Cree Social Media

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Perusing the comments and statements on Facebook and other social media sites is always interesting, informative and often disturbing. Disturbing in the way that some posts are vague and while without any real substance can create stereotypes. These stereotypes then tar several people and not all of them may deserve the label.

One such example is the idea that politicians who attended residential schools were traumatized by the experience. These victims then become bullies and in turn use their power to abuse the other members of the community. No specifics are given and no valid arguments or proof to make such a connection are included. First, to make a valid argument you must be able to tie in an action to what would cause that action to happen. Speculation is not necessarily a reflection of reality, but these comments are opinion without basis.

Not all Cree politicians are bullies or abusers and it is unfair to label them all as such. How can they respond because they have only been stereotyped? To respond angrily at the unfairness of it would only reinforce the label imposed upon them. It must be understood that every culture, race, society, organization or business often have bullies or abusers in positions of power. And yes, there are some in the Cree Nation. They are not limited to politicians who went to residential schools but as elsewhere in the world come from all walks of life.

To create such a negative stereotype diminishes what has been accomplished. It denies the validity of healing by those who attended the residential school system. It ignores the resilience shown by the Cree Nation as a whole, who have had to deal with the effects of colonialism and systematic racism. The Cree culture, values and traditions that have survived to this day have done so despite the attempts to destroy them. The fact that the Cree have not been assimilated shows the strength and hard work carried out by all Cree including the survivors.

In addition, while this use of social media is being used to attack the older generation of politicians, what about the younger leaders? After all, much has been made of the intergenerational impacts that affect the children of residential school survivors. Thus, it will be easy in the future to continue tarring any First Nations leader with the residential school survivor bully or abuser stereotype.

Despite an extensive search, the Nation couldn’t find any studies that examined Indigenous politicians who attended residential schools and the effects of that experience upon their leadership styles or action.

However, in 2017, a study titled Residential schools and the effects on Indigenous health and well-being in Canada: a scoping review examined 61 articles on residential schools and its effects on Indigenous people. One of the statements reads, “while the studies reveal negative effects in relation to the residential school system, this cannot be said for everyone who attended.”

That statement contradicts the sweeping assertion that Indigenous politicians who attended residential school are bullies or abusers as a result of their experiences.

In any case there is no way to know, as the vagueness of such posts make it impossible to examine and analyze the truth of the matter. It is easy to post anything you want and indeed freedom of expression is an important cornerstone of a healthy society. Cree on social media who make these types of posts need to do more than just reflect the actions used by political trolls of Canadian and US society. Many of you talk about Cree traditions and culture. Ask your Elders about what you are doing and get their advice. Maybe we’ll see a way of integrating the new with the old in a uniquely Cree way.

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