their assault. i'm thankful that at least one person was able to tell their stories.
how is it not genocide when these people are subjugated into poverty, raped and battered, murdered, refused medical care and police protection, refused housing and then imprisoned and WHO KNOWS WHAT is done with them if they refuse to be invisible???
my shitty feeling didn't go away, but i'm glad i made that clear.
we all need to DEMAND real information about the experiences of aborignal women in our countries, if we have any hope of thinking that women's rights matter to us. we need to know how the men and boys live if we ever want to understand how racism fuels and provides for our lifestyle. indigenous people are like a part of the environment in our culture- utterly disposable.

Alienation said...

"and i gave in to that... because i was afraid no one would read it otherwise,"

I understand :-(. I feel that way some times too. I guess we should not be afraid to call oppression and genocide what they are, despite the touchy issues they might be for those that are sensitive to them. And as activists, we have to be willing to get reprimanded if we are "ignorant" to a variety of issues. We must also acknowledge that some people we advocate for might claim not to want our help, that some people really don't, and that our "help" proves our superior position. We must also realize that some people will believe it's not their responsibility for them to "teach us" our error in understanding them. And that our family and friends will judge us, and people will be terrified of us in general. And the alternative to all of this is that things stay the same.

Even "in-group", we all respond to language differently and speak differently, and like language we respond to society differently. For example, some BW empowerment bloggers constantly discuss how "some" black women choose to wake up, while others find comfort in staying the same despite our oppression. Some people are afraid of change, some defend the current system regardless of the fact that they dont benefit from it (how many Americans vote against their best interests ALL THE TIME?) lol If Obama were to pass universal healthcare tomorrow for example, some Americans would vote AGAINST it despite the fact that they might not be in a position to afford treatment themselves. A poor white southerner might vote republican despite that being against their own best interest, and a poor black woman might vote in favor of Obama (even though he's said NOTHING about helping our situation specifically).

My point is that if some aliens came from outerspace, and claimed they were going to teach/help us overcome human oppression, shortage of food, despite them being similar to us some of us would go "yay! help's on the way!", some would go "do not interfere, we like our way of life", and some of us would say "what's in it for YOU?". All very valid questions, I think we gotta (and I'm gonna make a very good effort of doing this) realize that as activists or progressives or whatev we want to call ourselves is that we have to realize we will be coming to obstacles/very sensitive subjects and it will be awkward, and "unsettling". Because there's something I think that is a very human trait about connecting to the status quo as a source of sanity. It's better to post an angry rant and get a bunch of angry responses and develop, than to never raise the question and therefore not learn at all.

It's tricky. And I hope you realize that NOTHING you can ever post here is too "touchy" for discussion. I don't think anything is in general, I know you care so we'd just talk about it, and work it out. I feel like this is in general how me and AJ (toot horn :-P) have learned so much from each other. We're both really open to political criticism, regardless of how "awkward" it might have been at first. xo

uppitywhore said...

yeah, i felt ok with posting it on here, especially since native rights aren't a big deal in the US. it was importing it to facebook, where my canadian friends would have access to it, that made me rethink my strong language. it's almost unbelievable how indignant white people here feel about native men and women who want to take "our" land back, just because they have a treaty (that was coercive in the first place) from 100 years ago (that we already broke) that says its theirs. it's a weird and blatant kind of racism because they directly threaten white supremacy, not by asking for "equal rights" (which they should also be welcome to), but by asserting the right of their nations to exist, literally and physically, where ours does illegitimately. and it makes whitey maaaaaaaad (google "caledonia" for more on mad whitey). the increased tensions in canada might be because we couldn't find a legal way around recognizing indigenous nationhood, so they have a stronger claim here. we didn't ratify the un declaration of the rights of indigenous people though, which makes me want to vomit every time i see our prime minister's signature.
white people have been so careful to establish an elite class in native communities to keep them under Indian Affairs' thumb and to impose paternal rule "for their own good" that I could totally understand if I said "you guys need to do something about your domestic abuse rate" (I heard one estimate of 98%) and they said "you need to fuck off telling us what to do." i didn't like how i felt about myself when i wasn't afraid of that, but of what other white people would say. i think this is where my usual mantra of "listen and be willing to take direction" comes in.

Alienation said...

Yeah, I understand what you mean I've def felt the need to "tame down" my language as to not offend people, so I tot understand.

"" i didn't like how i felt about myself when i wasn't afraid of that, but of what other white people would say."

Right, the white people that would probly say "I told you this was between them" and can therefore justify these problems as an
"in group issue" carrying on with their merry-privileged way.

Yea i hear u :-( I def deleted like 150 ppl off of my friendslist because of the intense nature of what I write and say and do in general. LOL Not because I had anything against them, but because i didn't want to be judged or feel uncomfortable. Are your friends mostly radical in thought?

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog this morning and enjoyed reading this article as well as "what if black women were white women". As a white woman who believes herself to be non-racist it's really eye opening to see how racial stereotypes are supported in such subtle (to me) ways and how they are experienced by black women. I will continue to read your blog in the hopes of becoming a more educated and understanding human being. Thanks-and really well done.

Anonymous said...

new fan of this blog, reading in from work at a First Nation.

One thing on topic today is education and I thought you guys might like this story: Talk to 100 people on your street and the conclusion's clear, First Nations people have it pretty good when it comes to education, yeah? I hear it all the time, how much their student loan was, how they wish they were born native, invariably telling me but not their MP.

Anyway the statistics are that per student in Ontario at primary school, K-12, it's 10000$ if you're white and 5000$ if it's a First Nation school, i.e. a school on a reserve, that's just the way it's funded. I just heard this today and all kinds of red flags are fallin out of alarm bells.

Good work here with this blog all around, it's well-written, really good thinking.