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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Banging out the words

BY Xavier Kataquapit Jun 18, 2020

I have just come in from doing some repair carpentry to my front porch. It needed it but I have been busy for months and just did not have the time. When I am not sitting at my desk in my office writing or working on video projects, I escape to the world of wood, saws and hammers, and searching for creative solutions to making things fit in an old house.

My work with wood, surrounded by all kinds of tools and the focus of making something stronger and better is the break I need from the world of research, analysis and writing. Sometimes I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs and banging a hammer hard on some inanimate surface. I look forward to figuring out how to make something fit that just does not want to. In the real world, other than witness all the craziness and documenting it, there is little that I can do.

Right now, I just want to scream and bang on something with the visions of the racist images I am seeing in the news, in print and on social media. I have lived racism firsthand most of my life and I am here to tell you it is real and it all boils down to if you are white in this world you have it made, but if you are not then the road is more difficult and twisted. I find myself banging on these keys right now with the memories of all the Indigenous women who have been murdered, the young men and women oppressed, incarcerated, beaten and killed for so many decades in this country.

I want a way forward from the protesting and violence happening now in the United States, Canada and across the world. Police forces all over the world are becoming more militarized and that has more to do with right-wing governments and movements bullying their way into our countries, our lands, and our communities. It is not a police problem, but a political one. I am very worried about all the protesters out in close quarters during this pandemic and I fear that we may lose many bright, capable activists who are now on the front lines of these demonstrations.

Maybe now is the time for all of us who really want change to become involved in helping more liberal, social democratic parties get elected into government. Let’s turn our anger and frustration into becoming involved in political reform from the bottom up in every city and town in Canada. Let’s get to work to make sure the very best of my people get elected to leadership in Indigenous political organizations. Let’s get behind Indigenous leaders and promote them to become more involved in government as much as possible. If you want to do something about racism, then work for a political voice that will provide a solution.

Compared to many other countries in the world we are lucky to have strong, fair leadership for the most part. I know for sure that although things are not perfect under the current government, Indigenous people across Canada have received more attention, funding, consultation and reconciliation in the last few years than ever before. That matters. It has not been perfect, but the alternative is the return to very right-wing government that ignores or is openly hostile to First Nations.

To deal with any major issue while fighting a pandemic, it breaks my heart to think that many more will die of Covid-19. The world’s top epidemiologists and virologists are telling us we will be getting sick and dying from this disease for the next year or two and possibly more. 

Yet, governments are pushing us all back to thinking the danger has passed. It has not and I plead that people continue to be careful this summer, practice safe distancing, wear masks when entering a grocery store, hardware store, office building, mall or anywhere inside. Wash your hands often and stay on guard. If you are joining in protests, do your best to stay safe because we need you to survive and help us all move into a more progressive, fair and just world. 

I think I should go back out now to the old porch and bang on some boards with extremely loud music in the background to drown out my discontent. 

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.