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Forums » Smalltalk » AMA: Being Indigenous In North America

Hello everyone,

My name’s Bee. Im a two-spirit individual hailing from the fond du First Nation. I live in Western Canada, in the same area the highway of tears is located.

I am a mixed race individual - white bread and Métis bread. During my time meeting people through roleplay, it’s come as a surprise to me just how little people know of the genocide in North America, and the impacts of said genocide on my peoples.

Should you have questions regarding the residents of turtle island, feel free to ask.

Some facts you might find interesting:

- Per Capita, indigenous peoples in Canada are killed at a higher rate than black folk in America. (2016 data)
- The last residential school closed in 1996
- My family sold their status for food.
- In 2016, of 5,716 missing and murdered indigenous women, only 116 cases were logged into the system.
- On some reserves, 96% of the sexual violence against native women have been committed by non-natives.
- Murder is the 3rd leading cause of death among indigenous women.
- Between 1997-2007, the homicide rates for indigenous women were almost seven times higher than that of non-indigenous women.

Contributions from Pinata:

- further north, the more expensive food prices get and the less electricity there is. a bag of grapes costs 30 dollars, a 24 pack of water ranges from 80-120 dollars, and a lot of northern tribes hunt seals and caribou for meals instead.
- when allowed to self-report, indigenous transmascs and trans men face the highest rates of sexual assault, stats from the 2015 u.s. transgender survey
- some residential schools in canada have been repurposed into actual schools that cater specifically to indigenous peoples
- during residential schools, the indigenous population was dwindled down to about 5-10%, and as bee already said the last residential school was closed in 1996


I do have some barriers that might make my responses a little slower, but I’m here to educate as I am able.

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Hello 13ee,

Thank-you for sharing, these facts are really heartbreaking!
What do you think can be done by non-First Nations/Aboriginal people to help these situations?

Also for those of us who are not First Nations or Aboriginal, but Role-play characters who are what should we stay away from doing or do you feel we should not even role-play such characters out of respect and to avoid cultural appropriation?
Kim Site Admin

Question: I have seen over the past few years an increase in content creators announcing whose land they are creating on, for example a theatre production saying at the start of the performance "And thanks to the _____ tribe, as we are currently on their stolen land."

Do you feel this is a meaningful method of educating people and making them aware of issues that indigenous folks face? Should we continue and expand this trend? Or does it just feel like an empty gesture? If an empty gesture, what's a better way that allies could help to surface the issue?

(Feel free to tell me this is not a fair question of a single individual, too!)
Have you or would you ever consider sensitivity reading professionally?
13ee Topic Starter

Falyn wrote:
Hello 13ee,

Thank-you for sharing, these facts are really heartbreaking!
What do you think can be done by non-First Nations/Aboriginal people to help these situations?

Also for those of us who are not First Nations or Aboriginal, but Role-play characters who are what should we stay away from doing or do you feel we should not even role-play such characters out of respect and to avoid cultural appropriation?

Hey Falyn,

I think awareness is key when it comes to these topics. Ultimately, knowledge is power. How else can we help if we don't know? Continuing to support indigenous artists, help elders heal from intergenerational trauma, support addictions care for indigenous kin, listen to us when we speak and acknowledge our movements is really key. So many were quick to get behind the Every Child Matters movement, but the reality is that those that escaped residential schools are still suffering. Blatant torture, murder, assault of all kinds and assimilation happened there, and it's continuing to affect the indigenous peoples off today.

Secondly, I think it's important to hear indigenous voices speak behind indigenous characters. I think that it's okay to play an indigenous character if you're not, but there's a ton of research that needs to be done. There is a lot of homogenization of indigenous beliefs and cultural practices, as if we as indigenous peoples of Turtle Island are all the same. But we are so different between our nations. Our artforms, our practices and our belief systems differ in ways that even I am still learning. For example, my peoples were known for tufting. Anishinaabe peoples originated the dream catcher. Inuk have finessed the art of using seal skin for jewellery. It's so, so different. I think if someone who isn't indigenous wants to play a culturally connected indigenous person, they should do so with major caution and tons of research. Cross-referencing is key. Because, our lives are so different, our realities so sad in many ways.

I'd also like to add that we, as a whole, need to be more attentive to slurs used against indigenous peoples, such as "Eskimo." Some inuk and inuit feel as though this word is fine, but there's a lot who don't agree. I think if words that are sensitive to some indigenous peoples are used despite this polarization, we should always err on the side of caution.

Great questions, thank you so much for asking.
13ee Topic Starter

Kim wrote:
Question: I have seen over the past few years an increase in content creators announcing whose land they are creating on, for example a theatre production saying at the start of the performance "And thanks to the _____ tribe, as we are currently on their stolen land."

Do you feel this is a meaningful method of educating people and making them aware of issues that indigenous folks face? Should we continue and expand this trend? Or does it just feel like an empty gesture? If an empty gesture, what's a better way that allies could help to surface the issue?

(Feel free to tell me this is not a fair question of a single individual, too!)

Hi Kim!

The practice of acknowledging the lands here is especially persistent up in Western Canada, as a lot of the land in Canada is unceded. Which essentially means that there is no documentation showing that our lands were ever signed over to european settlers. It's as genuinely stolen as stolen gets. Often times, multiple tribes and nations share one section of land. Up in Greater Vancouver, we have the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. And I have occupied land by all of those tribes and then some. Personally, I feel as though it's another act of awareness. We should be discussing the land we inhabit, the land that was stolen from indigenous peoples, the land that is being used to farm resources for the big guys who are destroying that same land.

This website/ is a great resource for getting to know the land you inhabit better. This may only graze the surface of educating people about the places they live, and less so about the major issues we face, but it is something. And that is always better than nothing.

Thanks so much for a great question, Kim!
hi bee! i'm also an indigenous person in canada, specifically algonquin and ojibwe. from one native to another:

do you hunt?

do you also have a thousand cousins that you can't seem to name at all?

does your tribe have any specific meaning for two-spirit? i tend to get mixed results depending on the tribe.

do you speak any indigenous languages?

and also i hope you don't mind that i add a few more quick facts
  • further north, the more expensive food prices get and the less electricity there is. a bag of grapes costs 30 dollars, a 24 pack of water ranges from 80-120 dollars, and a lot of northern tribes hunt seals and caribou for meals instead.
  • when allowed to self-report, indigenous transmascs and trans men face the highest rates of sexual assault, stats from the 2015 u.s. transgender survey
  • some residential schools in canada have been repurposed into actual schools that cater specifically to indigenous peoples
  • during residential schools, the indigenous population was dwindled down to about 5-10%, and as bee already said the last residential school was closed in 1996
13ee Topic Starter

sland wrote:
Have you or would you ever consider sensitivity reading professionally?

Hey Sland!

What an interesting question to ask. I have been hired to read over a few documents to look for noninclusive dialect in regards to indigenous peoples, but I also think it's highly important to request similar perspective from Black folk when looking at North America. Both communities have faced severe genocide within North America and often our/their voices go unheard.

So yes, I would love to do sensitivity reading, so long as there's a form of compensation that goes along with that. Even if it is a donation to a local indigenous organization, I'm happy to do so. But I cannot stress enough that these opportunities must go compensated, as often they're asking us to relive trauma.

Thanks for your question!
13ee Topic Starter

Pinata wrote:
hi bee! i'm also an indigenous person in canada, specifically algonquin and ojibwe. from one native to another:

do you hunt?

do you also have a thousand cousins that you can't seem to name at all?

does your tribe have any specific meaning for two-spirit? i tend to get mixed results depending on the tribe.

do you speak any indigenous languages?

and also i hope you don't mind that i add a few more quick facts
  • further north, the more expensive food prices get and the less electricity there is. a bag of grapes costs 30 dollars, a 24 pack of water ranges from 80-120 dollars, and a lot of northern tribes hunt seals and caribou for meals instead.
  • when allowed to self-report, indigenous transmascs and trans men face the highest rates of sexual assault, stats from the 2015 u.s. transgender survey
  • some residential schools in canada have been repurposed into actual schools that cater specifically to indigenous peoples
  • during residential schools, the indigenous population was dwindled down to about 5-10%, and as bee already said the last residential school was closed in 1996

Okay, I am laughing at the cousins question. Yes. Oh, Creator, yes I fricken' can relate.

Hey Pinata,

I'll break down some replies to these:
    1. I do not personally hunt. It would be a great honour to be included in hunting with my peoples, but I personally use my resources to purchase my goods from indigenous peoples where possible. I am a beader, I believe my skill is passed down from my great grandmother. My hairs are sourced from an indigenous person, my hides from indigenous peoples when I have access, and my supplies from indigenous owned businesses where possible. I am low income, so sometimes I do take advantage of wholesale prices where possibe for my materials. But never for something like hair or hide.

    2. Still finding this hilarious. Yes, a thousand times yes.

    3. It seems to really vary. I myself have not been able to go to my nation's land, as I reside two/three provinces away from that land. Additionally, you can only access my land by float plane. There's a sordid history behind my origin, so I haven't been able to meet the elders in my community to learn more from. That being said, I attribute my two-spirit(ness) to my 'gender' identity. In colonial terms, I also accept agender/no gender. I believe there's a marriage of both energies within me, but similarly I am completely uninterested in identifying myself as any set gender. I'm not fond of non-binary either, as I feel it still acknowledges colonial gender norms. For me, two-spirit is all about how I feel inside, and reflects nothing on my outside presentation.

    4. My aunt has taught me a few words in Métis, but I unfortunately do not speak my true mother tongue. Instead, my primary language is English. I wish I could be so lucky as to have access to that education, but much of my family has undergone assimilation under residential schools and lost access to their teachings. I have set a goal to learn Métis though.

I hope you don't mind me editing my post to include your facts. I might continue to add more, as I think this education is so necessary. I will credit you for sure, though!

maarsii, kin. <3
I ended up a little confused and figured it'd make plenty sense if there's simply more than one location with the same/a similar name, but reading a little more into your responses, it sounds like it could be the same place after all, so... I'll ask. ^^

Most of my childhood was spent in Michigan, and I recall that the island I was taught to call Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) was, in native lore, supposed to have been referred to as Turtle Island. Is this the same Turtle Island you're referring to, or is it a different one?

I'll also put out there that the education I got in Michigan sometimes seems to differ a little regarding native peoples than things I hear about what others were taught. I still got a lot of the standard cheery Mayflower/pilgrims/Thanksgiving stuff, but I also received at least a little bit of education centered around "yeah, white settlers really screwed the natives over" (though I don't doubt what I was told got toned way down even specific to the periods that were discussed). I also feel like I was taught more details about the so-called "French and Indian War" (apologies if the term is bothersome, I'm not sure if the name has since been updated and wanted to use what I assumed would be the easiest term to search if anyone wanted to look up more details; will happily edit if it's a problem) than about any other war the USA has had or been in. The way I was taught about it (no idea about the actual accuracy), things were depicted as the French getting along well with native peoples and them eventually joining together as allies for a heroic underdog kind of fight against tyrannical British rule in the region.
Hi Bee! As an arrivant/settler, I appreciate you sharing knowledge, and inviting curiosity and questions. Thank you!

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