With Respect to Journalists Covering 'Indigenous Issues'

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With Respect to Journalists Covering 'Indigenous Issues' 
by Shelley Bluejay Pierce
Dear Mr. Taylor; I was compelled today, to respond to your media coverage and the public commentary on the Native issues surrounding the disputes currently active in Ontario. 

As a journalist covering Indigenous issues worldwide, I see similar situations and conflicts between Native and non-Native peoples in every country across the globe. However, I have been an active media supporter to the people of Six Nations since day one of their occupation in Caledonia. My support has continued to expand so that issues at Tyendinaga, Attawapiskat and other reserves are also part of my normal coverage.

During the two years that I have been involved with the Six Nations people in their struggles, I have seen consistent media coverage that shines the spotlight only on the Non-native perspective. What becomes glaringly obvious, is that your journalists and other members of the

Canadian media behave in an all too well known behavior when it comes to covering Indigenous issues. 

In order to truly understand another’s' point of view, one must dare to step over into their realm.  This is not accomplished in a hastily made 30-second interview by phone. This connection to understanding alternative perspectives is not accomplished by shoving a microphone in front of a strangers' face and asking for an instant response.
 
Nowhere in the journalism field is this more important than in dealing with cultures different from that of the "mainstream" society. In this case, I refer to the Six Nations members versus the predominant Colonial Canadian citizenry.  When I was first working alongside members of Six Nations, I attempted to contact members of the Canadian media in hopes to educate them and introduce them properly to those specific leaders inside Six Nations who were authorized to speak on behalf of their People.  In our way of doing things, this is a polite and proper courtesy that is extended between outsiders who are attempting to visit with our leadership. None of the Canadian or U.S. media responded to many open invitations to partake in this opportunity to meet, understand and discuss these issues with Six Nation leadership.

The ongoing press about these "uprisings" only substantiates what we, as a People, have always known. The dominant society continues to dwell within their "colonial, civilized vs. savages" mentality and they are perpetuating the myths and stereotypes about WHO we are based on history books written by non-Native people. This is not reality Mr. Taylor.  

What mainstream media has so miserably failed at, is learning what the true motivations are behind the culture of a Nation. The land is not something to be "owned." The land is cared for, nurtured and protected at all cost because it is the very connection we have to all the history, culture and ancestors who have walked this land before us. What we have always known is that we cannot abuse the very land that sustains us. The "colonial" attitudes are the very behaviors moving us all, globally, towards mass extinction. When there is no safe water to drink, no clean air or food available, it will be too late to decide that we cannot survive by eating money. 

Had ANY of the mainstream media acted upon invitations to actually meet the leaders of Six Nations and have honest dialogue? We may not be at the current state of affairs that we see now.

As to the article in your paper covering the events at Tyendinaga, I would like to respond to a few inaccurate statements:
  • "two officers were assaulted near Deseronto, Ont."
The journalists failed to report on the assaults upon the Native people that led up to the confrontations with these officers. I spoke to those members who were present at the events leading up to this confrontation and they assured me, that no one in the media asked for THEIR side of the story.
  • "there were reports that police saw one of the demonstrators pointing a long gun at them."
My, how "colonial" is that comment?   Please, the members at this protest site are very aware that having ANY weaponry in their place of occupation will lead to violent conflict. There are Elders, women and children present and no one wishes for escalation to violent behaviors. The people of Six Nations just want someone in the leadership of this country to honor their words, treaties and legally binding agreements between sovereign nations. 
  • "Sgt. Rae said heavy police presence was expected in the area through the night."
Yes indeed, a very heavily ARMED presence that had mistakenly laid their gun sites on unarmed protesters. Have you spoken to those members inside that circle of gun sights? I saw only one comment from a Native member who stated that they had been in the gun sites all day. Was that the deepest communication that could have been made with this Six Nations man? Or was it simply, one of those occasions where a journalist shoved a microphone in front of his face for less than 30 seconds?

As to some of the public comments section, which I realize, you have no control over:
  • "Illegal protests should not be tolerated, if a non-native pointed a gun at a police officer the SWAT team would be there in no time at all- it's time to enforce the law in Native communities in the same way that it is for the rest of us."
Protests and free speech are part of your colonial-commandments, are they not?  Why are these made available to non-Natives but not to those who dwell among your ranks and are under the protections of the Queen as sovereign Nations?
  • "Integrate the Natives as regular Citizens of Canada now!"
Here is where I will end this missive to you, and I can only hope that perhaps my words will fall upon an open mind today....  The Indigenous people world wide have been the FIRST PEOPLES of their lands and dwelled there long before the dominating effects of the outside world over powered them. Their way of life was intimately connected to the land they dwelled upon. Their languages, spirituality, survival mechanisms and cultural diversity were intact for centuries prior to European contact. The statement above is the glaring proof of my earlier comment to you.....

The dominant society continues to dwell within their "colonial, civilized vs. savages" mentality and they are perpetuating the myths and stereotypes about WHO we are based on history books written by non-Native people. The land is cared for, nurtured and protected at all cost because it is the very connection we have to all the history, culture and ancestors who have walked this land before us. What we have always known is that we cannot abuse the very land that sustains us. The "colonial" attitudes are the very behaviors moving us all, globally, toward mass extinction. When there is no safe water to drink, no clean air or food available, it will be too late to decide that we cannot survive by eating money.


Sincerely,
Shelley Bluejay Pierce
International Journalist- Indigenous Issues
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Bozeman, Montana, USA
 

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