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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

It’s up to us to save democracy

BY Xavier Kataquapit Sep 29, 2022

What is it with all the hate circulating these days? If anyone knows anything about being oppressed or hated it has to be Indigenous people like me. I grew up feeling discriminated against, and I had to push myself to leave my remote First Nation and venture out into the greater world for school at first and then later to work at writing. 

My father, Marius Kataquapit, left the North when he was a teenager in the 1950s in search of work in the South, but he realized he couldn’t survive in the outside world on his own at the time. He never liked to talk about it, but he often mentioned being taunted, intimidated, excluded and generally looked down upon as a brown-skinned Indigenous man who was not welcome in the cities and towns where he tried to find work. 

I decided to write to give a voice to my people, inform others about my traditions and culture, the issues we face, how our communities work and who we are. It surprised me that there was an interest in the views of an Indigenous person, and I have enjoyed more than 20 years of writing for Native media, tribal councils, First Nation communities and mainstream news. 

Happily, I have met many wonderful people on this journey. I have been encouraged and supported by Indigenous leaders, media producers, editors and journalists and a lot of good people. 

These days I am shocked at how the culture and politics of the world is taking a turn to the right and more fascist ways of seeing things. I see so much hate and intolerance promoted in the media, on social media, and by people I would think were more open, loving and hopeful about the world. There is a huge movement that is well financed and equipped to promote hate and fear these days. It is ending up with right-wing governments gaining power around the world, even in peaceful and socially democratic Canada. 

I love to study history and I have come to understand that the movements on the right in the past were always about the very rich and powerful pushing back on any interest in the public sharing wealth, having democratic elections, providing unions for workers, making education accessible and affordable and providing public health. Wars and far-right political movements are always a strategy of the very wealthy to ensure that they are making profits in armament sales, grabbing resources, weakening any challenge to power and sending young people off to die. This seems so terrible and evil, yet history proves that this has happened time and time again.

Hate, conspiracy theories, fear and misinformation can be marketed like Coca-Cola or Tide laundry detergent. All that is needed is a lot of money, bright people to initiate the messages, corporately controlled media that will never question the narrative of those in power, and a public that can be targeted and convinced of just about anything.

I like to believe that more and more people are figuring out that a world of war, hate, fear and right-wing political movements are not something that just happens randomly but are orchestrated by the very wealthy. The partnership between war, the military and big business is what US President Ike Eisenhower warned against in this 1961 farewell speech – what he famously referred to as the military-industrial complex. He realized how dangerous the world would become if the power ended up in the hands of those who were only concerned with money and might. 

Ask an Indigenous person what racism and hate are all about and they will tell you how it feels to be discriminated against and marginalized. We need to become activists and do our best to protect our democracies. If we fail to do this in the next few years our young people and future generations will be inheriting a very unfair, intolerant and oppressive environment. 

I don’t think most of us realize just how much our democracy is in danger. We have to do our best to become involved with more social-democratic political movements or at the very least make our voices heard when we see or hear hateful speech or ideas. 

Indigenous people across Canada are doing better these days because our leaders, our Elders and our people fought against discrimination, colonial oppression and racism. This goes to show that it is possible to overcome hate and fear. We all have a responsibility to protect and promote our social democracy here in Canada and if we miss this opportunity future generations of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people will be living in a very dark and dangerous world. 

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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.