Special to Niagara At Large from Karl Dockstader
Posted on NAL this March 20th, 2017
Tuesday, March 21st, 2017, is the United Nations annually designated day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For Indigenous people, visible minorities, and other people who happen to be the wrong kind of person this day cannot come soon enough.
The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre isn’t waiting for racism to end and neither are the community partners who have been working with the Native Centre to promote The FRIEND Project throughout the past month.
This project is telling the stories of the real Indigenous people of Niagara. These stories of success in education, culture, law, employment, the environment and other areas have been part of a movement to remind Niagarans that Indigenous people are an important part of our normal everyday life.
Racism is an ugly and complicated problem. Even uttering words like racism, privilege, and entitlement can trigger defensive behavior among people who feel accused and maybe even a little guilty.
It is only natural to feel defensive when being accused of something and that feeling might stem from feeling as if you have been treated unfairly. If that is the case then that may be a good sign that you intuitively seek fairness and equality through the equitable treatment of all people.
Unfortunately there is no way around the truth that racism is deeply rooted in modern society, entrenched in the fabric of Canadian history and emboldened by latent practices enhancing its pervasive effects. Racial discrimination’s negative effects come with a high social, cultural and even economic cost.
Fortunately, one of the most powerful tools to vanquish darkness is light. In Niagara there is a long and rich history of Indigenous people worth highlighting. Understanding, education and open-mindedness, are great starting points for improving how we get along as shared members of a greater community.
The Fort Erie Public Library, the YMCA, the Tourism and Economic Development Office in Fort Erie and more have been hosting displays with pictures of Indigenous community members sharing their accomplishments.
Indigenous attendees of the recent 22nd annual Fort Erie Midwinter Powwow offered their perspective on things they thought were important in a series of micro-podcasts ( http://www.fenfc.org/2017powwow_sounds).
Real Indigenous people shared deeper insights into community, education, the past and the future available for free listening on the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre’s website ( http://www.fenfc.org/friend#allan ). Even reading an article like this on a great site like Niagara at Large is an important positive step.
The Real People are Indigenous community members making a positive change as part of their lifelong journey. The roots of racism run deep, but so too does the urge to improve ourselves as people. The real people, and really all the people, will define what this greater community values by living in a peaceful, respectful and then friendly way.
Author: Karl Dockstader – writing as the Anti-Racism Urban Partnership Project Coordinator for the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre.
Author Mini-bio: Karl Dockstader is a longstanding advocate for Friendship Centres and the rights of Indigenous People. He has contributed his perspective as a member of the Oneida First Nation to the public dialogue in Niagara about Treaties, the Environment, and government inaction on issues of importance.
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