Well, Thanksgiving has passed. The holiday was sweet; it was also complex. Thursday brought our first real snowfall. Today, Black Friday, was quiet, as we stayed away from shopping and the malls. The day was mostly sunny and warm. Sunset brought rich color to the western sky.
The complexity of the day resides, in large part, in the underside of the story. That underside is the history of genocide against Native people in the Americas, and the abject poverty of many Native North Americans, as well as rising numbers of non-Native poor. Nowhere are the dire living conditions of Native people living on reserves better demonstrated than by the plight of those at Attawapiskat. Critical Herald reported on the problems there:
Maybe it’s that Attawapiskat is a remote Native community on James Bay in northern Ontario. Maybe it’s that the ‘national’ papers (Globe and Mail, National Post) haven’t covered the story. Maybe it’s that no one cares. But for some reason the government of Ontario and Canada are ignoring an abhorrent situation in their own back yard.
Chief Theresa Spence declared a state of emergency in her community a month over extremely poor living conditions on the northern Ontario reserve. Since then, no government officials have been to the community or done anything to help. On November 18, Chief Spence requested that the community be evacuated before winter sets in.
There is no single cause of the emergency. Conditions in Attawapiskat have been deteriorating significantly for over a decade. And now, around 1,800 people live in 303 houses, with much of the community overflowing from the houses into tents or shacks built close by. The state of the houses themselves are in such disrepair — mold, sewage and roof leakage — that they are only a slight improvement on the makeshift structures.
The winter is cold in Attawaposkat. There is no kindness in denying the people of Attawaposkat the basic structures of community life. There is no justice in indifference to the suffering of children and elders.
I am challenged to find a greater gulf than that between the contemporary lived experience of many of those living on reserves, and the abundance of Thanksgiving and Black Friday in suburban America, a sort of demented Potlatch in which the community is seldom honored or benefited. The world we have collectively created is out of balance. May the fire of love and compassion be renewed in the hearts of Human kind, and may all beings be seen as irreplaceable.
We know times are difficult for many people. Please let us know how things are where you live.
We wish you much joy in the holidays to come.