The Pipeline, Colonization and my Moustache
I tend to get bored with my appearance. When I was in high school, I would often shave different designs in my head. My favourite was when my friend Robert shaved my hair into a spiral, in preparation for the upcoming Tool concert we were to attend. Now I have the ability to grow a beard, thus, a whole new canvas! Sometimes I shape it, sometimes I grow it, and currently, I'm doing something I never really gave much of a chance for: a moustache.
It seems to be the moustache has become somewhat rare. Growing up I remember all the dads and grandads had them; suddenly there was a phase at the beginning of this century where everyone started shaving them off. I'm sure we can all think of someone who rocked it their whole life, then suddenly we no longer recognized them, succumbing to this phase. I never remember my dad having one, but pictures don't lie...
When I travelled to Myanmar it happened to be Movember - a time when all men represent that moustache to promote awareness for prostate cancer. This year I rocked the traditional moustache. I had a discussion with Felix, our interpreter and guide, who told me the British Colonizers and military personnel who developed Myanmar all had them. I asked him if me having one would be seen as distasteful; he assured me that this was not the case! That the British historically treated his people very well and that it was seen more as a sign of peace than hostility.
Lately, I have not heard such a testimony. Colonialism now seems synonymous with greed, conquest, privilege, racism, ect. But how accurate is this?
My dad was big into history, I remember as a kid how excited he was when the CBC released a series called "Canada: A people history." What I find amazing about this documentary is that it takes an in-depth look at the formation and rejuvenation of our country using various voices involved throughout the centuries. Diary entries were used from explorers, settlers, nuns, militia, even aboriginal testimonies to create as accurate a picture of history as possible. If you get the chance I highly recommend watching the series. I still own the tapes (and yes, I still watch them on my VCR).
War is an unfortunate characteristic of history and humanity, not applicable to one tribe or tongue but to all peoples. Originally, the European's ventured to Canada for the thrill of unexplored territory, turning into profitable purposes. History shows that in the beginning the French established mutually beneficial relationships with certain First Nations tribes... and the only wars had at this time were that of the Indigenous tribes fighting each other. These wars were a major cause for the Innu tribe's close relationship with the original French traders - the French had weapons that far superseded any of their own. Before the French even thought about controlling the Indigenous people, the Innu's recruited them in war parties in an effort to destroy their own rivals: the Mohawks. Diary entries found in this documentary reveal some disturbing stories of French men who observed these aboriginal raiders completely obliterate the camps of their enemies. The gruesome practise of scalping - and the fact they would kill all within the camp, even the women and children, were common at this time.
Before one begins to judge, let us not forget the Holy Bible's Old Testament reveals a God commanding the people of Israel to kill the women and children of various enemies they were to conquer.
I only mention these things in an effort to strip ourselves from the harmful narrative preached about colonialism, especially when it ignores certain noble characteristics such as exploration and discovery, seeking resources to take care of loved ones, and ultimately, brotherhood - even if it is painted red with the blood that's been shed. If we can begin to recognize that humanity - regardless of colour or creed - is responsible for some pretty nasty shit, and some good shit! we can begin to reconcile our differences and work in the present to create a better future for everyone.
So, what about the present?
If you live in Canada, you've probably seen or heard about the intended Trans-mountain pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Alberta to Burnaby. The construction of the pipeline is estimated around $7 billion to construct. However, it would increase Canada's gas export drastically, providing a much-needed boost in the economy. Many see the $7 billion dollar investment as an opportunity for more jobs in northern B.C., especially for the vast number of indigenous peoples who live there. To make this project a reality, the indigenous people (represented by their respected councils and chiefs) need to agree to the terms of the project. As far as I've learned 20 tribes have been consulted and have agreed to the terms. One tribe stands alone in opposition.
There is an indigenous tribe called the Wet'suwet'en's whose hereditary chiefs rejected the proposed route for the pipeline; as far as I know, it is because the route would destroy an important healing centre. That's not to say more factors aren't involved.
"The $2-million healing centre, which recently received a $400,000 grant from the First Nations Health Authority in B.C., gives community members traditional knowledge-based treatment for addiction and trauma. Its programs include hunting, trapping and harvesting." - The National Observer.
As someone venturing into the field of social work I must admit destroying an important centre such as this would not be of positive consequence. On the other hand, the project would employ many people in need of income, as well as increase the Canadian economy, allowing for more funds to be allocated toward this very field aimed at helping and healing broken people in their various struggles.
There is a lot of speculation and controversy surrounding any endeavour such as this; one that reflects this word colonialism. If you've read my last blog (or any for that matter), you will know I am sceptical of western ideology and capitalist expansion - that we have been fading as a community in pursuit of comfort, in turn making us less happy than we ought to be. I try to consider all the arguments in coming to these conclusions, and I will stick with my position: Division is poisonous. With so many variables involved and differing opinions, all I can do is be thankful for the food in my belly and the roof over my head... and of course the natural gas that keeps me warm!
I don't think protesters are without their justifications. I do think we must consult our brothers and sisters of indigenous decent when pursuing such a project, and their decisions must be heard and adhered. I'm personally more concerned with the reaction of opposing viewpoints, especially when seeing the validity of both sides.
Personally, I predict after further consultation the pipeline will be built.
To learn more about this current debate, and about my brothers and sisters of indigenous decent, I plan to attend an event this Saturday, hosted by the Fraser River Indigenous Society. Hope to see you there!