I grew up in a small northern town where sometimes, the nedo (white people) views of Indigenous people were largely based on incomplete stories. They would see the alcoholic at the bar or at the liquor store and made their own assumptions. To the nedos, we were lazy and stupid.
Some nedos don’t know that Indigenous children were ripped from their families and sent to residential school, or what horrors happened there. Some nedos don’t even know that just a few kilometers outside of town was where Lejac Residential School operated. The kids were legally kidnapped, and their culture was ripped from them. The children were taught that their entire worldview and identities were wrong. The church was right. The government was right. The nedos are right. Right?
But it was the paternalistic assimilationist policies that were wrong. And later, the history books would be wrong, too. In Grade 11, I sat in the dull fluorescent lighting of the school library, reading a Canadian history book, and saw only a single paragraph mentioning the nation’s hidden past. “They’re trying to erase me,” I thought. So many nedos don’t know the history, or don’t care if someone offers to teach. They don’t see the struggle and celebration in overcoming it. They don’t understand that everyone copes with trauma in a different way. And everyone heals at a different pace.
So many Indigenous folks have developed and sustained a negative self-image as a result of some ignorant, misinformed comment in their early formative years. Unfortunately, these are usually not isolated incidents. All these micro-aggressions add up over time and create the kind of social environment where the nedos say, “Why don’t you just get over it already? What does it have to do with me?”
When I was young, I witnessed otherwise audacious Indigenous individuals become silent when it came to nedo’s violent speech. It was this wordless cloud that swept over otherwise sunny personalities. To challenge or confront a nedo seemed useless; they did not respect us, they would not listen, and they definitely would not consider any other way. It seemed utterly hopeless sometimes. Instead, it was easier to be quiet to get through the day. Don’t be a troublemaker.
Growing up, I was naturally reserved and quiet. And as the years went on, I realized I could use quietness as a shield. Cheeky comments just lead to more frustrating situations. It was my go-to survival mechanism. And I was not the only young Indigenous child utilizing the tool of silence. Silence does have its own power and merits – of reflection, contemplation, and openness. We possessed the power of silence, and some of us lived with the powerless kind of silence, too – the silence of rage, sorrow, and despair. We were quiet and listened when they thought we didn’t understand. We understood their words… perhaps more than they did.
Some nedos took the time to get to know us by coming to our community dinners and having conversations with us. Some of them became friends or lovers. To them, we are human. As a child, I felt the difference between the teachers who came because they cared, and those who remained indifferent. They showed up.
To this day, I feel like I can express myself better through visual language rather than spoken word. And I want to show everyone what I experience when I am with Indigenous folks; pride, strength, belly laughter, cleverness, beauty, irreverent humour, resiliency, creativity, just to name a few. There is so much to offer. Photography only offers a glimpse, and I’m interested in chasing that and showing it to you.
Today, I’m happy to live through a time where nedos talking too much and listening too little is changing. We have always used every platform we had to represent ourselves and make sure we’re seen and heard. Tea & Bannock is one such example of empowering ourselves with our own words and images, to see and to listen. Snachalhuya – I thank you.
– Jordana Luggi