|By Taiaiake Alfred|
night, I tried to sit through another episode of the CBC series, Canada:
A People's History. What a mistake. I should have known better.
The first two instalments of the series aired a while back and were nothing but disgusting lies about us and a whole bunch of platitudes to pump up Canada's flaccid ego. The shows were so stupid they would have been laughable, if not for the maddening fact that a hundred thousand Canadians were actually watching, and in doing so, received an unfortunate and lasting impression of our people (or had their old prejudices confirmed) by a self-serving "history", projected through the clouded lens of the ignoramus who dreamed up this colossal mess.
They were inept and frustrating, but at least the early episodes kept my attention because of the subject matter. The ones airing now are all about farmers and Mounties and just so deadly boring that it's hard to even stay awake watching them. I tried to pay attention, but could not suffer the foolishness; my interest waned. I found myself thinking about what it would be like to have a few words with the arrogant jackass who was responsibile for inflicting this skewed racist version of the past on us. I wonder if, in the interest of balance in broadcasting propaganda, the CBC would air my phoney "interview" with the producer of a bogus "history"?
TA: Let's start this off with a simple question: what's your favourite colour?
CBC: White, of course. I love that colour so much that I wanted to name the series, "Canada: A White People's History". But the Liberals called and said I was being too blunt, too American, and they made me change it. (Hey, they pay the bills!)
TA: You started the series by trotting out the old "Bering Strait Theory", saying that all us Natives recently came from Asia. I was wondering if this wasn't so much history as a way of telling white people that we're all immigrants so they don't have to feel guilty about their ancestors being land thieves. I wondered about that. But my question to you is this: why didn't you mention the total lack of physical evidence for this theory, and that it started, not with facts, but out of the speculation of a Jesuit in the 16th century?
CBC: Why get all complicated? We're talking to Joe Canada here, and we're in the business of myth making and identity building, to make our people feel like they're part of something grand. You and I know Canadians can't handle the truth; they want a story that makes sense to them; so why should we confuse them with pesky little "facts" and ruin their fun?
TA: It may have helped to balance things if you had some Native perspective on your work. Did you ever think to ask some Native elders or scholars to advise you?
CBC: Why? We hired plenty of experts who know the Indian ways, and who are totally unbiased. (Some of these experts even told us they have Indian friends!) You're looking at me funny, but I can tell you that these are solid experts in the field of aboriginal history. We even hired Dick Oliveson. He was one of our main consultants. I know, he used to be white; but now he's metis, or aboriginal or something. Anyway, he calls himself Native and he's recognized all over as someone who knows about Indians and history. He's great and just loved our version of the story.
TA: I hated every minute of your show. But I'm interested to know: what's your personal favourite episode?
CBC: My favourite one is where we show the Indians eating raw meat. I liked that one a lot.
TA: Yeah, I figured as much. Why did you feel such a need to pick on our people and to make us look so bad?
CBC: Well, first of all, we had to dumb it down and suck out every ounce of character and colour to make it palatable to the Canadian taste, so a lot of subtlety got lost in the wash. But still, all stories have to have villains and fall guys. Of course, the CBC could never risk making Quebec mad, so it was hands off them -- even though New France was originally settled by murdering mercenaries, deported whores and religious zealots and this would have made great screenplay. Other potential historical villains and fall guys? The Chinese are scary rich now so we couldn't touch them. And there's just way too many of those other ethnics in government these days to risk insulting any of them. So, by default, I had to go with my instinct: we had to demonize the Indians. We needed villains and your people are just naturals for the part. There are hardly any of you left, you're all poor, and you don't even vote. Easy demons, you Indians.
TA: Speaking of demonization, as an Iroquois, I was particularly interested in how you dealt with my people. You pinned the guilt on us for the destruction of the Huron -- making it seem as if we slaughtered them when, in fact, most of the Huron were adopted by Iroquois families. Then you made it seem like all we did was run around the forest killing people. You completely ignored the fact that we invented democracy: the Iroquois Great Law of Peace was the world's first government with equal representation, power-sharing and gender equality. How come you didn't mention this?
CBC: Too complicated. Plus, Hello! This is a white people's history and only barbarous or noble savages are allowed, not smart ones.
TA: I think I've heard enough. But before we end, I just wanted you to know that this whole interview has been a complete fabrication. It's nothing but lies and distortions, intended to validate my own perception of you. In fact, I have never even met or spoken to you. But that didn't stop me from publishing this interview and putting you in the place I have especially reserved for the ignorant rich in my own mythological universe.
CBC: That's okay, T. You play your games and I'll play mine.
|Taiaiake Alfred is a regular columnist for the publication, Windspeaker, for which this was originally written.|