Now, I know I spent A LOT of time pumping myself up to get writing again (months and months and months) and, as I look at the date of my last post on February 26th, I find myself thinking…holy heck! that was a long time a go. Yes, yes, things were a bit crazed in my day job this spring. Although, I’d like to be able to say the writing took a back seat during this time, the reality is—the writing didn’t even make it in the car.
As I come back to it yet AGAIN, my thoughts keep going back to…as a non-indigenous individual do I have any right to write a book about a culture I am not a part of? I’ve previously blogged about this and it would appear during my hiatus I didn’t resolve it.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of cultural appropriation is the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.
There are countless examples of this ranging from Madonna’s voguing which originated in the Black and Latin American gay community, Miley Cyrus’ twerking from the African American dance style and in the Canadian art world, there has been much dialogue surrounding non-indigenous artists such as Amanda PL for using the indigenous art style of bright colours and bold lines in her work.
Just as I was about to dip my toe back into the writing world I heard a fantastic interview on CBC radio Unreserved about this very topic. Rosanna Deerchild interviewed 3 incredible indigenous writers--Joshua Whitehead, Jaimie Isaac and Niigaan Sinclair and my eyes were opened to yet again another way we have let our First People down. Sinclair’s words stuck with me:
"Anyone can engage with any culture and borrow things. People do it all the time," he said, noting he has written from the perspective of women, people with disabilities and non-Indigenous individuals. "To do it without responsibility or ethics is where violence and genocide begins.
"Appropriation is theft based on power and privilege. Appreciation is engagement based on responsibility and ethics."
Another thing niggling away at me is I had previously felt because the Beothuk culture is extinct I would not be able to form any relationships with individuals from the community to help ensure I’ve got it right. Hence, I was feeling limited especially, as so much of the historical documentation I have studied is from the non-indigenous perspective. I know I can write about the Beothuks respectfully but to illustrate how little I know I had the privilege of speaking with an indigenous individual who originates from Labrador. I shared with him my concern and his response was—his people believe Beothuk blood still runs within their blood, so they do not think of them as being extinct. I think that’s beautiful and I have a lot to learn as I continue down this road.
Activist, World traveller. Fan of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.