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2 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily table of Contents Table
ConTenTs Culture 8 Book Talk: It’s All About the Land • Book Review: Roaming Mitski Album Review 4 News Indigenous Groups for Environmental Action SSMU Hires New General Manager Interview with Celeste Petri-Spade Editorial 3 “A National Shame” Compendium! 11 • Musical Horoscopes Rental office 2255 René-Lévesque Boulevard West, Montreal firstname.lastname@example.org 438 500-2585 MAKE AN APPOINTMENT MAKE SHAUGHNESSY VILLAGE YOUR NEW HOME AND ENJOY THE BEST OF DOWNTOWN MONTREAL SELECT YOUR STUDIO, 3 ½ TO 5 ½ OR PENTHOUSE TODAY IN AN ALL-INCLUSIVE FORMULA. ALEXANDERAPPARTEMENTS.COM *This offer is available in limited quantities and for a limited time only. Certain conditions apply. GET 1 MONTH FREE*
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“A National Shame”
content warning: colonial violence, sexual assault
As September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, approaches, we cannot forget that Indigenous communities across so-called Canada continue to face colonial violence and oppression.
Indigenous women are especially vulnerable to this violence. According to Statistics Canada, six out of ten Indigenous women experience violent victimization –meaning physical or sexual assault – in their lifetime, compared to about a third of non-Indigenous women.
Indigenous women are also twelve times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be murdered or reported as missing, according to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The violence experienced by Indigenous women in Canada is a direct consequence of colonization. Through racist policies such as residential schools and the Indian Act, Indigenous communities have experienced extreme abuse at the hands of government authorities. Moreover, these policies were designed to destroy Indigenous culture and community structures as a form of genocide. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that most children forced to attend residential schools were severely abused by staff and punished for speaking their language or practicing their culture. This attempted destruction of Indigenous cultures and ways of life has also made it challenging for Indigenous communities to obtain culturally appropriate support and resources to heal from past and ongoing traumas.
Indigenous women rightfully mistrust the Canadian judicial system, which was designed to work against rather than with them. Many are afraid to report disappearances and violent crimes, and others are not taken seriously when they do. Even when police respond to disappearances and violent crimes, their inappropriate conduct can cause further harm: Indigenous testimonies report that police often use slurs and stereotypes and fail to provide families with information and updates.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a four-year investigation that examined the role of the federal government in perpetrating violence against Indigenous women, concluded that: “human rights and Indigenous rights abuses and violations [were] committed and condoned by the Canadian state [and] represent genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
The Canadian government has recognized these findings and declared its intention to end the national tragedy of murders and disappearances of Indigenous women.
Following this acknowledgment, the government developed a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan.
Since its creation in 2021, the Plan has been criticized due to its exclusion of important Indigenous groups, such as the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Furthermore, groups that contributed to the development of the plan have spoken out against the federal government’s slow progress. The chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC) has said that the state of the action plan is “a national shame.”
The continued lack of effort and accountability from the Canadian government is unconscionable. As a recent example, in Winnipeg, the families of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Ryan have been calling for a search of the Prairie Green Landfill, where they believe the women’s remains, as well as the remains of Buffalo Woman (or Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe), lie. The city police have refused their request; however, a study funded by the federal government concluded two months ago that despite potential health risks for workers searching the landfills, it would be more harmful for the victims’ families if a search was not conducted. There is no telling when, or even if, a search will be conducted.
Winnipeg’s decision reflects a systemic issue: the federal, provincial, and local governments ignore violence against Indigenous women despite having the resources to address it. This issue persists despite the governments’ supposed commitment to reconciliation, a process that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) defines as “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country.” As long as governments ignore the concerns and demands of Indigenous women, their suffering will only continue.
Indigenous communities, and especially Indigenous women, continue to face extreme violence due to the inefficacy of the federal and provincial governments and ongoing settler-colonial abuses. It is important to keep informed of local or national protests that advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women. You can support the calls to search the landfills in Winnipeg by signing a petition started by Travis Brady. For those of us who are settlers, we should take time to listen to the stories of Indigenous women to deepen our understanding of these wrongs. Finally, you can take local action by supporting organizations such as the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and the Indigenous Health Centre of Tiohtià:ke.
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Indigenous Groups Lead Efforts For Environmental Action
“Amazonia For Life” among initiatives in recent years
During last week’s UN General Assembly in New York City, between the usual speeches and press conferences, a group of Indigenous Brazilian protesters spoke their message loud and clear.
Members of “Amazonia For Life” gathered outside of the UN Headquarters last Monday, demanding that world leaders act immediately to save the Amazon rainforest from further deforestation. Home to the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet and countless Indigenous tribes, the Amazon is a critical component of our biosphere. Their target? Protecting 80 per cent of the Amazon rainforest by 2025, a goal they have dubbed “80 = 25”. The initiative has been supported by over 1,200 different organizations, including 50 Indigenous groups from across the Amazonian basin.
In Brazil, former president Jair Bolsonaro’s administration oversaw a record-breaking degradation of the Amazon rainforest. Agriculture and mining were allowed to operate on Indigenous land in the Amazon without Indigenous consent. According to World Wildlife Federation Brazil, the Amazon rainforest lost some 11,568 km² in area over 2022, the last year of Bolsonaro’s term. This translates to a 150 per cent
increase in deforestation from the previous year.
Bolsonaro’s legislative moves, while endorsed by the agricultural lobby, were vocally opposed by Indigenous groups and environmental activists.
The Amazon rainforest is both a haven of endangered species and one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, making it essential to Earth’s ecological balance. In a worst-case scenario, the rainforest would reach a “tipping point” and revert into a savannah, leading to the disappearance of all its current ecosystems.
It is precisely this worst-case scenario which “Amazonia For Life” is attempting to stave off.
In their latest report, they stress the need for “urgent measures to safeguard the remaining 74% of the Amazon” relatively untouched by human activity.
“Amazonia For Life” is the latest pushback by Indigenous groups around the world against the rapid degradation of Earth’s biosphere. Often living near environmentally-sensitive areas, Indigenous groups have long witnessed their lands desecrated and turned barren by human activity.
In Australia, years of staunch opposition by Aboriginal groups failed to stop the construction of the Carmichael coal mine near Aboriginal sacred sites. The mine, over its projected sixty-
year lifetime, will produce a whopping 2% of the maximum CO2 scientists warn we can emit before global warming reaches a point of no return.
Bravus (formerly Adani Group), which owns the mine, and police officers have continually harassed Aboriginal locals and supporters for opposing the project or simply accessing their ancestral lands.
Not all Indigenous initiatives have failed, however. Under new President Lula’s administration, Amazon deforestation in Brazil has fallen dramatically. And in the US, the Biden administration has recently returned to Native American tribes the power to stop projects that might pollute waterways under the federal Clean Water Act.
Indigenous groups have also started looking for creative methods to kickstart environmental action. Court cases have become more common a tool for Indigenous communities to pressure governments into action. Over 2100 climate-related court cases were filed in 2022, double the number from 2017. In Canada, the Wet’suwet’en of British Columbia sued the federal government in 2020 for failing to adequately respond to the climate crisis.
Severe wildfires and beetle infestations have plagued the
Genevieve Quinn | Illustrations Editor
Wet’suwet’en in the last few years as a result of warming temperatures. The First Nations community was also the focal point of national controversy last year, when the CoastLink pipeline’s construction encroached on their lands. The federal government has now announced plans to reach net zero by 2050, while affirming close cooperation with Indigenous stakeholders on climate issues.
Nonetheless, court cases have had mixed results for Indigenous groups elsewhere. The Wet’suwet’en case, in spite of the Canadian government’s promises, was initially rejected before being reconsidered under appeal: this appeal is still ongoing as of time of writing. A 2023 UNEP report concluded that most court cases had “limited success”, being thrown out due to a lack of recognition of Indigenous rights in courts. Another major problem is ensuring that corporations and governments comply with legal mandates. Despite a 2021 ruling in Ecuador against gas flaring— the toxic burning of natural gas from oil extraction—its practice is continued near Indigenous communities.
Other Indigenous groups act as guardians within their communities, supervising the health of their lands.
Across Canada, First Nations communities have put forward “Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas”, ecological zones where conservation work draws from Indigenous knowledge. This approach has the benefits of cooperation with First Nations communities, as well as continued application and transmission of Indigenous traditions and culture to future generations.
Nonetheless, experts explain that Indigenous groups still face many obstacles—political, racial, and socioeconomic—in their mission to protect and heal their land. A recent United Nations report highlighted deep inequalities in the way climate funding is distributed globally, with Indigenous peoples often left out of the picture. Similar findings were reported last November by Canada’s auditorgeneral, blasting the lack of adequate emergency services available for Indigenous communities for climaterelated disasters. In Brazil, environmental activists—many of whom are Indigenous—have been killed fighting for the future of the earth.
Yet, despite these obstacles, Indigenous people have and continue to spearhead the fight to save our planet.
NEWS 4 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Andrei Li | News Contributor
SSMU Hires New General Manager Position previously had high turnover
On September 18, SSMU executives announced on their website that they had hired a new General Manager, Maya Marcus-Sells. The announcement was repeated in SSMU’s weekly email.
The previous statement regarding a General Manager was the hiring of Daniel Dufour on March 13, 2020, but Dufour vanished around the beginning of the 2021-2022 year: according to meeting minutes, he was absent from Board of Director meetings from September 2021 onwards.
During the 2021-2022 year, there was a smattering of unofficial mentions of a General Manager, and then the absence of one. In a Board of Directors meeting in September 2021, when Dufour was first absent, the VP Finance mentioned that the General Manager had been working with the Building Director to get new office furniture. At the November 2021 Board of Directors meeting, a member of the gallery asked where the General Manager was, to which a Board Director responded that he was on leave and “attending meetings as required.” In March 2022, Dufour stopped being listed as absent in meetings, and his name was dropped entirely.
The position of a General Manager seems crucial to the functioning of SSMU. According to the SSMU website, the General Manager is “responsible for the SSMU’s administration, governance, corporate obligations, accounting, human resources, business operations, and legal affairs.” The General Manager position also seems difficult to fill. Dufour was hired following the resignation of Ryan Hughes on September 9, 2019, who lasted three years in the position, and before Hughes was Jennifer Varkonyi, who worked at SSMU for only six months before resigning.
In an interview with the Daily, SSMU President Alexandre Ashkir said that Daniel Dufour resigned in early 2022. Ashkir is unsure about the cause behind the delay in hiring a new General Manager, but speculated that it was an issue of executives having more urgent priorities. He also noted that executives in the 2022-2023 year began the hiring process, but were “pre-occupied with the return from covid” and were “dealing with a thousand small fires everywhere.”
He said that hiring a General Manager is something that requires everyone to be
on board: this year’s executive team was the first to be able to dedicate the energy needed for it.
This hypothesis is echoed in the mentions of a General Manager that feature in Board of Directors meetings. The Executive Committee Report of Summer 2022 says that executives “worked on the Interim Structure for SSMU in the absence of a General Manager, reallocating the General Manager’s responsibilities among Executives and Management.” This reallocation suggests that Dufour at this point had left the position. The report also says that the President worked with headhunters to get information for recruitment services to find a new General Manager. Furthermore, the VP Finance listed several projects as “GM responsibilities” that he worked on, for example continuing negotiations with the SSMUnion. The SSMUnion negotiations were not successful: the SSMUnion would later accuse SSMU of bad-faith bargaining. Five months later, in January 2023, the Executive Committee report said that executives approved the email motion to approve the General Manager job description; details are unknown since there are no published minutes for this meeting. In March 2023, an Executive Committee report said they approved a motion to approve the General Manager salary range. Once again, there are no published minutes for this meeting. Ironically, the “thousand small fires”
that prevented executives from hiring a new General Manager were partly why they needed one. The 2021-2022 and the 2022-2023 years were marked by failings of SSMU, especially at the level of governance, and the executives at SSMU, along with the Board of Directors and Legislative Council, seem to have suffered under the weight of these tasks without the help of a General Manager.
The prime example from the 20212022 year was the suspension of the SSMU President without communication from the rest of the executive team, and it doesn’t take long looking through meeting minutes to find other cracks in SSMU’s functioning. For example, in November 2021, the Building and Operations Management Committee was dissolved after it caused “a delay in negotiations with vendors” according to the corresponding motion. The SSMU Accountability Committee met only twice from August 2021 to August 2022, and neither meeting met quorum.
In December 2022, the VP Finance presented his budget revision two months late. In February 2023, the motion for ECOLE was forgotten from the agenda of the monthly legislative council meeting, causing a delay in its approval.
A General Manager offers an opportunity for executives to focus on their main responsibilities, and SSMU would greatly benefit from a General Manager who lasts longer than a few years. Over the past three years, SSMU has not communicated changes to students, letting important updates about the hiring process - for example, approving the salary and job description - sneak by in Board of Directors meetings. Finally, the absence of minutes for Board of Directors meetings - in 2022-2023, there are only seven minutes published, out of the 20 meetings - makes accountability all the more difficult.
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Rasha Hamada | Photos Contributor
[Ashkir] said that hiring a General Manager is something that requires everyone to be on board: this year’s executive team was the first to be able to dedicate the energy needed for it.
The prime example from the 2021-2022 year was the suspension of the SSMU President without communication from the rest of the executive team, and it doesn’t take long looking through meeting minutes to find other cracks in SSMU’s functioning.
Interview with Professor Celeste Petri-Spade, Associate Provost of Indigenous Initiatives
A look into the first year of her mandate
Coordinating News Editor
Last week, the Daily , alongside representatives from The Tribune and Le Délit , had the opportunity to interview Professor Celeste Petri-Spade, Associate Provost of Indigenous Initiatives. Appointed in 2022, Petri-Spade is the first person to serve in this position. In this interview, she discussed her mandate, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII)’s work to support Indigenous students, and the New Vic project.
Petri-Spade is Ojibwe from the Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation in northwestern Ontario.
She is a visual anthropologist and artist, having pursued art thanks to her mother, a wellknown regalia-maker. She began her academic career at Laurentian University, directing the Maamwizing Indigenous Research Institute, and was a Queen’s University National Scholar in Indigenous Studies before arriving at McGill.
Petri-Spade explained that the role of the OII is to “champion the 52 calls to action and work with different academic leaders and administrative leaders to ensure that we’re all working in that same direction.” For her first year as Provost, PetriSpade has been working on
developing a team structure and familiarizing herself with actors in the McGill community who should be accountable to the calls to action.
“It’s really been about team building and getting to know one another, and really starting to unpack and organize ourselves according to respective portfolios,” she explained.
She has hired or promoted several Indigenous staff to form part of her team namely: Thomasina Phillips, Associate Director of Indigenous Student Success; Matthew Coutu-Moya, manager of the First Peoples House; Ann
Deer, Associate Director of Indigenous Initiatives; and Aneeka Anderson, Indigenous Initiatives Associate. She has also been working with colleagues from universities that already have an established Office of Indigenous Initiatives to develop a plan for McGill’s. Many Ontario universities such as Western, Queen’s, and the University of Toronto already have this service.
Indigenous Awareness Week
As this conversation took place at the beginning of Indigenous Awareness Week, Petri-Spade
discussed her team’s role in bringing this event to life. It’s mainly coordinated by Deer and the events are open to everyone, from students to community members. She invites anyone interested to take part in the events.
“It’s a good entryway, I think, to learning more about Indigenous scholarship, different kinds of teachings that are delivered, maybe from a land based perspective,” said Petri-Spade.
She added that they made an effort to include a diversity of Indigenous perspectives: “We’re different according to
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our nations, according to our gender, our race,” she explained. “And we’re really mindful of that.”
There are a wide variety of workshops and events being offered for Indigenous Awareness week. The week opened with a keynote speech from Anishinaabe author Waubgeshig Rice, one of PetriSpade’s colleagues. There were several panels, including one on Centering Indigenous Voices in Healthcare which she was particularly excited about, as it was led by new Indigenous women faculty members. There were also more practical events, such as a Rabbit Harvesting and Fish Skin Making workshop, and a film screening about education in Nunavik. Finally, there will be a comedy night exploring Indigenous knowledge through humour.
“It’s nice for the Indigenous community here who often have these very technical or intense topic-focused sessions [...] to come together around other forms of Indigenous expression and knowledge that are about making us laugh,” said Petri-Spade.
Indigenous Student Recruitment
The first 17 of the 52 Calls to Action concern student recruitment and retention, and this is also one of Petri-Spade’s priorities. She says that the OII has been working on a needs assessment with the Indigenous student community over the past year, resulting in the creation of a position for an Indigenous mental health counsellor within the First Peoples House.
“What I have witnessed in the last ten years is that Indigenous students are really calling upon institutions to think differently about the way in which we deliver programs, in this sense, in ways that are very respectful and complementary to Indigenous sovereignty over education and what’s happening within their communities,” she said.
Additionally, the OII is working with local Indigenous communities to develop special pathways for Indigenous students to attend McGill. PetriSpade said that they’re “in the process of establishing facultyspecific admission pathways
and retention programs to help support increased enrollment.”
One of their key partnerships is with John Abbott College, which has a high percentage of Indigenous students, although this partnership is still in the early stages. Additionally, McGill now provides upwards of $5000 in awards to any Indigenous undergraduate student who has exceptional grades and doesn’t receive an entrance scholarship.
The OII is also considering establishing articulation agreements with colleges that have high percentages of Indigenous students already attending. These agreements would mean that Indigenous students would be able to enter university education with advanced standing from their previous college courses. PetriSpade added that having formalized arrangements where graduates of certain college programs are guaranteed a spot at a university have historically worked well for Indigenous students in other provinces, like Ontario.
She said that it’s important to work in partnership with local communities because initiatives that look good on paper may have unintended consequences.
Petri-Spade gave the example of tuition waivers, which would remove tuition fees for Indigenous students. She claims that this might
impact the funding allotted to Indigenous nations by the federal government for post-secondary expenses. To avoid this, the OII may instead provide financial support through stipends or awards of equal value.
Petri-Spade additionally suggests that universities should consider how they can deliver education in a way that is conscious of the reality many Indigenous students experience today by offering more flexibility in when and where they undertake their studies. For example, this could be done through offering more cohortbased learning and intensive models, which may be more accommodating for students who have to balance studies with a full-time job.
“I worked full time when I went back and I did my master’s degree,” Petri-Spade explained.
“I was lucky that I could find a program where it was cohort based and it was intensive learning.” This arrangement also allowed her to spend more time in her home community while studying. She is also looking into ways that universities can deliver education to Indigenous students in their home communities.
“A lot of students don’t appreciate the city as much as people who are born and raised in a city,” Petri-Spade explained. “It’s a very different environment. They want to be at home on the land. They want to be participating in their traditional land activities. They can’t do that here.”
Finally, Petri-Spade spoke about the importance of mentorship, which is why the OII is currently developing an official Indigenous Alumni Association. She believes that Indigenous Alumni offer an important perspective when shaping the OII’s priorities and supporting current students.
“They can tell us about what they would have liked to have seen as a student as part of the student community, [and] could be really important connections [for current students] as they proceed through their education here, but then beyond that as they’re thinking about future education,” she explained.
Indigenous Studies Course Offerings
When questioned as to why only two Indigenous studies courses (INDG 200 and 420) were being offered this semester and asked what the university is doing to increase its Indigenous curricula, Petri-Spade responded that there were many courses on Indigenous topics outside of the Indigenous studies minor program. In order to increase
this offering, she emphasized the importance of hiring First Nation and Inuit scholars.
“They not only speak from their nationhood, but they speak from their own lived experience and positionality,” she explained. “My office has been really active in saying ‘okay, well, if we want to do this, we actually have to build capacity for having Indigenous faculty members.’”
As part of creating a welcoming environment for Indigenous faculty, the OII hosts a Welcome Ceremony to invite new staff into the university. This year, on October 23, she’ll be welcoming ten new Indigenous faculty members, all who she says are offering Indigenous courses. She’s especially excited that the Schulich School of Music, which had previously never had an Indigenous faculty member, will now have three. One of the new faculty, Rob Spade, will be teaching a class on Ojibwe song and drum. Janine Metallic, previously the only Indigenous member of the Faculty of Education, will now be joined by three Indigenous colleagues.
Dr. Amy Shawanda from the department of Family Medicine will be teaching a course on Indigenous health perspectives, and helping the department to integrate these perspectives into their curriculum.
For other faculty members looking to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into their courses, the OII offers a service called ‘tea with Geraldine.’ Through this service, lecturers can meet with Geraldine King, Senior Advisor, Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy, and discuss ways in which they can ‘Indigenize’ their teaching.
The New Vic Case
When asked about the OII’s role in McGill’s New Vic project, which has caused significant
tension between McGill and the Mohawk Mothers, PetriSpade said that she and her team were responsible for ensuring that McGill is working within the terms of the settlement agreement; They are also supporting relationship-building with Kanien’kehá:ka stakeholders. In relation to this, Petri-Spade explained that she is trying to build an Indigenous Advisory Council for McGill. She said that they’re approaching this project as “striking a steering committee,” all while being mindful to not replace existing Indigenous governance structures in different parts of the university. The OII will be inviting representatives from these existing units alongside community representatives from Indigenous nations to come together to develop the terms of reference to define how this council will operate in relation to existing governance structures. They have currently enlisted the help of First Peoples Group, an Indigenous-led consulting firm, and Dr. Gerald Taiaiake Alfred to make this project a reality.
Petri-Spade recommends that students who are concerned about the way in which McGill is handling this project should address their concerns to the Indigenous Affairs Commissioner at SSMU. Additionally, she encouraged students to work to build relationships with Indigenous students whose land they’re on.
“I think we often live and work in Tiohtià:ke, in Montreal, in the city,” she said. “I always encourage students, if they’re Indigenous or not, to go into the community, go to Kahnawake, and build those relationships and listen and learn.”
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“I always encourage students, if they’re Indigenous or not, to go into the community, go to Kahnawake, and build those relationships and listen and learn.”
- Celeste Petri-Spade
“What I have witnessed in the last ten years is that Indigenous students are really calling upon institutions to think differently about the way in which we deliver programs, in this sense, in ways that are very respectful and complementary to Indigenous sovereignty over education and what’s happening within their communities.”
– Celeste Petri-Spade
Petri-Spade explained that the role of the OII is to “champion the 52 calls to action and work with different academic leaders and administrative leaders to ensure that we’re all working in that same direction.”
“Remember – It’s All About the Land” Dr. Taiaiake Alfred on his long-awaited book
Elaine Yang Culture Contributor
On Wednesday September 20, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives at McGill hosted a widely anticipated discussion led by prominent Kahnawà:ke activist and author Dr. Taiaiake Alfred. The talk centred around the process and inspiration behind his most recent book, It’s All About the Land: Collected Talks and Interviews on Indigenous Resurgence.
As part of this year’s lineup of events during McGill’s annual back-to-back Indigenous Awareness Weeks (September 18-30), the talk was given in the SSMU building ballroom and attended en masse by students, academic professionals, and members of the university community. Seats quickly filled up; I drew up a folding chair in the back row and found myself between two other students waiting with their notebooks open.
negative impact made by systems of the Canadian government on First Nations sovereignty, security, and cultural identity.
A short introduction by Professor Veldon Coburn, Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Ottawa, underlined the significance of Alfred’s contribution to the socio-political discourse on contemporary conflicts faced by Indigenous people: his four previous books on the subject set such a considerable precedent for his work that some among the ballroom audience had waited more than a decade for the release of his most recent publication.
With most of his work concerning processes of decolonization and cultural recovery through the legal and political empowerment of Indigenous people, Dr. Alfred’s primary driving force is his innate desire to find “the truth” about his people. A major consequence of the colonization endured by the Kahnawà:ke and other First Nations communities was the loss of large-scale social integrity
Together with Dr. Pamela Palmater – a longtime friend and collaborator from the Mi’kmaw Nation who penned the foreword to his book – Dr. Alfred addressed the continued effects of Canadian state-led colonization on First Nations communities and individuals. His book lends a unique perspective to this conversation by exploring how policies on land acquisition set the course for many Indigenous communities today.
Published through the University of Toronto Press earlier this year amid considerable excitement for its release, It’s All About the Land is a compendium of collaborative insight and lucid commentary on the interplay of sovereign policy, social attitude, and Native identity cultivated through a series of bold conversations and complex reflections. Alfred’s writing is richly informed by his educational background in political philosophy as well as his personal journey to becoming a force of action for the Kahnawà:ke people. Both academic and personal perspectives are woven into a fluid conversational flow directed at deconstructing the
due to the effective dispersal of their hereditary collectives. The truth must be reconstructed by picking up the pieces. He draws an analogy, referencing the great historical leader for whom he was named: “The figure of Taiaiake in 1701…stood on a rock as big as Mont Royal. I am barely standing on a rock that’s big enough.”
Alfred cites his parents’ generation of community leaders as an early source of inspiration; the earnest dedicatees of the book are his aunt and uncle, from whose influence he adopted his “militant” attitude towards justice for his community. Addressed to the people who shaped such an important aspect of his identity, his intention was to explain, through the book’s exhaustive dialogues and painstaking commentary, his own “Mohawk worldview.” The title, in addition, came from a succinct reminder he heard constantly from peers and elders in Indigenous activist spaces during his youth: “Remember –it’s all about the land.”
For many First Nations across the continent, the inability to live on their own territories or to hand down the land within
the community constitutes a fundamental, original loss with no recourse. Divided land, as divided truth, denies the possibility of a complete identity. Alfred enumerates the experiences that separate him from the other Taiaiake: “I didn’t know our language…I went to Catholic
school and I lost the [Kahnawà:ke] spirituality.” But despite knowing these differences, he still grapples with the question: “What’s this Tai’s reality?”
Today, Alfred’s work occupies its own league in the Indigenous literary space. His particular impact, remarked by
Professor Coburn, is owed in part to the firm, prosaic style that translates his personal magnanimity into a compelling literary voice that draws readers from all backgrounds together. Unfailingly sensitive towards nuances in the subject matter, his writing preserves a clarity of articulation which renders even his most theoretical arguments plainly accessible. From a stylistic approach, Alfred added that It’s All About the Land was, perhaps more so than any of his other works, very much “like an oratory.” Like the course of one of his unscripted speeches, the free prose aligns with the gravity of his concerns in stark authenticity to follow a winding path — though by no means complete — of one man’s journey after the truth.
CULTURE 8 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
“The figure of Taiaiake in 1701… stood on a rock as big as Mont Royal. I am barely standing on a rock that’s big enough.”
- Dr. Taiaiake Alfred
Courtesy of Dr. Taiaiake Alfred
Addressed to the people who shaped such an important aspect of his identity, his intention was to explain, through the book’s exhaustive dialogues and painstaking commentary, his own “Mohawk worldview.”
We’ll Always Have New York A review of Roaming
Olivia Shan Coordinating Editor
At this point, a week-long trip to New York City is almost a prerequisite to having the full Montreal undergraduate experience. Roaming , just published this past month by local publisher Drawn and Quarterly, deftly immortalizes this ancient and treasured tradition through the eyes of first-year college students Zoe, Dani — childhood friends, and known in the story as Zee and Dee — and a new classmate, Fiona.
A fresh collaboration from graphic novelist superstars Jillian and Mariko Tamaki is certainly cause for celebration. Their previous joint efforts, Skim and This One Summer, have become important and beloved classics in the last few decades of Canadian comics. Though the cousin duo have individually produced some very respectable works (which have won them the Best Writer Eisner, among others) few have aptly matched the unique poignancy and skill found when their strengths unite in a single work.
Their latest project Roaming represents the symbolic final entry in a trilogy of stories collectively exploring the themes of girlhood and coming of age. For working in such a
saturated genre, the duo still succeed at breathing true authenticity into their stories. Roaming ’s protagonists feel like real people: they’re cringy and gossipy, well-meaning yet selfish and impulsive. They come alive effortlessly the very moment you meet them on the page.
memories and the fragility of their imperfect present. Throughout their five-day trip, tensions crash and convalesce again and again, as our protagonists roam together (or apart) on this voyage they’ve stumbled into.
Roaming ’s vision of New York is smoky and sensorial;
As in This One Summer , the crux of this story concerns the potential rupture of Zee and Dee’s lifelong friendship. Budding feelings between Dee and the new classmate Fiona build towards a profound breaking point. In a breathtaking sequence during the book’s climax, Zoe and Dani are literally transported back in time — mid-conversation — while they gently ruminate over their high school days. For a brief moment, they’re able to relive their old comfortable dynamics through a shared vision of a simpler, brighter past — realizing at once the gravitas of their collective
readers, just as the characters themselves, are bombarded by a plethora of visual contrasts, by amusing passerby conversations, by greasy pizza and puzzling artwork — by the unique messiness of a bustling city life. Shown through a pleasing color palette of cool peaches and lilacs, the book’s aesthetics are rendered simply but with striking precision and beauty.
For many queer AsianAmericans growing up in the 2000s, the Tamaki cousins’ body of work filled a critical hole in mainstream media. Their stories, almost too real and too brazen at times, were often the
only representations we found of ourselves in mainstream comics. Roaming showcases what the Tamakis are best at; quietly heartbreaking stories of Asian-American queerness told with genuineness and care.
Drop whatever dreadful literary fiction nonsense you’re forcing yourself through right now, and visit your local independent bookstore to pick up a copy of Roaming
The Tamaki cousins are back and better than ever.
Courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly Courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly
culture 9 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
For many queer AsianAmericans growing up in the 2000s, the Tamaki cousins’ body of work filled a critical hole in mainstream media.
Roaming showcases what the Tamakis are best at: quietly heartbreaking stories of Asian-American queerness told with genuineness and care.
American Sound, American Pain How Mitski’s new album reframes folk music tropes
Isabella Roberti Culture Staff Writer
If all of your saddest, coolest, and most introspective music-loving friends have been aloof or reclusive lately, it’s most likely because they are processing and recovering from Mitski’s latest album. The artist is back and as forlorn as ever with her seventh studio release, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We . This album introduces a new sound for Mitski – one that could not be more different from the 80s synthpop rhythms of her previous two LPs.
The record, which Mitski has deemed her most American yet, certainly lives up to this descriptor – but in a way that is both layered and critical. The artist uses instrumentation and lyrical imagery distinctly associated with Americana culture to insert herself, a Japanese-American woman, into an aesthetic tradition that has jettisoned her. It is a tradition that fills her and those like her with isolation and uncertainty, something she communicates with outstanding musicianship.
to accommodate her new musical styles and ever changing mindset.
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We introduces listeners to a musical world untouched by Mitski as of yet – one of folk rock and country tunes, some of which are almost Dolly Parton or Johnny Cash-esque. She swaps electropop reverbs for a more classic sound, with instruments like plucky acoustic guitars, banjos, and snares, while keeping elements from her past works such as her signature rapturous builds. The bluegrass feel of the tracks could not be more distinctly Americana, with the sound of soft, slide guitar transporting listeners to the plains of the past. The naturalist vibes even transcend instruments, with dog barks and cricket chirps audible at the end of “I’m Your Man”. She also includes religious sound motifs, with organs and choirs in the singles “Star” and “Bug Like an Angel” respectively.
Lyrically, The Land carries on its nostalgic and folky energy, as Mitski’s poetry recalls American literary traditions through pastoral allusions. She describes the natural American landscape in tandem with its industrial
Benjamin Brézard| Illustrations Contributor
She positions herself as a guiding presence for other female AsianAmerican artists who are inserting themselves into a racially rigid alternative music scene.
Part of what makes this album so exciting is that it is a new musical era for Mitski. For nonfans, Mitski’s discography can be meticulously broken up into pairs, with each album building on the tonal themes of the last. Her first two records were mainly intimate and haunting piano ballads. She then turned to a grungier style, primed with staticky, fuzzy guitars and intense, purposefully screamy vocals. Her most recent pair of albums were two danceable, poppy synth projects reminiscent of the 80s. All of her albums contain similar themes of lost or unrequited love, reconciling identity, and so on, but they are always developing
side, particularly on the track “Buffalo Replaced.” She sings: “Freight train stampedin’ through my backyard / It’ll run across the plains / Like the new buffalo replaced.” These descriptors of the unruly American West contrasted with its current state perfectly complement her musical combination of classic sounds with contemporary adjustments. She also subtly plays off of religious music, discussing heaven, God, and the devil – all common themes in traditional Americana media.
“I try to remember the wrath of the devil / was also given him by God,” she sings in “Bug Like an Angel” as a way of communicating her personal relationship to the spirituality and morality associated with the American ethic.
Literally harmonizing American sounds, spirituality,
and nature, Mitski inserts herself into a musical and aesthetic history that first-generation and non-white Americans have historically been excluded from. Through instrumentation and word painting, she takes a very recognizable and very American style and flips it on its head. She maintains twangy melodies and lyrics that describe the beauty of the American landscape while pointing out the socio-political dynamics of American folk media that get ignored in its depictions. Americana-style media instead tends to opt for imagery of daring outlaws, disparaged and barbaric Indigenous communities, and American myths of defiance and heroism. The album title itself pokes fun at these tropes and stems from a joke Mitski made about spoofing state slogans to make them as literal and accurate as possible. Mitski is therefore subverting the carefully constructed idea of “Americanness” with a dash of facetiousness.
Mitski also uses this cultural pride against itself. The beauty and divinity of lyrics supposedly representing a land of peace and acceptance are instead used to articulate feelings of isolation. She wrote a good portion of the album during the pandemic, a time in which the United States was a deeply inhospitable place
for Asian-Americans. This writing process allowed her to resurrect feelings of loneliness and not belonging explored in her earlier records. Instead of describing an undying faith, Mitski’s inclusion of religious lyricism becomes deeply personal and isolating. Take “The Deal,” for instance, where she speaks of making a deal with the devil in order to exchange her soul for numbness and peace instead of a lifetime of confusion and pain. In
of Asian women in alternative music and its subgenres, Mitski is far from alone in this quest. There have been several female AsianAmerican musicians infiltrating the mainstream in recent years, all without conforming to its expectations of passivity and apoliticism. Take for instance Japanese Breakfast, the indie project fronted by KoreanAmerican artist Michelle Zauner, who is unafraid of venturing into perverse themes over atmospheric beats. Zauner also published her memoir Crying in H Mart last year, which delved into her relationship with her Asian heritage and received great appraisal. There is also the extraordinary British songstress Rina Sawayama, who, like Mitski, is unafraid of exploring different genres. Take her debut record SAWAYAMA, which includes both nu-metal and 2000s girl-pop tracks.
situating herself among grandiose nationalistic themes, she is able to explore the deeply personal through lines present in all her albums in a new way.
While she is certainly a pioneer in uplifting the powerful presence
Each of these women is committed to challenging norms and boundaries in alternative music, all while being acutely aware of the Western, predominantly white social landscape they find themselves in. And, with The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We , Mitski takes a huge leap in this mission, turning American music upside down to continue to make way for other artists like herself.
Culture 10 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Literally harmonizing American sounds, spirituality, and nature, Mitski inserts herself into a musical and aesthetic history that first-generation and nonwhite Americans have historically been excluded from.
Mitski is therefore subverting the carefully constructed idea of “Americanness” with a dash of facetiousness.
Aries (Mar 21Apr 19)
now that add-drop is behind us, your “Dog Days are Over”...or have they just begun?
Cancer (Jun 21Jul 22)
This week, you will be as “Toxic” as the asbestos in McGill buildings.
Taurus (Apr 20May 20)
“The Winner Takes It All”, including the Ofour sandwich you’ve been eyeing at the EUS cafe.
Leo (Jul 23Aug 22)
if you don’t “RUSH” to your 8:30 class, you probably won’t make it on time.
Gemini (May 21Jun 20)
don’t worry, that group project you’ve been struggling with will “come together” eventually.
Virgo (Aug 23Sept 22)
Keeping a “Poker Face” when your professor asks who used ChatGPT on the assignment won’t be easy.
Libra (Sept 23Oct 22)
Eating the hot dog cart’s Polish sausage is a “Bad Idea, right?”
Scorpio (Oct 23Nov 21)
Redpath cafeteria prices should make you want to “Paint the Town Red”.
Sagittarius (Nov 22Dec 21)
As fall begins to colour the trees red, forget your “Summertime Sadness”!
Capricorn (Dec 22Jan 19)
is it apple cider or “Cherry Wine” season?
Aquarius (Jan 20Feb 18)
“Who Says” you can’t curl up in bed and binge-watch your favourite shows as soon as the temperature drops below 20 degrees?
Pisces (Feb 19Mar 20)
“I Gotta Feeling” that somebody’s gotta crush on you.
compendium! 11 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
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12 September 25, 2023 mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily