• Hobbes

    My wife and I arrived in Edmonton in the winter of 1991. I was freelancing as a photographer for the Edmonton Sun when I met the actor Ben Cardinal, who had just returned after a movie stint in Russia. We discovered that we shared a basic knowledge of Russian, a fondness for potatoes and the experience of growing up in families destroyed by alcohol. That was the year that Chief Justice Allan McEachern released his judgment against Delgamuukw and quoted Thomas Hobbes’s words, “nasty, brutish and short,” in relation to Indigenous life. In our drunk and sober conversations inspired by McEachern’s verdict, Ben Cardinal and I developed a tradition of referring to ourselves as f–king Indian and f–king settler. Some years later, after Ben and I and our partners moved to Vancouver, I discovered a little book by Daniel Francis called Copying People. Inside is a photograph taken in the late 19th century depicting two Aboriginal elders sitting on a wooden bench in some remote coastal location. The caption says that they are believed to be close to 100 years old and they are both blind. In this picture they are indeed very old and they look very gentle.

  • A Lot Like Me

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    My very first contact with First Nations people was when I was probably about 13 years old, in the city of Toronto. Continue reading “A Lot Like Me”

  • Bus Stop

    I was having a smoke waiting for my bus and a man in his late forties asked me for a cigarette. He told me his name is Craig, he had just got out of jail and he is a redneck. He pulled out a silver Zippo and showed me the engravings, “white pride.” Craig said, “I would have never come up and asked for a smoke from an Asian” and gestured at me. He told me he doesn’t believe in interracial mingling and found Asian people standoffish and unapproachable. He said, “The only reason I stopped to ask you for a smoke is because earlier today I was chatting with my buddy and his friend, Tan, Tuan or something. He is Vietnamese and he took me to his brother’s restaurant and gave me two free spring rolls! And I thought, hey why not ask you for a smoke.” My bus pulled up and as I walked towards my bus Craig yelled, “I’ll never forget today!”

  • Birthright

    In 1983 I returned to Pangnirtung where I was born in 1947 and stayed for a month with the daughter of the Inuit family who had worked for my parents. I went over to the fish and game office and bought a fishing licence for $10 and when my friend learned that I had had to pay for it she became upset and stormed back over the hill to demand that I be given the licence for free, as I had been born in Pangnirtung and was therefore entitled to the rights of native Pangnirtungmiut. To my relief, she was unable to convince the warden. But then I was unable to explain to her why the warden was, in my view, correct.

  • Prejudice Reversed

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    I came home one day from school and told my mother that we had show and tell and I told them I was aboriginal and that my uncle was a hereditary chief Continue reading “Prejudice Reversed”