Pro-abo­rig­i­nal polemic a chal­lenge to de­ci­pher

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

with­out warn­ing. For ex­am­ple, he refers to “un­drip” (a term that turns out to be an acro­nym for United Na­tions Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of In­dige­nous Peo­ples).

He is also in­clined to sar­casm and bom­bast, es­pe­cially when he is writ­ing about some of his favourite bo­gey­men, like Man­i­toba Hy­dro.

Kulchyski has proved in the past, in books like The Sound of a Drum, that he can write force­fully. What is un­for­tu­nate about his style this time around is it di­min­ishes the im­pact of his view­point and ar­gu­ment. The reader may find signs of an im­pres­sive per­spec­tive but will have dif­fi­culty un­tan­gling it.

He ar­gues that in­dige­nous cul­tures have de­vel­oped uniquely, largely through strug­gle against dom­i­na­tion by the state (for which he uses the term to­tal­iza­tion).

As Kulchyski notes, when the Cana­dian Con­sti­tu­tion was repa­tri­ated, abo­rig­i­nal rights were in­cluded. He cites Sec­tion 35 as es­tab­lish­ing the le­gal sta­tus of abo­rig­i­nal rights and declar­ing that they can­not be over­rid­den by hu­man rights.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing sec­tions is the one la­belled “so­cial­ism and na­tive amer­i­cans.” Here Kulchyski ob­serves the con­trast be­tween the strength of Cana­dian so­cial­ists’ sup­port for soli- dar­ity around the world and the “less in­spir­ing record of so­cial­ist sup­port for in­dige­nous strug­gles in their own back­yard.”

Demon­stra­tions against im­pe­rial ven­tures in Africa and Latin Amer­ica seem to at­tract all kinds of ac­tivists. On the other hand, what he calls colo­nial­ism in Canada’s own Far North ap­pears, at times, to have drawn rather tepid re­sponses.

Kulchyski does give credit to some ear­lier ac­tivists, such as those who or­ga­nized around is­sues in­volved with Haida Gwai, Grassy Nar­rows and the Lu­bi­con Cree. He in­cludes him­self as one of those ear­lier cam­paign­ers.

He spec­u­lates the rea­son for the lack of “a mass out­pour­ing of sup­port,” such as has arisen in the past 10 years, has been the fail­ure of the po­lit­i­cal left to ap­pre­ci­ate the “par­tic­u­lar­ity of op­pres­sion.” He in­sists “the left and abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in Canada have a lot to say to each other if they could re­ally start talk­ing.”

Kulchyski, how­ever, should know he is more likely to find a re­cep­tive au­di­ence if he spoke in a lan­guage peo­ple un­der­stand.

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