I wish I hadn’t been born an Indian

As I write this, it’s late. I’ve spent 11 hours travelling across a country. I’m exhausted. It’s quite possible I shouldn’t be writing, and maybe I shouldn’t be writing this. But I feel like I have to do it. These words are raw, honest and unedited. These words have been on my mind a lot.

So here it is, the raw truth:

I want to know where I go to quit being an Indian. I’ve had enough. I want to resign.

I don’t want to be an Indian anymore.

Maybe you’re wondering why I say this. The reason is uncomplicated.

Right now, in this moment, I think the racists and the haters and whatever names you want to call them are pretty much right about us.

So often we are a stupid, selfish, backward bunch. The trollers look at us, and they say, “there’s a bunch of losers who are so busy being self-destructive they are never going to get anywhere.”

And you know what? I am literally a card-carrying status Indian, and I think the haters are probably right.

We talk a big talk, but we still want the white man to pay the bills. And he does, so that makes the white man better than us. Right?

Because what are we doing, exactly?

For years I have been shaking my Indian head at all the stupid, self-destructive things we do. Sure, we got a raw deal. Like I didn’t know. There aren’t five minutes in a day we aren’t complaining about it. We’re experts at all the grievances we have. And they are legit grievances.

So what do we do about it?

We fight with one another. We tear down the leaders because we believe they are “selling us out.” We put road blocks in front of everything. If we manage to stop something, like a pipeline or a federal law, we have a little party, as if we’ve actually made progress or created something valuable that will make our lives better.

Look in the mirror. Do you see the ugly truth? I do. All that most of us Indians know how to do is complain and protest and fight. We are so amazingly together and unified and high on being Indian when we are doing these things. I mean, trash-talk the Canadian government and, wow, you are a rock star in every Indian’s eyes. Way to go!

But talk about the bad things going down in your community, or even just real-life shit, and everything changes.

So, effective immediately, I want to stop being an Indian. I want to be so white that the white people will come to me for white tips on being a more white white person.

You see, white people are still rocking the world. And we Indians? We can’t even agree on what we want.

Well here’s what I want: I want to walk through a magical doorway that takes away all the Indian. You know, all the poverty and misery and shame which is right there in the backdrop of my family history.

I want to be a 100% Proud Anglo-Saxon, Canadian, White Guy.

Why?

I just found out that a young Aboriginal girl died because, instead of getting a cancer treatment with a 95% probability of saving her life, her parents fought to give her traditional indigenous medicine.

Did you hear me? They fought for this.

Now this beautiful young girl is gone. And I see some Indians are “proud” of the decision to fight the white man’s medicine and to go with indigenous medicine instead.

In other words, another Indian victory. A point was made, right? We won! We stopped the big bad white man from telling us what to do. We put up a road block. We asserted ourselves. We protected our right to be Indians.

A child died to make a political point, and some of you people who are watching from the sidelines are proud. Seriously, what did you proud Indians win today?

I mean it. Tell me. WHAT DID YOU WIN TODAY?

I am ashamed of being Kanienkehake. I really really really am. Not that I’ve ever been a super-Indian or a role model or a poster-boy for the Haudenosaunee. I never wanted that.

And now? I want it even less than not at all.

Today I am just a guy who wishes I could take it all back. Start again. Forget all the stories, all the people I’ve known, all the places I’ve been. All the Indian in my past.

I want to wake up in the morning and discover that I’m not Indian anymore, that I never WAS Indian—that it was all a dream, that I belong to the great race of superior white people moving forward into the future.

I think of a camping trip I took decades ago, with a bunch of kids from the Indian Friendship Centre. Even then, as a young teen-ager, I knew being an Indian was like losing the lottery. Why didn’t I quit the program then, when I had a chance? Why did I keep being Indian all these years?

Maybe because I am just a stupid Indian, too. Is it possible I’m incapable of change? Of learning and adapting?

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. I’ve dreamed of the day when the trauma and injustice of history was washed away by a generation of visionary leaders. But I’m getting old. Now I can see clearly that these leaders don’t exist. They are not coming, either. We are not going to get better.

All we seem to be able to do is resist change. We have lost the ability to create change.

The point is, we can’t make ourselves better. We have proven it.

The white man owns everything, creates everything, changes everything, controls everything.

The Indian?

We bet everything we have on casinos and cheap cigarettes.

Right now, in this moment, I think we suck. I think we need to see how much we suck if we are going to get better.

I think we should look less at Stephen Harper and more  at ourselves.

I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings. I’m not feeling very good myself.

And that’s why I really wish I had never been born Indian.

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6 responses to “I wish I hadn’t been born an Indian

  1. Well, you got me there. I didn’t come from India either! Nia:wen, -W.

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  2. Wake up Sparkey. We are First Nations. I have never been Indian as I do not come from India. Duh!! Be Proud to be First Nations, downtrodden as we have been. Creator sees. Hannora

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  3. Thank-you, Michael. I appreciate the sentiments.

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  4. I guess I don’t want to not be Indian. I do wish we would stop hurting ourselves and one another. I do wish we could find ways to support and nurture each other as we face all that trauma. I do wish we actually cared for Mother Earth instead of just saying we do. Then I remember there are lots of Indians who do all these things. Maybe not enough, but a great many. We shall see what happens. In the meanwhile, thank you for speaking.

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  5. Hello Karen. Thank-you for this thoughtful perspective. There’s a lot here to think about, and I’m glad you wrote it. You’re right that it’s important to write about positive things, and as it would happen I am writing this from Vancouver, where I am working with a very dynamic and exciting First Nations’ organization that is just starting out. I think one way to counter all the discouraging things out there (and there are a lot of them) is to focus on and remember other things. That’s probably what I should do. Of course there are things that I find massively discouraging. There’s probably nothing I can do about that. Thank-you!

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  6. Wayne, there aren’t that many great leaders, regardless of culture. I hear what you’re saying though. A native friend of mine has many of the same thoughts you do. The question is, I guess, is how does one get beyond the major issue of having one’s people nearly obliterated from the face of the earth, and yet, still expect the culture in power to not continue to steal tribal lands and resources, or allow major corporations to do so. And yes, there are those who expect the government to take care of them, but that isn’t limited to native Americans. A lot of good is being done by different tribes to help members climb up and out of poverty. That might be something you could write about.

    The issue with medical issues and wanting to use a system that doesn’t fit into what we consider norms is one I’m not sure is all black and white. I’ve been treated for a blood cancer, and it had already occurred to me that if I had to go through treatment again, I don’t know if I would go through what I did last time. Sometimes, the treatment is as bad as the disease, or worse. And the treatment was supposed to be what most of us consider the best in the world. Well, if that’s the best we have, western medicine has a long way to go.

    Natives have had their culture decimated. Don’t deny what your heritage is. It’s part of who you are, the good and the bad.

    xo

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