I’ve been tuning in to the 3pm news updates pretty regularly, especially on Mondays or Tuesdays, so I can get the real weekend numbers. I used to stick around for the whole update, but find myself checking out early, because, like life itself for so many people these days, it’s the same thing over and over… and, when it’s not, it can be easily summarized in a few brief paragraphs.
Today brought news of the vaccine rollout and the AstraZeneca availability… which is a bit of a game-changer. It’s not recommended for those older than 65, but it’s perfectly and conveniently (room temperature) suited for younger front-line workers, and many of them will be getting the option of that vaccine sooner than later. To find out what the vaccine rollout looks like for you, check the BCCDC for the most up-to-date info… but, to summarize, the older you are, the sooner it’ll be. See you in the lineup in July… hopefully.
But what I want to write about today is a topic that came up in conversation recently… how every event these days held in a public place or on TV or anywhere with a microphone… is preceded by an acknowledgment that the event is occurring on unceded land… and names the relevant Indigenous peoples from whom the land was “improperly” ceded.
To be clear, “unceded” really means “stolen”. This is a vast, complicated topic, and to some extent, around here, steps are being taken to alleviate the damage caused by the “winning” side. In the meantime, it’s interesting to read history from both sides. They tell very different stories.
In Canada or the U.S., you might learn about the great Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés, who in the early 16th century undertook dangerous expeditions to the New World, conquered huge lands and brought back great riches. In Mexico, I suspect it’s taught a little differently… that this rapist, pillaging, genocidal maniac showed up with his fancy weapons and illnesses, figured out how to make friends turn on each other, caused the Indigenous people to fight each other… and ultimately conquered the Aztec empire.
You can change the names and dates, but that story has taken place from present-day Alaska to present-day Punta Arenas. And everywhere, there’s a different slant on what happened and how to fix it. A literal and figurative whitewashing of history.
To me, there’s something annoying about standing up and just saying those words, as if that’s enough. Actually, as if it means anything at all. We acknowledge we’re on stolen land, and by saying so that makes us awesome responsible outstanding generous and thoughtful people. Now drop the puck and let’s play some hockey.
This perhaps triggers me more than it should, and here’s why. Many centuries ago, I was a student at SFU… and to pass the time during boring lectures, I would read “The Peak” – the SFU student newspaper which was available for free, everywhere on campus. I’d grab one on my way into the lecture hall, much the way we all used to grab a free “Georgia Straight” on the way to our seats at the Capitol-6 or Vancouver Center theatres.
In the course of a one-hour lecture, I’d get through the entire Peak… every single word… I knew more about the Christy Clark Student Society election scandal than anyone.
Every word… including the entire masthead… contact info, phone number, address (some trailers on campus)… and the final little sentence: “Unfortunately, The Peak is not wheelchair-accessible at present.”
Week after week, month after month, year after year. It bothered me, this grandstanding… look at us, we care enough to be aware of something that might be important to someone… but we won’t do anything about it. I wrote letters, which were never published. I actually tried to take it up with the president: During my tenure at SFU, the president was Dr. William Saywell. There was a thing set up… called “Say it to Saywell” where, ostensibly, you could show up on a Wednesday afternoon in a small room in the AQ… where President Saywell would be available to hear student grievances directly. Except… he never showed up. I tried to go like 10 times, and 10 times he cancelled on short notice. And one day, a sign on the door (and an announcement in The Peak) said it was cancelled forever.
I knew only a few people in wheelchairs and none of them had anything to do with SFU, but it bothered me that much. This wasn’t some great cause I was championing. I was just annoyed at the smug hypocrisy of acknowledging something and not doing anything about it. If it’s worth mentioning, then do something about it. Or shut up. It clearly still bothers me to this day… perhaps my serious issue with people who blow a lot of hot air but never do anything started there.
Stop talking about it like you care, and just get it done. Sit down at the table, listen, and negotiate. Go out and sign some vaccine agreements that actually have some teeth. And just build a freaking ramp.
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