Monday, August 20, 2007

Cowboys and Indians: Two

There’s the Good; This is the Bad

I’ll share with you some of the experiences that pushed me toward racism. The timeline is a 16 year span between 1984 and 1999. I was a teacher in a small town which was largely Caucasian, but which shared the region with three Indian reserves. Our school drew at least half its students from the nearest reserve. You’ll find some of this harsh, but keep in mind that there are more posts coming. I’ll write this in the way that will give you a better idea of my mindset during different nasty experiences. Also, keep in mind that this is just a sampling because there’s not enough room for it all.

1986: The Indians that hang around the post office disgust me. They’re emaciated wretches so brain damaged they can hardly speak. The other day the kids on the playground reported that a man and woman were “fighting” over on the edge of the school ground. Upon investigating, the supervising teacher found a couple of the downtown beggars fucking in the grass. The teacher arrived just as Mr. C, an old gentleman from nearby, came running over, yelling and screaming at the pair, “get the fuck out outta here you god damn Indian niggers!” The teacher tried to usher children away as fast as possible.

1987: There’s a knock on my door. I open the door to my home and see Mr. T, an important native from the reserve, standing there, looking most upset. “Oh no!”, I think, “I bet he’s here to give me shit over how I handled the fight in my classroom between his son and a white boy.” Mr. T’s son is wonderfully handsome, a star hockey player, coveted by every girl, and a complete mixed up asshole. The other day he came to school so upset that when I asked him what the problem was, he said, “One of these days I’m going to come and just kill them all!” He made a gesture like he was pumping a shotgun. Anyway, his father accosts me in my kitchen with the race card. “Why did both boys get in trouble?” “My son is not like that, your just racists!” “All you whites are out to get us… racism, that’s what it is!” I treat him with respect and just listen and dish out the usual platitudes to settle him down, but inside I begin to loath him and any Indian who uses racism to dodge responsibility.

Banff 1990: I’m on a trip to Banff with a group of grade nines. Over half the kids are native and everyone is getting along great. It’s likely the most enjoyable group of young people I’ve ever been with for a long time. The bus is quiet and dark as we make a late evening run. The kids are exhausted and sleeping; I’m sitting alone. Suddenly Barry W. saddles up next to me. He’s a scrawny little aboriginal boy from a very traditional family who until this trip was the silent kid whom nobody knew. He’s blossomed the past week and made a ton of friends among the white boys. “Can I ask you a question?”, he says. “Sure,” I say, not expecting anything profound. Barry leans close to me and begins, in whispers. “Mr. M, these guys are all virgins… I think they’re lying to me… how come?” “No Barry, they’re likely not lying… you guys are just in grade nine!”, I say. Barry sits silent for a long time. “Ok… they sure aint like Indians”, he finally whispers. “What do you mean?”, I ask, my interest peaked. “Everybody I know has done it in grade nine Mr. M… most anyway” “REALY!… what about you Barry?”, I ask. “Oh yep, my baby sitter did it with me when I was in grade six… everybody done it by grade nine!” I’m incredulous, but manage to ask, “How old was she?” “In grade eight or nine… I think!”, Barry replies. Then he adds, “She was real good too” I’m stunned.

1992: I’m in conversation with the band manager. My jaw nearly hits the floor when he explains how things work. Each band family is provided with a home, furnished, with utilities paid. Those who work don’t pay taxes and get to keep everything they earn. At this point, most of the industrious members of this band have employment either in the logging industry, through the band, or through Indian Affairs. Joint household incomes are often pushing $100,000 annually, with all housing covered free and no taxes to pay. I think to myself, “No wonder these guys are driving new trucks and traveling all over… their kids are dressed to the nines, and have more than the average white kid around here… yet all they do is complain about racism and “compensation”. I recall a joke making the rounds: What’s the first word a Chinese baby says? Ma! What’s the first word a German baby says? Mama! What’s the first word an English baby says? Mummy! What’s the first word an Indian baby says? Compensation!

1993: I’m woken up in the middle of the night. Screams pierce the evening air drifting in through my open window. I rush to the kitchen and gaze out into the night. A car is parked on the roadway in front of my home. Three aboriginal men are standing outside it smoking, one is taking a leak on my fence. Inside the car an aboriginal man is humping the dickens out of an Indian woman. She screams and screams. I pick up the phone and begin to dial for the police. (Who are likely anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes away) But, just as I am about to finish dialing, the screaming stops and the male exits the car, hitches his pants, and lights a smoke. A cackle of laughter from the group reaches me and too my unbelieving eyes the women, naked from the waist down, reaches out and pulls one of the bystanders into the car. The fucking frenzy starts again, as does the screaming. The “rape” I thought I was witnessing is no more than the local animals mating. I call the police anyway, but by the time they arrive the group has driven off. I go to bed hating Indians.

1993: I’m on an outing in the woods with a friend. It’s close to hunting season so we’ve gone out to spot for moose sign and target shoot. We come to a curve in the road and are met by a dilapidated old truck driving slowly along, with four adult natives crowded into the cab and one lone male hunkered in the back of the pickup with a rifle. We pass the vehicle and keep going. There’s nothing unusual about the truck, it’s likely just natives exercising their right to hunt. Suddenly an incredibly loud metallic sound hits the cab of our truck. It sounds as if someone has just struck the cab violently with a hammer. We come to a stop and investigate, expecting to find that we’ve broken something. I examine the our four wheel ATV loaded in the back, and then glance at the cab of the truck. What I see drains the blood from me. There, not 12 centimeters from where my head was, is a bullet hole, neatly carved into the frame of the truck. I can see at once that it’s a 30 caliber round, no little .22. My friend and I just stare for a while, too dumbfounded to believe what’s just happened. Then it happens, fight or flight kicks in, and unfortunately for me, it’s fight. I grab my 7mm mag, load it, and jump into the box of the truck. My friend drives, and we go on the chase. To this day I thank whomever is in charge of this world that we did not find the culprits, because I’d likely be writing this out of a jail cell right now. September 1993 – I hate Indians.

1994 - 1996: I “hate” Indians, yet I am completely at ease with my students, and am on the best terms in fact with my native students. I have Indian friends, I play hockey with them, I coach them, I coffee with them, and I do business with them. Whenever I’m up town, or even in Saskatoon, native children I’ve taught will come over to say hello, and they express genuine affection for their time in my classroom, and I in turn appreciate them and like them all; even K, who’s just out of jail for murder, and D, who’s just out for too many B&E’s. They all genuinely seem to appreciate the time they spent in my class. Remember Mr. T ragging on me about racism… his son and I are on great terms and he’s becoming a fine young man. He’s going to be a leader some day. Yet, I hate Indians in general.

Philosophical Statement: It is possible to hate a group, yet be completely at ease with its individual parts. As well, the negative within a group always seems to overpower the good and stain one's perceptions. I think this may be an age old coping mechanism because in more primitive times, the good couldn’t kill you, but the bad could and often did.

Cowboys and Indians: Introduction
Cowboys and Indians: One

1 comment:

Aizlynne said...

DT: I tagged you for quote tag which was started by Bill over at Reformer's. Check him/me out for the layout and then tag 3 of your own once your done.