Hello, I am Paul Bellini, and I would like to acknowledge that I live in a high rise apartment building situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinabek Nation, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat, and Metis Nations. I recognize the enduring presence of Indigenous people on and of this land and am grateful to have the opportunity to live my gay old life on this territory.
For those of you who see shows at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (who right now are busy 'smashing the windows, smashing the patriarchy' while they renovate), the above acknowledgement is all too familiar. It's become the new 'thing' in small theatres throughout the city, like playing the national anthem before sporting events. And like the playing of the national anthem, it's become the necessary torture before the show starts. When I hear this announcement, I always think Okay, but what now? Is it enough to just acknowledge the fact and do nothing else about it? Do we give native people back their land and if so, shouldn't we get to keep the buildings at least? Maybe we should cut them in on the taxes. And what about real estate? Should anyone be allowed to sell land that they didn't actually own in the first place? If small theatres care enough to announce this declaration before every performance, shouldn't they also donate part of the box office to the Anishinabek Nation, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat, and Metis Nations?
Thanks to the Canada 150 celebrations, 2017 has certainly been a year of awareness. We got 'woke,' as some kid on social media dubbed it. And we can see the changes everywhere. Growing up in Timmins in the '60s, every house on my street was occupied by Italians who had come to work in the mines. But they've since died off, their kids have moved to the cities, and their houses have gone up for sale. At the same time, nearby reservations had become such toxic dumps that the mostly Metis, Ojibway and Cree populations moved in to the city of Timmins, buying up and now occupying the very same houses the old Italians once lived in. Poetic justice, or just Elton's circle of life?
I'm not always sure what to feel, although stories of residential schools, missing Indigenous women, and smallpox blankets do not necessarily make us proud of our ancestors. If there was any one thing this year that really caught my attention it was that First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde marched in this year's Pride parade. That was really very nice of him. We owe him something more than just a preachy paragraph before curtain time.