This artifact of culture has long dogged this Inuvialuit observer for its context is identity of individuals, and their society.
Canadians have a global reputation for apologetic sensitivity, a dynamic citizen ethos and strategic industrial acumen. Known for aerospace and transport for our heavy industry, we also have a rugged outback to temper our spirits, a hockey obsession and our First Nations were once nomadic hunters and fierce warriors. We may no longer linger in the forest as untamed creatures of instinct, but this is our modern day legacy.
This brings us to the issue of one of the last uncontacted tribes in the world, which recently killed a missionary on North Sentinel Island – a remote island off the coast of India. Given the history of pedophilia in organized religion, perhaps the action was justified. A no-go zone may be instituted, or maybe the government will just send in the military to waste ’em. It worked in Brazil. However, this is a modern day and age of live streaming, so that may not work well in the optics.
We could parachute in some mobile devices, a few cheeseburgers and some DVD machines with the complete seasons of Game of Thrones. I mean, it’s a global economy right? We could barter for ancient virgin hardwoods, jade, herbal remedies or engage in underground adventure tours: Hike or die on North Sentinel!
As First Nations in Canada, we have a syncretic approach that gives us one foot in the past, and a foot in the future; not so, these last Neolithic peoples. I guess it is time to broach the subject of designating that tribe’s entire island and an area around it as a no-go zone – a wildlife preserve. It would just be incidental that some of the wildlife are rugged upright bipedal hominids.
Switch the channel to a flagrantly dressed jingle dancer, an Old World grandpa in full-throated acapella, a sombrero-lidded cowboy, then fade to a group of mud-wearing primitives leaping in the dust. Our thirst for culture can be partially satisfied by watching the boob tube, or we can just travel, and now world travellers will have to colour the intrepid with caution. A journey of understanding should not conclude in death.
In my misled youth I ascribed the cause of my miserable post-colonial holocaust of a life to a cultural source. Raised in an alcoholic setting, dogged by religious inculcation and persecution, systemically alienated by the education system as ‘special’, I had not yet parcelled off my post-traumatic rage and hostility. It took me all that time to grow, and shift the blame of my institutionalization and social programming from my own people, to those who oppressed us.
What then of the post-colonial suffering of my people? Is that how we greet the future? Or do we have to return to the bush, harmonizing with nature in the stark survival of the fittest. Perhaps the latter, as the Sentinelese have shown us.
Because what we have now is a cross-cultural legacy founded on self-alienation, language erosion and the adoption of the ways of those who oppressed us. I mean, really, Santa Claus? It seems to be a hollow consumer season lacking the visceral sentiments of the joy and sharing that should characterize it. Or maybe that is just my bitterness demonstrating itself. There is no joy in Mudville, Casey. Not this year.
To attain the world and lose one’s soul, quoth the Bible, seems to be a transcription of social destruction and reconstruction, in the image of that which destroyed us, and remade us. In other words, all my anger and rage at my own people, for how I was raised, how they treated me, including the casual institutional racism from the Caucasians, was misplaced. The goal then is not to lay blame, but put that anger to rest, rise peacefully with clear eyes, and turn to the new dawn.
I am remorseful in my individual torment, and graceful in accepting that which I cannot change. I have to move on for the colonialist heritage of abuse will not approach the vault; for it shall not be valued, and it shall not be mine. It is the ownership of this inter-generational conflict that I reject, and not myself, or my people. We can wake to this sunshine, or remain in the mournful night; so I choose the day.
I shall not rage, rage, at the close of day, therefore. And neither will I chance it to visit those precious few who are still blessed to live as one with nature, for I feel pride in this common past we once shared with them: Being wild.