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The reality of life in First Nations communities (w/ BC Mitchell, author of “Obliteration”)
The harsh reality of life in most of the 600 plus First Nations communities is Canada is not what we see in tourist brochures or in the colourful costumes that performers wear at ceremonial events.
What we frequently see at big city events like conventions and political press conferences is a white-washed image of what we want aboriginal culture to look like.
Elders, dancers, drummers and singers show up all dressed up playing their part blessing this event or that one. The organizers come on stage and dutifully acknowledge they are on indigenous land. Many use the phrase “on the unceded territory,” unaware that means the owners of the land never agreed to hand over control to the invading colonialists.
BC Mitchell, a former reporter who went on to become the communications manager for the BC Treaty Commision for 15 years, witnessed the reality of life for the women, children and men who live in the forgotten corners of their traditional territories.
That is not to say, all hope is lost. In fact, BC Mitchell is optimistic the relationship between indigenous people and Canada is improving. While he’s hopeful, he’s not blind. In “Obliteration,” he takes the reader into a small Northern Ontario community and showcases ignorance, racism and violence through the eyes of a dysfunctional teen living in a dysfunctional town.
The picture is bleak. The protagonist in Obliteration is a young Caucasian Canadian living on one side of the highway in a fictional town that keeps the Indians over there and the rest of its residents on the other side of hell. Life is not good for anyone.
From the outside, life in remote rural mixed cultural communities simply looks horrible – the kind of town you race past in your car. BC Mitchell takes us inside that world, showcases it for what it is and introduces the reader to people who have names, souls and the scars acquired from a lifetime of tragedy.
This is a book I could not put down. I have been to many First Nations communities and seen first hand the horrid living conditions. I also marvel at our ability as Canadians to dismiss what Martin Luther King described as “islands of poverty in a vast ocean of prosperity.” How is that we rush to the aid of people halfway around the world, yet ignore the need in our own country?
We sat down with author BC Mitchell for a Conversation That Matters about his book “Obliteration” and the long slow process of healing the relationship between indigenous people and those who came and took their land.
Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue presents Conversations That Matter. Join veteran broadcaster Stuart McNish each week for an important and engaging Conversation about the issues shaping our future.
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