Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 12, 1999
Workshop challenges native stereotypes
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Native people get all the breaks. They don't pay taxes and they get rights to all this free land. So what are they complaining about?
For one thing, they're complaining about the misconceptions.
"The purpose of this workshop was to educate people," said John Stellingwerf, coordinator of the Wiciwetowin workshop June 26. "And to break through some of the stereotypes that have become fairly popular misconceptions."
The workshop, hosted by the Edmonton Interfaith Committee for Aboriginal Rights, was attended by a small group of 10 non-aboriginals who participated in exercises and discussions on issues affecting the native community.
Guest speaker Linda Bull used words such as institutionalized, colonized and oppression to describe the affects of the "white man" on the native community.
"Our people have been brainwashed and white-washed," said Bull, who admits that many have found her straight forwardness offensive. "We have to look back at what happened to our people. If we don't look back, we are bound to repeat it."
Wiciwetowin is Ojibwe meaning Walking together, said Stellingwerf. It is the first time the workshop was presented in the city. Facilitated by Lorraine Land of Citizens for Public Justice and Ronnie Joy Leah, director of the Circle of Learning Consulting Services, the workshop delved into issues of native "privileges" and spirituality.
"There are three things that make up our identity," said Bull. "Language, culture and a belief system. A lot of that was taken away from us."
The workshop related problems the native community experiences with those that many immigrants experience, particularly racism.
It also tried to debunk common myths such as that native people are not required to pay taxes. In fact, aboriginals earning money off-reserves are taxed.
"This has been good for information and education," said Ward Antoniuk, who attended the day-long workshop.
"Every attempt or initiative that raises an awareness or spirituality of what is going on with people around us gives a person a greater understanding of another culture - where they come from, where they're at now and where we head to collectively."
For Gerry Loonstra, the workshop helped him "understand the frustration and brokenness and why (native) people are what they are. As white people, we undermine them. And what I would like to see is to see this resolved. I think something like this (workshop) gives you a better understanding to work towards that."