Our little Communications team braces for who-knows-what each month with the approach of a full moon.
No, we do not employ any werewolves on staff at the Union of Ontario Indians, but – like any police officer or hospital emergency department nurse will tell you – we sure see our share of oddball occurrences as the moon waxes fuller in the Nipissing night sky.
For a while, it looked like I could take a year off from devoting a column to the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Not that bigotry ever takes a vacation, but things just seemed calmer this March.
The Groundhog had not seen his shadow and all signs pointed to an early spring. The birds had started chirping. The snowmobiles had stopped screeching. And 2,000 Little Native Hockey League players were gathering in Sudbury for March Break. All seemed quiet on the Northern Front.
A persistently-clanging cellphone shattered my morning reverie.
“Hello Maurice – somebody says there’s a sign on the front door of a restaurant in Lakefield that says : ‘No Natives’.” I hadn’t even had my bran muffin and yogurt yet.
“I’ll get right on it,” I stammered, my other hand reaching for a second phone to call my Peterborough County anti-Indian racism monitoring specialist.
“Hi Mom. What’s going on at the Village Fish and Chips?”
Within minutes I am supplied with phone numbers of all pertinent journalists, police agencies, and municipal politicians. By noon I can report to the powers-that-be that the story will be top of that evening’s CHEX-TV news lineup and on the front page of the next day’s Peterborough Examiner, the Lakefield police detachment is devoting its full resources to solving what they are calling a hate crime, and the village reeve has said such behaviour is not appreciated by residents of her sleepy Kawartha Lakes community.
On behalf of 50,000 Anishinabek Nation citizens I say that this despicable act is intolerable regardless of who is responsible, and that we are delighted that community officials are taking the incident so seriously and distancing themselves from it.
My bran muffin and yogurt beckon. I can hear sparrows chirping.
But I had not reckoned on the imminent full moon – and not just your run-of-the-mill monthly variety, but a Supermoon that alarmed news anchors report will be blazing its reflected rays from a mere 221,567 miles away, instead of the usual 238,857. One envisions night watchmen all over North America lathering up with Coppertone.
News flash – the CBC Ombudsman decrees that it was inappropriate for financial analyst Kevin O’Leary to call his colleague an “Indian Giver” during a heated debate about the future of the Saskatchewan Potash Corporation...six months ago!
Knock, knock. A colleague wonders about the propriety of a speaker at a recent local Toastmasters’ meeting embellishing his talk about First Nations people by patting his mouth with his hand and chanting “Whoo-whoo-whoo”.
The federal election writ has dropped, barely hitting the floor when Bloc Quebecois candidate Yvon Levesque declares that his NDP opponent is going to lose votes because he is aboriginal. Not to be outdone, Andre Forbes , carrying the Liberal banner in another Quebec riding, is quoted in several newspaper and magazine articles referring to aboriginal Canadians as “featherheads”.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says he is “shocked”. Blochead Gilles Duceppe says “no comment". I say: “Huh?”
As I settle down for a relaxing night of television to escape the apparent outbreak of national insanity, I flip to a PBS documentary about Sitting Bull, just in time to learn that General George Armstrong Custer’s men liked to refer to their Lakota neighbours as "Red Niggers”.
Full moon or not, at least the soldiers of the 7th Calvary paid a price.
Maurice Switzer is a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation. He serves as director of communications for the Union of Ontario Indians and editor of the Anishinabek News.