So the challenge has been made, and Molly Grace is about to show these clowns what leadership really is!
“Backsliders!” she said in loud icy voice. Her fury sweat the table, startling the chiefs.
No…actually, she’s not. I’m sorry but it’s going to be another speech, only there’s going to be a fair bit more racism than last time. It’s a pretty long one, and it’s going to be followed by another briefing before this chapter ends, so it’s going to be some hard slogging before we get a change of scenery.
I’ve already talked about this a bit, but Bland doesn’t seem to have any real understanding as to what makes a leader, or what inspires a follower. So far all we’ve gotten is a whole lot of He-man chest thumping that might be fun to watch in movies, but doesn’t work in real life (see: featured image). In real life, there’s a lot of options available. Invoking shared hardship, promising benefits or threatening consequences, calling upon your own status (either formal or informal), and so on.
What’s really odd here is that Douglas Bland was a career officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He never served in the ranks and held a commission right from the start. Traditionally (at least for the time period in which Bland served) it was the NCOs who did the barking and screaming while the Commissioned Officers remained coolly professional and distant. By this standard, it should be Bill Whitefish who lays into the Council members at the table, cursing them out as cowards and weaklings. He should be the one who tears them apart (absorbing any outrage they may have in the process), verbally battering them down before Molly Grace finally steps in, cool and collected, to lay out the way things are going to go.
That would make for a decent game plan. Bill’s the bad cop and the Council can waste their fury on him. Molly’s the good cop and can step in with the solution after they’ve burned themselves out screaming at Bill. Given the fact that Molly’s got very little else going for her at this moment, it might be her only hope short of threatening violence.
I’ve already said it once, but intersectionality is not a good thing. Molly Grace is young, female, and has no traditional power base of her own. To outsiders she’s a key leader of the Movement, but in this room with the Native People’s Council, she’s just one vote (two if Bill Whitefish counts) in a room that’s turned against her. And she’s a woman. That is something that should matter a lot in a situation like this.
Chief Fat Belly and Archie from Wikwemikong may be snivelling cowards, but anyone who’s ever backed a coward into a corner knows how dangerous that can be. Any man who’s risen to prominence in the First Nations’ political system is nobody’s fool – contrary to what Bland may think – and these guys should be recognizing right now that they’re in for a serious fight. They should be raising their voices, trying to shout over her and break her momentum. Especially if they’re afraid of her.
“Backsliders!” she said in loud icy voice. Her fury sweat the table, startling the chiefs.
“Alain, who elected you to lead a retreat?” She moved sternly, commanding the room from the doorway like a teach er who’d surprised a class of little boys throwing spit-balls around the room in her absence. She stalked to the table, banged her ever-present notebook down, and glared at the chiefs all older than her, and twice her size, yet all cowed by her presence. Bill Whitefish stepped quietly back from the lectern and stood, admiring her, arms folded, as Molly threw herself fearlessly at the chiefs.
“Snivelling whiners! You’re ready again to take a promise over the facts of our history. What happened to last year’s speech, Archie, your great empty speech outside Parliament? ‘We never gave up our lands, we never signed a treaty, we never agreed to give up our system of government.’ Great stuff for TV, you made page one on the Globe and Mail. But your father did all those things too, and he went home empty-handed as you did. Don’t you lecture us about dealing with the government or anyone else.”
I’m not sure if Douglas Bland is a fan of Ayn Rand, but he’s definitely got her ear for uninterrupted monologues. For those lucky enough never to have read the great objectivist’s novels, Ayn Rand had a regular trope where one of her characters would launch into a monologue that would go on for pages and pages.
And all the other characters would do is just listen.
Even when they opposed the character doing the speaking, even when they straight out hated them. The monologue-ing character would be allowed to carry on for minutes or even hours at a time without interruption.
A young woman challenges the manhood of a roomful of men? That doesn’t happen even in the most left-wing hippie-est of universities, let alone a backroom council meeting in the middle of a life-or-death rebellion. This room should have exploded into an uproar, with shouts and arguments, and the weakest men at the table making the most noise for the sake of their positions and lives.
So a couple of issues with this speech right off the bat. The Band living on Manitoulin island that now calls themselves Wiikwemkoong (the current spelling of that reserve’s name) actually never did sign a treaty. Molly Grace is deriding Archie for stating a historical fact. There was a recognition of their claim to a piece of Manitoulin Island back in the early 1800s, and in the 1862 the government of Canada used the existence of treaties signed with neighbouring Bands to try and hustle the natives living there off the Island. Three groups on the island resisted, on the grounds that they had never signed away anything, and wound up winning their case in court. In 1968 those three groups amalgamated into a single Band entity (the Wikwemikong reserve). In 2014 their Band Constitution was ratified, and they officially declared themselves to be The Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.
So…maybe…just maybe…Archie’s Dad actually got some shit done?…
Even if Archie’s going to stay silent, Alain Selkirk should be wading right in to the fray. There hasn’t been any real background to his character, but it sounds as though he’s an older man, possibly in his late-40s or early 50s. Bland didn’t specifically say he is/was a Chief, but that does seem to be the case given that he’s described as leading protests at Parliament Hill. Here he is, making a serious case about violence, racism and death and a thirty-something girl half his size challenges him to a dick measuring contest? A woman who isn’t a Chief. A woman who’s way too young to be an Elder. A woman who has never held any elected office in any Band or Nation in the country.
This should be intolerable. But he’s just going to sit there and take it.
She looked round the table, then right back at Alain. “I know and you know that the only possible end of negotiations is defeat and assimilation. Everything they refuse, and everything they grant, drives another little wedge into us. You know this. You know that if we let them treat our community as a community of individuals, our best interest as individuals means abandoning native reserves, getting assimilated into the Canadian economy. Is that what you want, half of us selling our heritage and the other half dying drunk in some alley in Winnipeg, or Saskatoon, or Edmonton?”
“And for what? To join a ‘me first’ society where the white middle class in the suburbs with their SUVs and their Big Macs and their healthcare and daycare are as dependent as anyone, wards of the state on the Etobicoke reserve.
So…if another Band or Nation manages to get their rights recognized, that’s the path towards defeat and assimilation. But it’s ‘white’ society that’s poisoned by a ‘me first’ mindset?…
I’m not sure why Molly’s invoking middle class suburbs and Etobicoke (a Toronto suburb) to someone like Alain. The Blood Nation reserve in Alberta is the physically largest one in Canada (1,400 km² and a population just a bit smaller than Akwesasne at 12,000) that’s located in the rural part of a Province where the term cowboy is still used un-ironically. Is she trying to imply that Alain aspires to be a suburban yuppie? Is she saying that the First Nations of Canada would be better off without healthcare?
I mean, she literally mentions dying drunk in an alley one sentence earlier…
This is a genuinely weird characterization. By this standard, the only people who would not be shamefully dependent on government handouts would be people born into wealth, who honestly never had to depend on the government for anything (never mind that some of us might think it’s more shameful to have never worked for anything in your life). All of us who aren’t wealthy, all of us depend on society for something. Even a high priced Bay St lawyer could be bankrupted by a protracted battle with cancer.
“Is that what you want? Should we throw away our advantage, our cohesion, and slide unnoticed into Canada? Alain, Canada doesn’t even exist! Just a bunch of fake subsidized multicultural groups. Look at those proud separatists in Quebec, sucking billions a year from the federal treasury. Should we aim to be like that? What community will we belong to if we don’t belong to the aboriginal community…the French-Canadian community; the Japanese-Canadian community? Maybe we should all become red-skin-Canadians?
“No. Never. We’ve decided all these questions. We’re going to be free of both reserves – the government reserves and the welfare reserves. That’s our plan and our salvation: finally, a united, sovereign nation free from social welfare and free from ‘the great white mother’ in Ottawa. We call ourselves sovereign, don’t we? First nations, we say. Government to government, we say. ‘We never gave up our lands, we never signed a treat, we never agreed to give up our system of government.’ That’s what you said too, Alain. And you meant it, didn’t you? And you had better still mean it! I do!
Fuck you Douglas Bland. That is my home you’re talking about.
No, before you ask this isn’t just Molly Grace’s opinion. This is Douglas Bland doing the talking here. We’re going to hear his voice manifest again and again in the mouths of a variety of characters from every side of the conflict in Uprising. It will also manifest in the plot line itself, where Canadians will react in an inexplicably passive way to being attacked in the streets of their cities and the country will largely collapse in on itself without even the dignity of a whimper.
Bland hates Canada.
Also…she’s talking about fake subsidized multicultural groups? And the ones she chooses are French Canadian separatists, and Japanese Canadians?
Okay so…French Canadians actually speak a different language. They speak French. Hence the name. The government didn’t set out one day to create a linguistic and cultural minority that would then go and demand unique status and rights from the Anglo majority. They were already there. Now to be completely fair, as far as the Separatist political parties are concerned, I can kind of see the point. The Bloc Quebecois for example, is the federal Separatist Party that actually got elected to a number of seats in Parliament. Even though their only stated concerns were Province and language-based, they sat in the Federal legislature, collecting salaries and pensions from a Federal government that they didn’t consider legitimate.
So I could get having a problem with the BQ. But French Canadians doesn’t make any sense.
Then we got…Japanese-Canadians? Really?
So for those who don’t know, in Canada we had a pattern of Asian immigration during the late 19th century which was similar to that in the Western United States. Specifically large numbers of people were employed and exploited as labourers even as the racist ‘yellow peril’ theory led to them being seen as dangerous aliens rather than immigrants and eventual citizens. Worse, these similarities carried on into the 20th century when the Japanese-Canadians (who by that time had established several thriving communities on the west coast) were declared enemy aliens during the Second World War and interned in prison camps for years while their property was ‘confiscated’ (i.e.: stolen).
Just like in the US, the whole event got swept from the collective memory (for those ‘white’ people who knew about it) for decades, until the 1990s when a newer generation of young Japanese Canadians teamed up with their parents and grandparents to demand a reckoning. It was a long and drawn out process (facing up to these things always is) and a lot of people felt that the eventual admission of guilt to be a sign of weakness or self-hatred. Which is fucked up.
In Canada, we have a number of clearly defined ethnic communities, and as civil rights have progressed, particular communities became synonymous with particular issues. There were a number of major problems with the way we treated East Asian immigrants (such as the Chinese Head Tax, and the treatment of railway workers) but a large part of this got embodied in the popular consciousness by the Japanese-Canadian Internment: They were immigrants, they came here legally, they worked hard despite mistreatment, they earned their citizenship and built their homes and had their children, then we declared them foreign enemies and locked them up (and robbed them).
On one hand, this is often a positive thing since confronting one injustice can set a precedent that makes dealing with others that much easier. But on the other hand, it means that in the mind of more reactionary types, particular ethnicities get permanently associated with the issues they raised, and by extension the shame that Canada felt in having to confront it.
Basically, to people like this, all Japanese Canadians are to blame for the shaming of Canada, because they’re the ones who decided to make a big deal out of that whole internment/robbery thing.
This is also why you’ll see a certain class of older CF member get all pissed off over the Sikhs being allowed to wear their turbans in the service. They were the first ones to raise the issue of religious accommodation, so they get the blame.
Fake, subsidized multicultural groups? What we did to the Japanese-Canadians – our fellow citizens – was not fake. They weren’t subsidized by liberals as a way to make people hate Canada. It was real. They were/are real. They were actual citizens and we should have treated accordingly. But we didn’t. And that’s real too.
If their community seems to be set apart from the rest of the country and at odds with the government, it’s because we set them apart.
Also, the Blood Nation did sign a Treaty. They’re covered under Treaty 7.
“Our duty is to help the people free themselves from reserves built on welfare, and recapture our land and a society built on dignity and self-reliance. We’re not going to get there by negotiating away our inalienable rights. We’re going to succeed by holding to the grand strategy and by holding this Council together.
“Look at yourselves. Leaders?” Molly’s eyes swept the room, lopping off upraised heads, forcing downcast stares onto the table. “Canada still treats our people as the churches treated them for so long. Today, the system is like a giant, modern version of the residential school, where now the bishops are politicians and civil servants are their priests. But you don’t have to be the choirboys in the great church of the holy handout. The traitors like that self-styled Grand Chief Onanole and the others claim they’re singing their own tune for us, but they’re really in it for themselves. They’re mere missionaries for Ottawa. You’re not. We’re not. I’m not!
“No more endless talk, negotiating over…what? Our birthright? They divide the people with a land grant here, a fishing treaty there, a school, a few houses, toilets. Toilets? We beg the white man for a fucking toilet? Praise ‘the father,’ the prime minister, from whom all blessings flow. He gave us a potty? Well, bullshit!
“Look at yourselves. Leaders?” She mocked them again. “Do leaders take commands from new Canadians fresh off the boat? The so-called minister of aboriginal affairs is a Sikh, for Christ’s sake. Here we are on the lands the Creator gave us; he got here ten years ago and he’s in charge. Do you want to go back home and explain that to your kids?”
…and there’s the anti-Sikh bigotry I was talking about just now. There’s a certain generation in the CAF that still holds a grudge, although most of them have aged out.
So what the church and the residential schools did to the First Nations children was wrong, but if anyone wants to demand justice that’s bargaining away their inalienable rights? I’m still really not sure what kind of philosophy Molly Grace has espoused. Later on it will be mentioned that she spent a great deal of her formative years among the Liberation Church, but this is not even a parody of that doctrine.
I’m not saying that there isn’t racism within the First Nations, but the language we’re hearing in this passage is sounding a lot less native and a lot more ‘white’ to me.
Molly paused, caught her breath. Her silence cut as sharply as her words. “Let the people suffer. Drive the kids into the cities to rot. You’re all children before ‘the father.’ For how long?”
She fastened her glare on Alain again. “Tell me, Alain, for how long will you live this lie?” Before he could speak, she resumed. “No longer. We never gave up our system of government. You said it, and it’s true, and it’s time to act on it. The people are sovereign in their own land. We’re not going to ask permission from the whites or anyone else to live on our own land. Not having to ask, that’s what the word ‘sovereign’ means, Alain. That’s what sovereignty means.”
And then Molly gave these men and the two women on the Council the word. “Look up. Look at me! Raise up your faces! You are the people. You are proud. You are leaders.” She drove the words hard into their eyes. “You will take – back – the – land!
“Say it in your mind,” she commanded. “Take back the land.’ Once you pledge that sacred mission to yourself, nothing can change it, nothing can pull it out. Take the pledge in your mind or leave us alone.” She looked again at Alain. He nodded, just perceptibly, and it was done.
Molly, flushed and breathing hard, stepped back from the table, looked away and whispered just loud enough to be heard, loud enough to take command: “There will be no backsliding.”
And we wrap the speech up with a motivational speaker’s visualization exercise. The business man who’s worried about his empire is satisfied. The feared Alain Selkirk who spoke so eloquently about violence just now is backing down. This is apparently good enough. If shit goes wrong they can clearly take what Molly has said back to their people and still keep their self-respect.
There’s an implication in this speech that human rights are a zero sum game that can only have one winner. Never mind ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ here, if another group gets ahead it’s an automatic loss for you. There’s only so much food laid out, and Molly’s laying claim to the entire table. This is a seriously toxic mindset, especially for a minority group that’s fighting for their rights. While I’m not going to say it’s impossible for Indigenous radicals to hold a position like this…this is a really messed up characterization.
Molly Grace’s denial of the Treaties is an interesting belief as well. For the most part, the Treaty system (for all it’s lies and abuses) have been the backbone of the modern day Indigenous rights movement. For First Nations sovereingtists, the battle cry has been for Canada to respect the Treaties, and respect the nations with whom they negotiated. It’s how Wikwemikong managed to keep their land, after all. Again, I could imagine some kind of ideological framework that rejects the Treaties outright, but there’s no indication of it here in the text. She seems to be treating this as an accepted fact instead of a tremendous upheaval of First Nations politics.
Realistically, even if this speech had been allowed to take place without interruption, it shouldn’t have done anything to move the Council members at the table.
But no. At the end of the day, all Molly Grace has to do is glare at them, and repeat her mantra of taking back the land. Alain Selkirk is willing to abandon a lifetime of work and his legitimate fears of violence. And with him name out of the way, Fat Belly and Archie from Wikwemikong are doomed.
And now, with all of that settled, it’s time for…a briefing!
***Featured images from 20th Century Fox’s Predator (1987). Still images taken by author from DVD.***
 There was an allowable sub-category of dry humour, but Bland doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who could pull it off.
 One of the reasons why court-room dramas and political thrillers are so popular for writers is that they built in concessions by which a character can make a long, uninterrupted speech.
 Wikwemikong was a legitimate early spelling for the reserve’s name which wasn’t officially changed until 2014. Apparently a popular nickname for the place is the Wiik.
 There’s also the fact that Bland seems to think things like healthcare and daycare are things which make you soft and dependent? Uh…we got healthcare because medicine is expensive, and daycare’s become a necessity with the fact that (these days) it’s harder and harder to support a family on one income, necessitating both parents working.
 Also, don’t the yuppies pay taxes? And vote? They participate with and sustain the government which supposedly degrades them by…helping them live?… ….I got nothing…
 …and the sooner the rest of them go, the better. I get some satisfaction in imagining how Bland must feel about our current Minister of Defence, Hajrit Sajjan. A man who was not only a Sikh, but a ex-Forces member and an Afghan Veteran who started his career in the Militia.