About Walking in Beauty,” new report not news to this Native
Deloria Jr. a Standing Rock Sioux said, "American Indians seem an
enigma to most other Americans. The images portrayed in the movies,
whether of noble red man or bloodthirsty savage, recall the stereotypes
of western history. Newspaper stories dealing with oil wells, uranium
mines, land claims, and the occupation of public buildings and
reservation hamlets almost seem to speak of another group altogether and
it is difficult to connect the two perceptions of Indians in any single
and comprehensible reality."
issue of racism and racial profiling has been in the news a lot
recently. Is it a much-ado about nothing?
Toronto Police Services has denied that racial profiling exists among
their workforce. For people who have felt the sting of racism and racial
profiling it denies their story.
people have felt racism since colonization.
addition to the racism from the Federal Government and their policies
like residential schools, sixties scoop adoptees, relocation of
Aboriginal communities and reserve systems, we have not had access to
mass media or control of what other, non-Native people say about us.
Natives, we face ignorance about our histories and cultures. We rank
very low in importance on the scale when it comes to Canadians receiving
education about us and until now it has been from the non-Native point
the outside, peering in, so to speak.
contributing force to the racism of today it has been the root of the
new report, “Learning About Walking in Beauty” from the Canadian
Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) and the Coalition for the Advancement
of Aboriginal Studies outlines what Canadians learn in school about
One of the
findings says that over 67% of school-aged children have never even
discussed issues facing Aboriginal people in Canada.
This kind of
blatant ignorance has to have fed racism towards Aboriginal people.
Native people on many levels. Systemically--when we job search or look
for housing doors are closed to us.
It also affects us in our interactions with Canadians on a
day-to-day basis and their attitudes towards us.
Although I am
Inuit, I have been told I am lucky to have tax exemption. I don’t have
tax exemption, like all other Inuit. People often confuse Inuit and Innu
using the terms interchangeably. We are distinct peoples with unique
cultures and languages.
for employment, many Native people fear saying they are Native for fear
of not getting a job interview. When I was working in a Native
employment centre, there was a dishwasher job posted from a restaurant.
A Native jobseeker called to inquire about the position and the manager
said to come on over. He did.
He returned a
while later only to say that when he was told that the job had already
been filled. It was his and our suspicion that the employer had racially
discriminated against him.
director called the restaurant manager who said it was a mistake, that
the job was still open. And that he didn’t discriminate against this
The end of that
story was, a Native man got his confidence shaken and was embarrassed.
An employment centre with a bunch of angry staff because the Human
Rights Commission said it was difficult to prove racism without
witnesses. And finally, a restaurant with or without a dishwasher,
marked by Native people who say they will never frequent or apply for
by HRDC demonstrates that in the employment arena, because of the
employment equity act, that although more Native people are gaining
access to jobs than ever before, they are passed over for promotions in
spite of having education and experience similar to their non-Native
raises serious questions about attitudes toward Native people in the
corporate sector and why Natives aren’t promoted.
work for non-Native employers, have told me that they are pigeon holed
into certain types of roles; that they can only work on Native cultural
issues or products or services.
An Eaton centre
human resources official once told me that they were not interested in
hiring a Native employee because they were downsizing their Native craft
My response to
this person was that Native people can work as sales clerks or in any
job they had. Do not relegate a Native to selling Native crafts.
Personally, I wouldn't know where to begin selling crafts or more
importantly give the teachings behind them.
Similarly, is a
white expected to work only in white areas? Does that even exist in
"white" cultures? And, are white cultures viewed as
Or, if a Jew
approached a department store for employment, would he be met with the
same response: “We are downsizing our Jewish section and therefore
there is no job for you.”
cite discrimination in the way they are assigned work, confined to
writing about Native issues.
face the challenge of only playing roles specifically written for Natives.
This is problematic not only because it stereotyping, but because there
isn’t enough work to keep Native writers and actors employed in the
non-Native sector on Native issues.
hire us because we are good writers, actors or artists to do generic
things, as is done with non-Natives. We also want a broader experience
in order to develop professionally as other employees are awarded.
concept that because you are Native you must sell dream catchers or
write about Native issues only, is ludicrous and should be no surprise
that it is insulting to Native people.
There is hope
for future school children that want to learn about Aboriginal people
and our cultures because of organizations like the Canadian Race
Relations Foundation and the Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal
Race Relations Foundation has issued a warning to Canada, that students
“must be prepared to address the economic, social and cultural
marginalization of Aboriginal Peoples, which the United Nations Human
Rights Committee stated is ‘the most pressing human rights issue
facing Canadians’ (April 1999)."
Adding that Aboriginal perspectives
should be integrated
across the curriculum from the earliest grades to high school and that
it will begin
to address the causes of racism.
report delivers other recommendations on how to educate children about
Aboriginal cultures and histories such as setting up Aboriginal-directed
professional development opportunities for in-service teachers;
Aboriginal-led changes to curricula for pre-service teachers and
public policies that encourage more Aboriginals to become educators.
The report also calls for more analysis, policy development and
redirection of resources in other areas.