Stanley Park is part of MY past, too

Today a Facebook friend posted an article, “Stanley Park is part of our past, too,” published today in the Vancouver Sun and written by someone who somehow didn’t have the nerve to include a byline (or an obvious one, if it’s there somewhere).

This article really struck me. And yes, I’m oversensitive and generally avoid newspapers because of this quality, but this made me equally sad and angry and made me want to say “Fuck you” to the writer. Fuck you for being such an ignorant, insensitive asshole. Fuck you for not having the courage to put your name on this. Fuck you for speaking for me. Fuck you for making me not only look bad, but feel badly about something that I don’t even agree with. (And fuck you for eliciting a childish stream of fuck yous from me, which I am openly sharing with the world under my real name.)

I’m not an expert on aboriginal issues or an activist or even that knowledgeable about the Coast Salish who originally lived off of our land. But I recognize that this lack of knowledge is something that I should not only be aware of but should also be ashamed of. I also recognize that differences between western concepts of “knowledge” and “learning” and aboriginal concepts of “knowledge” and “learning” present barriers for me — a non-aboriginal — to know and learn more about Coast Salish culture and history. Depending on who you talk to, it may or may not be my business (and I respect whichever opinion).

Not only have I lived my whole life in Vancouver, my ancestors at least as far back as my mother’s great grandfather also have, and on this side of the family I am 12th generation Canadian. This means that I, in particular, have something at stake in the argument being made in this article.

My grandma has told me stories about going on dates with my grandfather to Stanley Park. When I go there I imagine them there, young and in love and looking out at the same ocean that I am also mesmerized by. Stanley Park is also a part of my history.

However, this does not mean that I have a right to completely disregard the attack on aboriginal culture that was probably instigated by my very own ancestors. It doesn’t mean that I have a right to dictate what constitutes acknowledging the past. It doesn’t mean that I get to say what is or isn’t a true representation of aboriginal culture in Stanley Park (I haven’t looked into this, but the questions I would ask would be: (1) Was the aboriginal community involved in putting in the aboriginal components of the park? (2) Do they feel it represents them? (3) Do they think it is enough? (4) Do they feel acknowledged?). And, yes, I was just theying, which is a danger in itself and part of the problem and complexity of the issue.

Maybe the writer’s point was that it is time to shift to a we mentality. However, this is what he or she says:

Canada’s history has many narratives. The first nations say their story dates back 10,000 years. Europeans arrived here just 500 years ago. Neither narrative is more valid than the other.

So is the argument: Neither is more valid than the other so let’s just completely disregard the first nations’ story because Europeans are here now? Let’s claim their language is impossible to pronounce and therefore clearly not marketable!

Yes, we need to shift to a we mentality. However, this is extremely complex and requires a lot more respect and acknowledgment and participation from the aboriginal community. The entire argument is actually a rally for completely disregarding aboriginal culture (by simply posting up a plaque to “solve the problem that first nations were here first”), under the guise that this is creating a unified culture.

We don’t yet know what a unified, we culture looks like. The closest we’ve come is the current, still very white-patriarchal version of multi-culturalism. Admit that this is complex. That there is no easy solution. That — heck — this might even be too idealistic.

But please, don’t be so blind as to think (and so stupid as to say — in a PUBLIC, WIDELY DISTRIBUTED NEWSPAPER) that by supporting the status quo you are somehow supporting cultural inclusivity.

This newspaper article is not only a joke, but it is also only one perspective. My blog post is also only my perspective. Please consider that each individual — whether they identify as aboriginal or Canadian or whatever — has a completely different perspective, experience, and belief system and don’t let any of these stories speak for an entire group of people. This may be the first step in moving from they to we.

>>
PS To the ladies of Hello. I miss you., sorry for turning “Wordless Wednesday” into “RANT Wednesday.”

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2 thoughts on “Stanley Park is part of MY past, too

  1. thanks for writing this.

    i don’t want to speak for everyone, but i’ll tell you my experience when it comes to issues such as these. as a white, middle class woman, i generally avoid publicizing my politics. i usually think: “aw, why bother voicing my ideas? there are loads of people much more entitled to an opinion on these issues than i am.”

    yours was impassioned, honest, and refreshing. made me feel like i had dove into a lake during a rain storm and emerged to clear blue skies.

    xo,

    chelsea

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