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Chelsea Vowel

Métis from Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. BEd, LLB.

Chelsea Vowel is Métis from the Plains Cree speaking community of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. She currently lives in Montreal, Quebec. Her passions are: education, Aboriginal law, the Cree language, and roller derby. She holds a BEd, an LLB and is working on a BCL.
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Read the Truth and Reconciliation Report Before You Form an Opinion

After six years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada held closing events from May 31 to June 3rd, and issued its executive summary of a report which will run to six volumes, and will be translated into six indigenous languages. The summary itself is 388 pages, and while not exactly light reading, it is incredibly accessible and well-written. Unfortunately, despite incredible media attention and a plethora of opinion articles on the issue, it has become abundantly clear that many people talking about the TRC summary have not read it.
06/09/2015 05:52 EDT

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Need Both Action and Inquiry

Indigenous peoples are calling for a national investigation that is centered on the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and they are also calling for immediate action. This nation is rich in monies directly derived from Indigenous lands and resources. Please don't try to tell us Canada just can't afford to do both. I would ask that people discussing these issues in the media not accept this dichotomy and not allow themselves to be divided into two camps: either in support of an inquiry or in support of 'action'. We can and should be engaging in both.
08/28/2014 12:43 EDT

I Won't Oppose an Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

A national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women would not be a truth and reconciliation commission, in the main because the violence being brought to light needs to have ended before the truth can be spoken about it. That is most certainly not the case here. We are still losing our relatives. The violence is ongoing. Although I do not believe a national inquiry will stop this violence, I do respect the wishes of many of the family members who need this discussion to happen, for these stories to be told in order to help them heal.
08/21/2014 05:43 EDT

My Bold Idea to Reform Aboriginal Education

I have spoken out against top-down attempts to implement educational reform, but now I want to talk about alternatives. The First Nations Education Act is going to be passed. It will be full of words, and funding will be slow to follow, if it ever truly does. It will not meet our needs, because it has not been designed by us. I believe we need to pool our considerable resources and expertise in order to set up and implement a system of temporary "schools" akin to the Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights movement. We could do this by creating for this one year, a system of "sovereignty summer schools."
10/16/2013 12:30 EDT

Colonialism in the First Nations Education Act

There is no Aboriginal system of education in Canada. This fact is sometimes obscured by misunderstandings of reserve or band schools, or even charter schools that may provide 'indigenous content'. Nonetheless, the system of education that exists in Canada is wholly Canadian; the outcome of failed top-down initiatives to 'do what's best for the Indians'.
10/09/2013 12:43 EDT

First Nations Won't 'Get Over' Your Ignorance

In January, the Morris Mirror ran an editorial by the community paper's editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte, that likened First Nations to terrorists and decried our "corruption and laziness." Not to be outdone, 80-something Nanaimo resident Don Olsen submitted a letter to the editor in March, detailing our supposed total lack of achievements and inability to survive in a modern world.
09/04/2013 01:00 EDT

I'm in a Life-Threatening Abusive Relationship...With My Government

Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat did not launch a hunger strike over a single piece of legislation. In short, this is what we have always been talking about. Whether the particular focus has been on housing, or education or the environment, or whatever else. What lies at the heart of all these issues is our relationship with Canada. And Canada? This relationship is abusive. We have been backed into a corner and we are literally fighting for our lives. We are literally dying, in so many preventable and unacceptable ways. I'm not being poetic or hyperbolic here and I don't just mean culturally. We are dying. I need you -- WE need you, to see the forest and not just the trees.
12/12/2012 08:38 EST

Can You Wear Native Fashion Without Being Offensive?

A lot of attention has been drawn to the native fashion trend in the past year or so. From violations of the Navajo trademark, to No Doubt and Victoria's Secret experiencing a long-overdue backlash, a lot of people are asking is, "If we love native fashion, where can we get it without engaging in cultural appropriation?"
11/25/2012 11:27 EST

The Dirty Secret of Dirty Water in First Nations

Health Canada reports that as of September 30, 2012, there were 116 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory. Neskantaga First Nation has been on a boil water advisory since 1995. If you are asking yourself how this is even possible in a country like Canada, the Auditor General highlighted the main problem areas in 2005.
11/09/2012 11:53 EST
Edith Woodley

Meet the First Native to Get a Comedy Special on CBC

Native comedy is good stuff, and there is nothing like laughter to help you ease into sometimes difficult discussions about race, colonisation, marginalisation and indigenous culture. Recently I got a chance to interview Ojibway comedian, Ryan McMahon, and ask him a few questions about his upcoming UnReserved Tour.
09/06/2012 12:18 EDT

Can You Tell this First Nations Act From The '60s Version?

Recently, the government has proposed the First Nations Property Ownership Act (FNPOA). I think that people need to take another look at the 1969 White Paper and ask themselves if anything really has changed. In fact, the introduction is the same in both papers (save for some PC language changes). So pardon me if I'm skeptical in the extreme of a plan that was virulently opposed by First Nations when it was first proposed in 1969, and let's call it what it really is: White Paper Lite.
08/23/2012 05:07 EDT

Why "Free Houses for Indians" Is a Myth

One of the most prevalent and enduring myths out there is that aboriginal peoples receive "free houses." I think it's useful to acknowledge that there are different understandings of whether native housing is a right. Part of learning about issues like housing, or education, or treaties is in understanding that aboriginal peoples do not necessarily agree with the Canadian state about how things were, are, or should be.
08/07/2012 05:41 EDT

The Truth Is, Attawapiskat Was Never Financially Mismanaged

On August 1, the Federal Court released its judicial review of the appointment of a Third Party Manager in Attawapiskat. Over and over again, the Federal Court states that financial mismanagement was not the issue, and never had been. The fact that the public dialogue about Attawapiskat was almost wholly concerned with allegations of such mismanagement, demonstrates just how intensely events can become hijacked by misunderstandings.
08/02/2012 05:31 EDT

"Bad Parenting" Is No Excuse For Cultural Genocide

On April 18th, the Federal Court sent a case back to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal regarding the underfunding of child welfare services on reserves. To ignore the repeated attempts to annihilate aboriginal cultures and instead place the blame solely on "dysfunctional native families" is to take an utterly ahistorical and abusive view.
04/25/2012 04:13 EDT

Canada, Stop Seeing Yourself as Always the Good Guy

There are many stories that Canadians do not regularly learn in school. Our history is littered with forgotten events, either deliberately overlooked, or rationalised away somehow. Our history is littered with abuses. If we want to live up to our reputation as a nation that respects human rights, we have to face the horrors of our past, head on.
04/21/2012 08:15 EDT

Tories Ride Off into Sunset after "Saving" Attawapiskat

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is busy patting itself on the back for solving all of Attawapiskat's problems. To hear them tell it, Jacques Marion, who was just let go as the First Nation's third-party manager, was a veritable hero, swooping into Attawapiskat in the nick of time, narrowly averting disaster.
04/10/2012 04:05 EDT

A 7-Year-Old Aboriginal Girl's Battle to Tell the Truth at School

Seven-year-old Ruby wanted to do a class presentation about Indian residential schools, but was informed by her teacher the topic was inappropriate. Ruby's parents sat with their daughter and talked about what happened. Ruby usually loved school, but she started saying that she didn't want to go back.
04/03/2012 05:12 EDT
Flickr: fleurs.

How Do You Say Hipster in "Navajo"?

A recent lawsuit was launched by the Navajo Nation against clothing giant Urban Outfitters for using its name to brand products. The Navajo Nation wants to ensure that consumers are not associating the term "Navajo" with "random south-west inspired hipster fashion."
03/06/2012 01:46 EST

Oxycontin Shortage Will Spell Catastrophe On Reserves

There is a prescription drug-use epidemic in First Nations communities, that for years the government has ignored. Now Health Canada has announced its phasing out Oxycontin funding to reserves, with no mention of resources to help deal with what is about to be a flood of people with addictions going through serious withdrawal.
02/22/2012 09:59 EST

Hey You in the Headdress, Know What it Means?

It is okay to find our stuff beautiful, because it is. It is okay to admire our culture. However I then think it is reasonable to ask that if you admire a culture, you should learn more about it. Especially when the details are so much more fascinating than say, outdated stereotypes.
02/10/2012 07:30 EST