Essay On First Nations Book, Back On The Rez, By Brian Miracle Essay, Research Paper
After reading Brian Maracle?s book Back On The Rez, finding the way home, I discovered that First Nations? culture is more important than any thing else in their lives. Without their original culture they would just be normal everyday Canadians with really great tans. I have decided that the three parts of culture I am going to descriptively explore are Taxophobia, the language, and Government interference.
Taxophobia is a section in Maracle?s book that could not have another title; there is no other appropriate description for this. Taxophobia is defined as ? The fear of impending taxation? ( Maracle, 1996; Page 30). This seems to be an issue that upsets and worries First Nations. Maracle says he is not overly concerned about the problem slowly sweeping their reserves- yet. He says ? There are plenty of other things we should be worried about?? (Maracle, 1996; 33-34). He does not think that the Government will tax the reserve lands anytime soon. It seems that his entire community does not agree with him though. People are ? running around like Chicken Little, issuing dire warnings about the coming of the taxman? ( Maracle, 1996; 31).
The people have been alarmed by how the Government is slowly pushing First Nations GST, PST and more so everyday they are being forced to pay income tax. The people have a right to be afraid of the so-called taxman because the Government is slowly swallowing up their rights. Maracle states that there are people who complain about that First Nations get special benefits and so on. The point is that they get these rights or special benefits for a reason, They had their land, culture and on a whole their identity stolen from them by the white man.
In the section ? Taxophobia? in this book the issue of a ?reeve? is brought up. The discussion in the book is of a woman complaining ? Indians (are) gobbling up her township? (Maracle, 1996; 31). This woman also happens to be a status Indian. There always seems to be someone out there who ruins things for others. This woman uses her status card to get tax free gasoline and then complains that First Nations should have to pay tax because they are Canadians just like she is, I do not see the problem They are doing the same as she is except they are not complaining. The fact is they are not the hypocrites in their action, they are using a treaty Right.
I feel that the taxation scare is a reality- the term Indian giver should be vice versa now days, it seems that white men are the ones who give and then take back what they gave. This woman confuses me, is she not reaping the benefits herself? Why would she want to give the Government more money than she has to?
Another interesting point involving taxation of the First nations is the Tow Row Wampum. This treaty symbolizes two vessels (Nations) going down a river (Life)- First Nations in a canoe and white men in a boat. These vessels were not suppose to interfere with each other while traveling down the river. The First Nations abide by this treaty but the white men do not. The Government is the white men and they are interfering so much that the First nations people are afraid of what the will do. I do not believe this should be happening at all, a treaty is an agreement. Agreements are made in intentions for them not to be broken, as laws are as well.
The next issue I am interested in and seems to be a vital link to the First nations is their language. This section of the book fascinated me and made me realize French is not so hard after all. Kanyen?kehaka is the language focused on and therefore will be the one I focus on as well. Kanyen?kehaka is a poly synthetic language which means different from almost all other languages on Earth. In this language there are not words, there are syllables or superwords (pieces of words put together to for one huge word). This is a very specific language and if you pronounce one part of the superword wrong then you form another with an entire different meaning.
In English we have 8 active pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and them. Kanyen?kehaka has an amazing fifteen pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, you and I, he/she, you (two), they (male), they (female), all of you and I, they and I, all of you, they (two females), they (males). On top of that mouthful it gets a lot more complicated by also having ten different sets of pronouns. Wait still ? there is another set of prefixes dealing with verbs in which one person performs an action in relation tom someone else? (Maracle, 1996: 257).
If that does not confuse you enough, I?ll let you in on a secret. There are 90 more prefixes dealing with past, present, and future, as the others only deal with present tense.
By now you can picture the alphabet having 500 letters in it but in reality there are only 8 consonants (h, k, w, s, t, n and y) and 6 vowels (a, e, I, o, en, and on). This is hard to believe when you see the length of some of the words in their language. The longest word is 60 letters long, It is yenonhsa?tariha?tahwatsherahon?tsihstakwa?tsherahstarathe?- tahkwa. This one huge word means ? what is used to shine the black thing that heats the house? (Maracle, 1996: 258). In English it means ?Stove Polish?, that?s it just stove polish. Not supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, just stove polish.
When they (the Kanyen?kehaka) do not have a use for something they do not name it. They are based on a Matrilineal society so their language is female based. This is just another way of saying ?when the gender of the person being spoken about is unknown ? the female verb prefix is always used? (Maracle, 1996: 261).
Maracle says the English language focuses on the subject being discussed before anything else, whereas the Kanyen?kehaka language focuses on setting (usually Nature) first. Maracle believes this is why the Western society has so many self-centered people. ? Western society is precisely that way because the individual- politically and grammatically- always comes first? (Maracle, 1996: 263).
He also states the English language and other languages when spoken are irritating and aggravating. This part angered me and then I realized that it could be true. Of course I do not find it so but he may. English is a language which some words must be spoken loudly to get the point across. Some words when spoken in a different pitch, tone or volume have different meanings. Maracle says that the elders of this (Kanyen?kehaka) and other First Nations languages speak softly and seem mono-toned, this is because they use logic and reason where as English and other languages when spoken use force and emotion.
I believe this to be a tiny bit bias or even insulting to those of us who are non-native, but I do see his point. I have a hard time seeing that I am forceful and full of emotion yet lack logic and reason?. Hmmm? I wonder why?
The last and final issue I am going to attempt to understand is Government interference . I had previously mentioned that the Government is interfering with the First Nations canoe going down the river. This means the Government is not keeping up its end of the agreement (Two-Row Wampum treaty). If you look back, ahead or even at the present you will see words such as Indian, Native, First Nations and right beside them are the words ?Sovereign Nation?. This infers that there should be no interference by other Nations.
When taxation is discussed the Government is interfering. The First Nations were promised they would not have to pay tax and look what is happening. ? The Supreme Court Of Canada, incidentally, has ordered the Government to interpret the treaties in the way they should have been understood by the Indians who signed them? (Maracle, 1996: 33). When a person does not understand what they are signing because they do not speak the same language how can the Government decide how they should have understood the treaty as? The First Nations are being held responsible for the Government abolishing their culture. They were promised they would not have to pay tax and are now being made to do so.
The Government?s boat is slowly drifting closer and closer to the First Nations? canoe and is slowly but obviously trying to get aboard and take over, (Two Row Wampum Treaty). There is much controversy because the Government is interfering in First Nations lives but major controversy arises when the Government gets into their business involving things that abolish their culture, this is not fair to them.
I had intended to explore Taxophobia, language and the Government interference as I saw that they were all connected because they are all major parts of the First Nations culture and way of life. I did do this by explaining my own understanding of the book, Back On The Rez, finding the way home by Brian Maracle. I learned a lot from Mr. Maracle?s book, and it is one of the only books that I ever had to read for school that I ended up enjoying. The wording in this book has a way of making light of problematic issues as well as giving a little comedy on the side. I found his writing style to be such that he uses words and examples that everyday normal people can understand. This book is definitely worth reading again.
Maracle, Brain. Back On The Rez, finding the way home. Toronto, Penguin