Territory Acknowledgements

I am writing this on the traditional and present homeland of the L’nui Mnikuk and Epekwitk First Nations. Under the Peace and Friendship Treaties, this territory – as part of Mi’kma’ki – was never surrendered, and is still Mi’kmaq land.

Ton, you asked “what was the import” of the paragraph like that in my last post, the one about the garden.

Short answer, it’s a territory acknowledgement. It’s a thing that’s become common in Canada at the beginning of a meeting or ceremony, to show our respect to the Indigenous Peoples who were here first, as part of the ongoing project of Reconciliation.

Also, what I just said is a steaming pile of bullshit.

Because territory acknowledgements are not reconciliation. They can be, and are in danger of becoming more frequently, an easy way to say you did something, while actually not doing anything at all. It’s a transposition of the Catholic ritual of absolution, a salve for the guilty white conscience. It lets us pat ourselves on the back. We did dun good. Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân) wrote an excellent analysis of this. So what’s the import? Is it just performative wokeness, a transaction for social capital in front of other Lefties?

This morning, trying not to get anything wrong, I read the texts of the Peace and Friendship Treaties (1752 and 1761-62) for the first time. In writing this post, I learned the Mi’kmaq name of the Lennox Island First Nation. By doing this I’m educating myself, realizing how much I don’t know.

It was 2010 when I saw this mural in Montreal: NO OLYMPICS ON STOLEN NATIVE LAND.

I remember how uncomfortable it made me. I didn’t like how big and in-your-face it was. Stolen land? Isn’t that a bit harsh? What do they intend to gain by calling it that? Just make us feel guilty and shitty about something awesome like the Olympics? It’s too late now anyway, it’s happening. If land theft happened, it was so, so long ago. What are we supposed to do, just pick up and walk away from where we live?? Just… die??

White fragility is a thing.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their report in 2015, they called (among other things) for educational institutions to be truthful about the history of Canada. I mean, according to my grade 8 social studies, history started in 1534 when Jacques Cartier was welcomed(!) by the Natives and developed right up till Canada became Canada in 1867. We didn’t learn about the Treaties. We didn’t learn about the Indian Act. We didn’t really learn about the harm done by Residential Schools. We didn’t learn about the 60’s Scoop, or the continued forced removal of indigenous children from their families. And of course we didn’t learn about the many ways in which Indigenous communities are currently being denied clean drinking water, health care, education, criminal justice, acceptable housing, food security, self-determination, sovereignty over their land, and even a planet that can sustain human life. These are Treaty rights, Indigenous Rights, and Human Rights. But the idea that this country was and is built on strategies for wiping out ethnic groups i.e. genocide goes against our cultivated self-image as a smiling, multicultural, meritocracy.

For me, it all fell apart when I learned about the Doctrine of Discovery. I mean, I had kind of assumed that people could move to wherever they wanted to and make peace with (or take over from) whoever lived there. Isn’t that just human nature, back to the Roman Empire and before? Well, no. This 15th century Papal Bull, that says that non-Christians are non-people, gives Christian explorers the “right” to claim “un-exploited” land as their own. Which is what happened. Which led to settlers, the violent removal of Indigenous people, and a system of Deeds of Conveyance of land right up to the one I signed in “the year of our Lord [sic] Two Thousand and Sixteen.”

So when I cultivate a garden with European plants, on this “parcel of land lying and being part of Common Lot Number Thirteen in the Common of Charlottetown,” I am particularly conscious of how my life is a continuation of settler colonialism.

And I say it, because hearing others say it made me realize how much I had to learn. I learned from Indigenous activists, who are doing incredible work (and putting up with disgusting amounts of abuse). I learn from Elders, who I have been fortunate to hear speak at UPEI. I learn from friends, who have been doing this work for longer, and far better than I have.

I say the land acknowledgement because it makes me uncomfortable, and hopefully makes other settlers uncomfortable and start to question. The education piece has a long way to go.

But as Pam Palmater writes, land acknowledgements and self-education are not reconciliation. They’re the bare fucking minimum we should have been doing all along.

We should be demanding our governments enact the TRC’s Calls to Action and the NI-MMIWG’s Calls for Justice. Taking action to stop pipelines, protect waterways and water tables. We need to end the exploitation economy.

That’s the reconciliation work I should be doing, and haven’t even started yet.

Solstice Garden Update

This post is being written on, and about my settler user of, unceded Mi’kmaq land. I am grateful to live here under the Peace and Friendship Treaties.

The garden’s coming along nicely. Parsley and genovese basil patches are finally perking back up, though we let them get too leggy before transplanting, and some of them show bleaching (leaves turning white). We’ve had delicious meals from them both. Sage, thyme, Thai basil, and rosie basil are happy little transplants. And the broccoli rabe (rapini) in rows 1 and 3 seem to be doing good! In row 2, sorrel and mâche are coming in, slowly.

A little story about mâche. The summer after I graduated high school, my Mom took me to Europe. We stayed in a little apartment in the Alps [Mom, if you remember what town it was I’ll mention it here] and discovered this weird little lettuce that came in tiny bunches at the grocery store. We wanted to eat healthy and also balance out the frozen apple strudel that one could also get at the same grocery store. It (the lettuce) was amazingly tasty, tender like no lettuce we’d had before, with a delicate rich nutty flavour that was balanced by a yogurt dressing. It was later, when we asked our friends about it, that they told us it was also called Rapunzel. As in, this was the lettuce in the Witch’s garden that the Rapunzel’s mom craved so much she had her husband steal which set off the whole darn fairy tale. This lettuce is that good.

So this is my witch’s garden, take 1. Happy solstice!

How to talk more?

As Peter Rukavina experienced with Sobey’s Sensory-Friendly shopping hours, you often don’t realize an inconvenience until it’s gone.

So this new anti-anxiety medication that I’m on seems to be having quite an effect already (it’s been a week). The other day I spoke, in public, and while speaking was able to adapt what I was saying and how I was saying it (tone, inflection pattens,…). I did this with an intuition of how I wanted to be in that interaction, and a newfound realization that I had multiple ways of presenting (myself, my thoughts). I was even able to hold space and expand on something that I realized required an explanation after I’d said it. I didn’t realize I’ve had an inner voice saying “shut up! nobody wants to hear you! nobody will get it! Stop talking!” until it was gone. 

So in the spirit of Ton’s article on How To Blog More?, I’m listing some strategies for being comfortable talking/blogging/generally, expressing. This is notes-to-self, audience me, expressed out loud. Not prescriptive.

  • Find some templates for contributing to conversations. “Yes, and…” is a good start. “I was thinking about…” is another. 
  • Keep it concise. I’m gonna struggle with this one because I really like the giant web of connections that my brain makes around any topic. 
  • When contributing to the conversation, consider that the ideas that you bring up are ideas you are directing the audience’s attention to. Make sure that they are where you want to direct attention. 
  • Respect everyone involved, including myself. (inner voice, take note)
  • It’s okay if it’s not complete, if it points in the direction you want to go. Value the dialogue. 

Elmine wrote a beautiful post about the value of communication, and making people feel heard. Ton and Peter are discussing the possibility of creating QSL cards (letterpressed, of course) to celebrate successfully sent webmentions. (I love it, I’m in, I just have to choose a non-doxxable address and figure out how where to put the h-card)

Speaking of, webmentions should be working now, thanks Ton for being my blogfather, checking your site’s logs while at the airport, and explaining to me that I had to link to a specific article, not the blog in general, for the webmention to go somewhere. Ton, is it bad form to webmention multiple of your blog posts in this one? Is that like spamming?

Press Pound to Publish

Who starts a weblog in 2019? This kid, apparently.

Who starts a weblog in 2019? This kid, apparently.

I’m sitting on my porch in Charlottetown on a sunny Sunday morning. It’s the first day I’ve worn shorts outside this season. Everything is fiercely green and the critters sing their existence from around the neighbourhood. Most I don’t know, but I can pick out squirrels, crows, and the grackles that have nested in our eves. Sam the cat kept me company on the porch while I set up a new VM, WordPress, Apache vhosts, and SSL certs – the method I’ve chosen to do this… new blog project thing. It’s not hard for me, I’ve set up websites before, but I find it hard to get through without a checklist – my brain doesn’t hold a stack well.

For the last two days I participated in a… human person meetup thing called an Un-Conference, hosted by Peter Rukavina. Among the amazing people, discussions, and activities, I heard a lot about blogging (and I apologize for not citing all the following thoughts appropriately, and they’re a bit disjointed because I’m following the cat around the yard now).

Blogging as a way to create community and make or maintain friends. Blogging as a way to think through things out-loud (Peter), to slow down and re-engage with the long-form, as a place to put down those thoughts that come when the mind has space to process (Steven), and to encourage thoughtful, meaningful discussions. Blogging as a way of crafting and owning a digital identity (Ton), and to craft tools and communities that support a social web that doesn’t rely on Those Platforms (IndieWeb, via Ton). As a place to share your own stories, and, albeit with some risk, to be vulnerable (Elmine). But that to maintain a blog, for a period like 20 years (!!) as Peter has, it helps if you’re writing for yourself.

So this is a project that I hope will improve my mental, social, and digital well-being. That will give me some brain space away from the constant distracted inattentive scrolling. That might make me better at wrapping themes into thoughts, and thoughts into stories, and stories into words. That might be a place to collaboratively make meaning, even though the world is burning. And maybe I’m finally old enough to do that thing cool people do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go retrieve my favourite fearsome predator, who wandered off. The grackles are anxious, so I know she’s not far.