Colour Me Indian: Status Cards that Cut

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“P.S. the irony is not lost on me that I am divulging intimate family stories to an employee of the Federal government so that they may decide whether or not my Indian blood son is in fact, an Indian.”

Today I wrote a letter to accompany my son’s application for registration under the Indian act as an Indian. Canada is one of the only countries that still maintains control over Indigenous bodies and identities. I had a Maori Professor in one of my Master’s degree program classes’ talk about how his students in New Zealand always find it fascinating, this government control of Indigenous identities. I listened to him and started to think about how government control spills into our own homes and communities, creating dichotomies and classifications amongst our own.

Oh her, she’s a Bill C-31. She doesn’t belong here.

He’s just a halfbreed.

Can’t marry him if he ain’t full status. Keep lookin’ .

Their mom might be from here, but they aren’t registered. They’re not even ___insert nation___

Duck. Duck. Duck. Goose. Duck. Duck. Duck. Duck. Indian.

We use the colonizers terms and carry on the classification ourselves. Invisible borders cut across my mixed blood skin. Invisible borders separate me and my kin.

I have never officially applied for my son’s registration but have been told no over the phone, this was prior to the McIvor court case decision and also Lynn Gehl’s recent decision. In this backwards system I am aware that if I was born two years earlier, or if my parents were not married when they had me, or a number of other variables…. then my son would have been approved immediately. Confusing fuckin’ formula right?

In light of the previous decisions (and for some long ass time) my mother, has urged me continually to apply through the proper stream and fill out the form and write the accompanying letter. I’ve dragged my feet on this for many years.

I finally did that today and as I finished the letter tracing back a bloodline to treaty signing and another bloodline to disenfranchisement, I could not help myself but note how backwards this process is. I stated that these stories may seem complicated at times but know that these blood streams have been muddied up by colonial interference with Indigenous identities. Finally I had to point out in the letter what I stated above in the “P.S.”. What I did not add, but wanted to point out, was that the employee was likely a white person who was deciding “Indigenous identities” and as an Indigenous person, belonging to people famous for their satire humour, I had a good laugh at the ludicrousness of it all.

I discussed this with my 9 year old son, who on his own has learned to classify our family as “Treaty” and himself as “Not one of those”. I have always told him to rest in the knowledge that his bloodline goes back to Treaty and that his Great Great Great Grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, signed that Treaty not only with his Grandmothers in mind but with him in mind as well. We say our “ I love yous” in the language, I scold him in the language, tell him to eat in the language. This is something that no one can decide for him.

Askae, Atikae Nochjay.

Boy, I love you very much.

Sinju Atikae Nochjay to Haklay eenza and suhn Mama.

Me too, I love you very much. To the moon and the stars Mama.

 

We sit in line for the car wash and I tell him that some person will read that paper and decide in some government office whether or not he is “officially an Indian”.

My son, so much alike his mother, laughs loudly and tosses his head back, “that is so stupid! I was an Indian since I was born. I will be one no matter what they say”.

“Yes my boy, yes you will be”.

We are still navigating these pathways created by colonial circumstances in our daily lives. We are cleaning up the bureaucratic mess you have made that seeps into our homes, into our living room discussions, and private moments with our children.

Our children will continue to know who they are and where they come from no matter what.

You cannot wipe away identities with a stroke of a pen.

Your control and five dollars a year is no good here.

 

Post Script

I understand that individuals have also chosen not to engage in this system at all and not enroll your children. I fully understand and respect that 100 percent. However, don’t preach on this to me.

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2 comments

  1. I know all too well how “government” is so backwards! Took me 2 years to get my girls status…2 fricken years & I have had my status since 18!! Between offices moving, mailing rooms behind in sorting, applications not complete(all excuses I heard) & proving that I was in fact their mother…2 years later they have their status that expires in 5 years…UGH!!! Its good too see that we both have that same “sense” with our kids towards the “government”

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