Tuesday, October 4, 2016

dear settler friends,

settler friends. you from england, france, hong kong, india and more. whether you've been on Turtle Island for ten years or a couple hundred years, you are new to this place. i love many of you and would not wish anyone ill. i respect we all have different journeys and values. this is merely a reminder of sorts.
imagine you live on the land your ancestors have always inhabited - the land to which you are Indigenous. imagine in the recent centuries that land got populated through various ways by various settlers. imagine, in spite of imperialist government efforts to eradicate your people, and all Indigenous peoples, your people survive. imagine, then, that after all the torment your ancestors were forced to endure, including legislation forbidding them to speak their languages and practice their arts, you get to work as a theatrical storyteller. you work voicing stories of the bloodlines of which you are so proud. you get to know colleagues who have had similar experiences, ancestors coming through attempted genocide, and your colleagues now working as storytellers in service of that reality.

now it’s 2015. imagine a major venue holding theatre company, led by a settler, deciding to stage a work written by someone from your broader community- someone who is also from survivors and original peoples of this land. Indigenous. the work is inspired by yet another peoples of the land, though northwest of here. imagine the settler theatre company leader decides to cast, in roles identifiably Indigenous - roles that we touted by said theatre as Indigenous - two actors from the settler population. imagine the leader publicly opining that there were no Indigenous actors who could fill those roles. imagine the hurt from your friends - Indigenous artist/storytellers greatly suited to those roles, who were never approached to do so. veteran Indigenous theatre artists made invisible on home soil.

imagine those strong women from your community having the courage to speak up about this public slight, at risk of losing good favour from colleagues and possibly future employment. imagine them asking for an apology, and offering dialogue and teachings. now see the offending settler theatre company leader refusing to address the offense. see her, continuing to ignore the injury she caused.

now it’s 2016. finally, imagine that very theatre company, that very same leader, announcing a new slate of programming. she proclaims that the season is reflective of "everything we have strived for in recent years at Factory."
the slate of programming excludes Indigenous stories altogether.

i believe in diversity. i celebrate the works of my settler colleagues, especially when they are of communities who have been marginalized in this white-dominant constitutional monarchy.
i believe we can disagree with leaders and that conversations should ensue.
when leaders can't face contradiction and therefore avoid conversation, they freeze out the unwanted.
to me, that is what imperialism looks like.

i disagree with the exclusion of peoples Indigenous to this land.
there are many nations in this colonized land and all stories should be given a platform.
as for Indigenous peoples... we are very much here, no matter how much we are uninvited.

we are here.
we are Indigenous. we are resilient.
we are not surprised when settlers try to disappear us and our history. we also don’t sit down in silence and take it.
we will not be disappeared, and we are not going anywhere.
we will do our work, speaking up for justice and working in a way that honours our ancestors and people yet to come. i invite you to join us.