Don’t judge an Algonquin by colour
Letter to the Editor - Barry's Bay This Week - July17, 2002

 Re:  “Healing by tradition at Pikwakanagan” by Connie White (June 26th edition).

I found this article traditional healer Joeorgina Larocque to be very interesting as I am particularly aware of the need for healing in Aboriginal communities.  The larger Algonquin Nation of Ontario is in need of a healing movement at both a personal level as well as to help us unify for the purpose of our ongoing treaty efforts.

I found it very disconcerting and alarming when I read the article in which Jeorgina states that her granddaughter “has all the colour of a full native.”  I am certain that this comment was taken out of context and I am equally sure that Jeorgina will be happy to see this qualification in print.

The Algonquins are having a very difficult time uniting due to imposed stratification processes such as the Indian Act (status versus non-status) as well as issues of on-reserve versus off-reserve.  Both of these processes are based on racism and sexism.  The oppressor imposed these measures on Aboriginal people as a form of social control for the purpose of dividing and conquering us.  Disunity was and still is the oppressor’s strategy.

At the grassroots level in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities there exists much racist ideology governing who is and who is not an Aboriginal person.  Specifically, that the only true Indian is an Indian that has brown skin, hair, and eyes.  Although I do have all of these physical characteristics (as the article referred to it as the “colouring of a full native”) I am acutely aware that today we live in a postmodern era where phenotype symbolism is inadequate in establishing one’s subjective identity formation, philosophical beliefs, and one’s ethnicity. 

Phenotype symbolism (colouring) is a cultural meaning system of the oppressor and is based on racist ideology.  Algonquin leaders must be careful not to subscribe to these types of exclusionary processes as they are very detrimental to the healing and unity of our Nation.  Today, Algonquins can and do have blonde hair and blue eyes; red hair and green eyes; some even have freckles.  We as a Nation (I am Algonquin) must embrace all Algonquins regardless of their “colouring” and unite as one to fight for our fundamental human rights.  We must make our ancestors proud and overcome the oppressors’ dividing strategies.

 Keep up the great work, Jeorgina.

Lynn Gehl
Toronto, Ontario

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