February 5, 2009
There was a row of chairs facing an extended table at what was clearly design to be the front of the room. One long table, 6 rows of chairs, then more tables and chairs in the back. The people stair into the presentation. Co-learning? Collaborating with emerging leaders and ideas? Innovatively seeking engagement in participatory community governance?
No. This was around 7 years ago when I started sitting in on the community meetings that involved the political decisions being made or at the forefront within our community. These were General Meetings, information sessions, and other meetings with community members. Since then, my political convictions have grown and been influenced by difference forces, although, I will never dismiss the original cause for my desire to create change, politically.
What is politics? How do I define “politics”? I look at politics on two lights.
There is one set of politics that occurs where individuals have to play a dance or words and actions to accomplish their own objective and agenda. “Quandary is, one doesn't generally get the chance to wield political power without the ambition to actively seek it. That same ambition often compromises the unselfish motives that began the quest.” (BSG- Sine Qua Non) It’s where you say or do one thing to get another person to say or do what you want. It’s the devilous and pity politics that conquers most political institutions worldwide. It’s even more disastrous within indigenous communities with the band council governance structure for it places enemies and adversaries between families who become “have’s” and “have-nots”. This is contradictory to traditional indigenous governance with balance and harmony with all things connected being the founding principle.
The other politics is where the direction on systemic, structural, and complex organization levels. Sometimes this political arena becomes rotten from true values of spirit of the people. In an extreme, dictatorships, dictatocracies (dictatorships in democracy), and other forms of political forms where the people do not comes first. The only time in the history of my people it has ever gone to this extreme is in the last 150 years with my people is with either the Indian Agent being the dictator, or their puppet quasi-Religious and government appointments “chiefs” dictating everything. This also comes in the form of political leaders guided by true values of the people. Operating from a place of humility in the way in which the people guide them, not them guiding the people. I place a great deal of standards in that our leadership should be defined by this kind of leadership-style: working with the people, not above or for them.
My great grandfather Andy Paull was a political leader in his time. Trained by to become a lawyer, but couldn’t join the bar for he would have to enfranchise. He later spent a great deal of his career working for indigenous people all across this country. The work he did, for the people, against an oppressors policies. He was taught by the traditional leadership at the time, and trained within his own family. He carried on the legacy of Xwupukinem- the warrior spirit that protected the people from things supernatural to human threats of enemy war parties. A legacy that goes back dozens of generations, and he carried on in his own way, defining it in a time where everything was completely re-defined.
My grandfather Frank Rivers was a political leader in his time. For at least 16 years he was a Band Councillor. Born to English, French, and Skwxwu7mesh heritage he envisioned a strong community. As Manager for the Misquito Creek Marina, he brought the number of wharfs up, and increased it’s profits by thousands, eventually hundreds of thousands. He worked with what he had to create something for his people. He used leases as a way to create some sustenance for our people to thrive and grow. He worked to see crooked leases, and bad land deals were righted from wrong. And he died young at the age of 45.
My grand-uncle Percy Paull was a leader in his time. A gentle and caring man, who carried on the legacy of Xwupukinem/Xwchtaal, he worked on the Band Council for many years. I’m told he was very wise, and a very caring man who was always there for the people.
My uncle Frank Rivers Jr. was a political leader in his time. For around 12 years he was a Band Councilor. From a young age he took an interest in our culture, and learned from the elders around at that time. He carries on the name Xwupukinem. Believing himself to be a warrior, he blockaded and protests when blockades and protests were the way to get things done for indigenous people. He stood for the rights of indigenous people, and knew this from his extensive knowledge of our ancestors.
My great-grandfather Sam Scow of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation of the Dła’ugwa’adaxw (‘Namgis) tribe of the T`sit`sałwalagame’ ‘namima. He was a hereditary chief and eagle position holder. He fought the potlatch ban, and believed in our culture and way of life. He went to jail at O’Calla Prison for 4 months because he passed an apple back in a potlatch.
My grandmother Marie Baker (Nee Jeffries) was a leader in her time. She believed in equality for all native people. She fought where she thought there needed to be a fight. She had the strength and audacity to speak her mind, and be honest and straight forward for it. She would do what needed to be done, and she would get it done. She believed and loved her family, and proud of her ancestry and heritage. She also had the funniest sayings...
“I’m so hungry I could eat the asshole of a skunk”,
“I have some good news and some bad news...”
(After saying what the good news was)
“What was the bad news gramma?”
“Oh, there is no bad news.”
From a young age, I have always been passionate about history. A kind of obsession. History shows us how we got to where we are today, and makes is so we can go somewhere tomorrow. With the legends of ancient times, or just my own family history. The legacy to uphold has always been strong for me, as well as many members of my family. The strength that I received from these heroes has been with me since then. They are the reason I want what I want, and do what I do. Not because of some self-guided interest involving me or just my family, but for world that looks like something ancestors could live in.
They are my heroes.
Except, all our heroes have something that becomes their weakness. The greater we place them up, the harder it is for us when they come crashing down. Maybe we need to change our perception, and as followers of great leaders, and followers of great heroes, be ready to catch them, hold them, and pick them back up when they fall. Yet we become so blinded by our own illusion of what we see these heroes as, we don’t want to see the other side to things.
All my heroes made what I perceive as mistakes. Learning about Andy Paull, you wouldn’t believe how many things I would disagree with him on, or how many things I thought was a wrong decision. We can make those conclusions in humility to understand and learn from them, but still respect the work they did in their time. It doesn’t mean we disrespect their work by changing the direction from something they may not have fully envisioned, but thats our dilemma of being born now. We have be placed in the responsibility of time. The decisions we make now will effect so many lives in the future. The things we build and create and destroy now will reverberate in the shapes of the hearts and minds of a people not born or thought of yet.
My hope is to never make the serious mistakes they made. As a person, as a leader. To be something more, in the hopes of making them proud of me, but also proving to myself it’s possible. Integrity. “To live to our highest ideals”.
If you feel politics is not your thing, think again. Even the position of being not-political or apolitical, is still political. Your silence is complicit in the wrong doings that are allowed to go on. Those with the ambition will use your silence to support their selfish interests. People who do not have the interests of the community at heart. And unless you become political aware, we will all be lead astray and mislead. It’s that silence that makes you apart of the injustice. You can think your not apart of it, but you are more then you think.
I hope to create change. More important then that, I hope to produce more leaders. I inspire to create and build on what our ancestors thrived on. I intend to put a stop to the corruption, to the injustice, to the wrong doing allowed to go on by those who benefit from corruption, injustice, and wrongdoing. I want to raise the bar of what our young people are into something of empowerment and strength and knowledge. I look for ways to re-connect that which was broken by colonization.
But you know what, I’m going to do that my own way just like my heroes did in their time. I need to find my own way to do that, and define that for myself because these times are changing. “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you have always got.” In these times where the oppressor will welcome you in with open arms, only to persuade you to join him, we need resilience and strength of vision to these abominable acts, the power to speak your mind, and trailblazers to be fearless to do what needs to be done.