Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/4/2021 (190 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
IF you’re going to acknowledge the land you live and work and love on, you should also acknowledge the history of the people who have lived on it and the people who live on it now.
When I see or hear someone say they don’t care if a person is "purple" ("The view from behind the badge," March 27), it bothers me. There are no purple people. There is no purple community that is going to vilify anyone for shooting or breaking their purple mother, father, sister or brother.
I wish I was purple. Then my only fear would be the Purple People Eater.
But I’m not purple. My mother and my sisters are not purple. We are Indigenous women from Treaty 5 territory living in Treaty 1 territory. My great-grandfather signed a treaty in 1909, which I assume he couldn’t read because the treaty states it was explained to him and the other people who signed it.
I read it for the first time while preparing to write this. I learned Her Majesty the Queen pays me $5 annually to show her satisfaction "with the behaviour and good conduct" of her "Indians" just like me.
With absolute respect to Her Majesty, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy have shown more monetary appreciation of my behaviour and good conduct. Her Majesty has paid me about $180 in my lifetime, and I’ve been pretty well-behaved and good. It seems like a bargain when I add it all up.
I guess I can tell myself it’s the thought that counts. A gift is a gift is a gift, after all.
I certainly didn’t feel my good conduct was acknowledged by the RCMP officer who accused me of failing to stop at a stop sign about 10 years ago in Beausejour, a town where I was often one of four visibly Indigenous people living there.
I didn’t appreciate when the officer told me there were better ways to kill myself without harming others. He suggested driving without wearing a seat belt. He let me off with a warning, and I certainly felt warned. I felt warned it was unsafe to be an Indigenous person driving a car in that town. I still do.
I am thankful I didn’t follow his advice. It never would have occurred to me that I could kill myself that way without that officer counselling me to do so.
I wish it had been an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. It was one of many that my sisters and my mother and I have had in that town over the years.
I picked my mother up this past Good Friday and took her "uptown" to Park Avenue in Beausejour to shop at a convenience store. Her purse strap had become tangled around her ankle, and she fell getting out of my car. I immediately felt awful and I immediately felt terrified. I looked in every direction to make sure the RCMP hadn’t witnessed her falling on the ground.
I helped her up. I told her, "They’re going to think you’re drunk again." We laughed and went on with our day.
Four years ago, an RCMP officer thought she was drunk when she was on the ground on Park Avenue in Beausejour. She wasn’t drunk. The hospital told my sister that there was absolutely no alcohol in my mother’s system when she was arrested.
The reason my mother went to the hospital is because the arresting officer broke her arm. The report issued by the Independent Investigation Unit said that "the officer applied an arm bar – a wrestling hold – to the woman, trying to take her to the ground."
That amateur wrestler was never charged. My mom was 64 years old at the time. When interviewed by the IIU, she told them she had no memory of how or when her arm was injured. That’s not true. She remembers, as do I. I will always remember when it happened, how it happened, and where it happened.
The IIU never spoke to me. The RCMP never spoke to me. I would like to speak with them.
Fear and shame has kept me silent for years. I am silent no more.
The next time my mom falls down and I’m not there, I hope someone has the decency to help her up if she needs help. Not because she’s Indigenous or because she’s my mom, but just because she’s a person who needs help.
Michelle Melanson is an Indigenous woman living and working in Treaty 1 territory.