Rhymes for Young
and Brandon Oakes.
We, newcomers and Indigenous people,
have had a long relationship together. It has
spanned fromour “just shacking up” stage
to making it a formal marriage through
treaties and later, confederation. The mar-
riage has not always been great. There have
been more than a few nights when we’ve
cried ourselves to sleep.
What I know for sure about thismarriage,
however, is that it is worth saving. I don’t
think we can consider divorce: we have to
stay in it for the kids. So in this year of cele-
bration, I hope all Canadians contemplate
how we can make this marriage stronger
and more fulfilling for both parties.
With that spirit in mind, I was thrilled
when ACTRA National asked me to take a
look at the newguard of Indigenous players
in this country. In doing that, it is import-
ant to look at where we have been, where we
are now and what we might look forward
to in the future.
Like most Indigenous people, I have a
misty memory of watching cowboy and
Indian movies as a child with a feeling of
confusion and wonder. Although I knew
those “Indians” were in some way meant
to represent me, there wasn’t much about
them that was familiar. Mi’kmaq people
never rode horses, nor have very many
Canadian Indigenous nations for that mat-
ter. We weren’t mean and aggressive people;
in fact, we laughed and joked a lot...mostly
Andmost confusing for my youngmind
was the way those movie Indians looked.
Neither their skin tone nor their facial fea-
tures seemed familiar. As I grew up, I came
to realize the confusion stemmed from the
fact that those actors were not actually
Indigenous, but instead actors of other races
badly depicting us.
I wish I could report those days are long
behind us, but to do so would be to ignore
Photo: Jan Thijs.