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.

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

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This is where I’ve been all these months (but I have no idea how I got here)

Wolos knocked my planter of swiss chard and snap dragons off the balcony railing again today. A spray of brown dirt around a mass of damp black earth, green bits poking out as if to say Hey! I’m still alive! Don’t bury me!

Wolos is the nickname we’ve taken to calling stella bella, our one-year-old cat who has taken to hanging out on our back porch staring at the array of small- and medium-sized birds that flit onto the nearby telephone wires.

As she gawks at them, her lower lip chatters and some instinctive screech she doesn’t ever make in any other situation flutters from her throat. Sometimes I catch her sitting on the balcony railing, poised as if she’s about to jump onto one of the flimsy hedge trees in an attempt to reach the birds.

Down,Wolos, down, I say in a calm-but-stern tone. Usually she jumps down. Or she erupts in that strange chatter as if to say But I can’t help it, please, let me catch one before I carefully lift her off, deposit her on the ground, and say, Down Wolos, good girl Wolos.

I’ve become one of those people who seems to always be talking about their cat.

Or about Norky, a rescued pug we recently acquired whose real name is Penelope.

I’ve also become one of those people who “we”s.

As I write this, Wolos is sprawled out next to me.  She sleeps silently but for a Mew she lets out, without moving or even opening her eyes, when I reach over to play with her extremely soft pooch of a belly.

Norky is on the floor, face-down and snoring like a bear.

Jaz is in the next room, “the office,” sighing as he works on wrapping up his day.

Our bay window looks out onto greenery and the top floor of the character home across the street. Our back porch faces a blue-red-and-yellow auto shop, and above that, the North Shore Mountains.

From the corner two houses down you can see the ocean, Hastings Street, the first synagogue ever built in Vancouver, a church spire, a tower with the Scotia Bank logo, the edge of McLean Park, and, sometimes, women selling sex.

This evening I re-potted the swiss chard and the snapdragons for the second time. As I plucked each plant from the spilled soil, careful not to harm their roots, I marveled how, other than a film of brown powder, the plants and flowers remained in tact despite their (second) fall.

I looked down at my palms, dusted with earth, and wondered how the hell I got here.

Now, writing, I reach over to give Wolos another pat but she’s not there anymore. Norky’s gone too — out for a walk with Jaz. The house is quiet, the room lit by a lamp. In the stillness I can finally let go of the to-do-lists, anxiety, and go-go-go of my day. The chaos that is my life sits as starkly as the overturned flowerpot. My sense of self, though poking through in a few places, is almost completely hidden beneath dirt.

I can’t see them now, but somehow I know the roots are still in tact. Hey! I’m still alive! Don’t bury me!