The consequences of going viral

Now that comments are trickling in at only 3 or 4 an hour instead of 20 or 30, I feel like I can breathe again.  What a weird couple of days!

Let me see.  What have I learned so far about having a post go viral? 

Nothing prepares you for it.

There was no way I thought more than a few dozen people were going to read that post.  When it started getting tweeted back and forth and facebooked all over the place, and suddenly politicians and writers and chiefs and people I’ve never met in my life were talking about it, I had no idea what the heck to do about it.  For two solid days straight I was online trying to keep up with comments.

The most views I’d gotten in a single day before all this was 132.  The day after I posted the Attawapiskat piece, there were over 38,000 views!

I didn’t write that piece for a large audience, I wrote it for myself and for my friends.  I realise that this is part of the appeal, but it’s like preparing a few talking points for a class discussion and discovering you’re presenting to a stadium.  Yikes!

More importantly, not being prepared meant I did not have time to really consider whether I wanted my real name out there or not.  I gave an interview with cbc, and boom.  There I was.  I’m not sure I’d make the same choice again.

Some people want you to explain absolutely everything in a single post.

A lot of comments critiquing this post have to do with information I didn’t give, and things I didn’t explain. As it is, that post is loooooong!  Can you imagine if I tried to tackle more in a single piece?  You’d be crying tears of boredom trying to get through it.  All I did was dig a little deeper into the number being discussed so heavily in the media.  I was disturbed by the surface detail being presented in articles and talked about in the comments.

This is just how I write.  I’m not a professional journalist.  I’m not a political activist or a politician.  I’m not a host of weird things people have been saying they believe I am. I’m just a snoopy person who doesn’t take people’s word for it, particularly anonymous people on the internet.  I like sources.  I like facts I can check.  I find that when you present these things to people, then you aren’t just pointlessly trading opinions.

This blog isn’t commercial in any way and I haven’t made a cent from this.  My most ambitious goal for this post and subsequent topical posts was to be able to use them in online debates.  Responses to  accusations I see made over and over again and have gotten tired of responding to from scratch with such an expense of personal energy.  If other people could use them as well, then that was a bonus.  It certainly wasn’t prepared for national consumption in mind!

You can’t control where your piece ends up.

This blog has been reposted so many different places I gave up trying to track it anymore.  Most people have been great about asking first. Not all have, however.

The mix-up with the National Post, where they attributed my work to someone else by accident, is not really a big deal to me. (By the way, I really want to clarify something here.  The fellow who had his name attached to the article was  not trying to pass himself off as the author.  He came across the post the same way most of you did, and sent it to the National Post who didn’t fact check rigorously enough and published it with his name.  I appreciate that people were upset, but this guy shouldn’t be blamed for what happened.)

What freaks me out a little more is the simple fact that it was posted on the National Post at all.  I wouldn’t have chosen that publication to have my piece in.  I wrote about Attawapiskat on my blog specifically to get away from awful, hateful, racist comments.  I can control the comments on my blog, and when people just start smearing me, or others, I can edit their posts.

(Contrary to some claims, I haven’t had to do this much.  Maybe 10 posts out of over 700 comments, plenty of which are comments that don’t agree with me and have remained up, unchanged.  However, I think that people were more willing to engage here for whatever reason, and perhaps the kind of environment on places like the National Post just encourages inflammatory remarks rather than dialogue.)

Anyway, let me just say that it’s bad enough having people say really ugly things about you in general.  Having them say ugly things about you when they know your name and roughly where you live?  That’s just plain creepy.  I have never had any desire to be in the spotlight.  I avoid those comment sections not just because people say ignorant and hateful things…but because now I’ve got people saying ignorant and hateful things about me, personally.

I know I shouldn’t focus on that, because most people aren’t hating on me.  My name is out there now, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  My blog post is out there being picked to pieces, and that’s out of my hands too. On the positive side, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who were really happy to read this, and honestly there’s been way more on that positive side than on the negative.

I am trying not to let it get to me that people have all sorts of assumptions about why I wrote this, or what I’m trying to say.  I can’t correct all the weird misconceptions.  Man do people like to accuse, though!  It’s pretty hardcore.  This is me, growing a much thicker skin in the span of a few days!

Most of all though?  I wasn’t wrong.  People really are awesome.

You’ve got to ask yourself sometimes, as a native person, hell just as a person in general, if things are ever going to change.  I’ve been fighting a long time against stereotypes and misconceptions (maybe that’s why some people are claiming I’m some sort of activist).  It can get you down pretty badly sometimes, because you constantly face that crap when you start speaking out about it.  When you’re that voice in the back of the room saying, “wait a minute…” you end up having to deal with a lot of demands like, “well justify this to me then” or hearing about how you just don’t understand reality and so on… because speaking out makes you a target.

A lot of people I know are really good at just not getting into it with people, and just living their lives in that good way.  I really admire that.  They hear all the same crap, but they just let it pass over them.  I’ve never been able to do that.  Wish I could sometimes.

What I’m trying to say is, sometimes you feel like not trying anymore.  Like it’s not worth it to keep explaining things over and over again.  You want to turn inward, and you start not trusting people.

This whole thing has affirmed something really important for me.  I no longer have any doubt about the sincerity of the majority of people to engage in dialogue and learning.  I don’t have all the answers, I never have and I never will, and all I’ve ever wanted is to get past the anger to just have good conversations with people.  I feel like that was possible here.  I feel like it’s possible into the future.

I know I’m not the only one feeling it.  People talk about inspiration, well, I’ve been inspired.  Yes, there are some angry, closed-minded people out there.  Most of the rest of us are just living our lives, and we don’t seem to have time for all of that crap.  So I want to thank the people who have read the Attawapiskat post, who have shared it, who have talked with people about it…even those many of you who don’t necessarily agree with me or who still have questions (which you should).  Thank you for moving us a little beyond the embarassment of grown men in important positions calling each other names and using the misery of others to score political points.

Still, I’ll be happy when it’s over.

The nice thing about the bizarre internet phenomenon of viral anything?  It comes quickly, and leaves quickly.  I’ll be happy when this blog can once again just be about quirky aspects of Cree grammar, or the odd rant here and there about whatever is going on.

Thanks for letting me vent, I’ve got to go start scrubbing all the boot-marks off the blog floor now.  It’s been quite the stampede, but all the fry-bread is eaten up and I’ll bet people will be trickling back to their regular haunts soon!


I received a phonecall from Kelly McParland at the National Post, and he apologised for the mix-up.  He said that he thought it was a really good piece, and didn’t check up on who the author was well enough.  Once he realised the mistake, he felt it was important to keep the piece up with clarification as to what happened, rather than take it down and cause further confusion.  He noted that the policy of the National Post is to first ask permission of the author before republishing, and once more he apologised that this did not happen in this case.  I don’t have contact information on this blog, so he had to do a bit of digging to find my number and talk to me about it.

It was pretty nice to hear from him, honestly and I feel a lot better about the whole thing.  I think it was an honest mistake.  As I’ve mentioned in some of the comments, enough people have talked to me about the pros of having the piece in the National Post that a lot of my initial unease about being ‘outed’ has faded.  Yes, I would have liked the chance to think over whether I wanted to appear in the National Post, but things happen, and I think it has turned out well.

Whew, now we can get back to the real issues! 😀

About âpihtawikosisân

Métis from Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. Currently living in Montreal, Quebec. Passions: education, Aboriginal law, the Cree language, and roller derby. Education: BEd, LLB, working on a BCL
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to The consequences of going viral

  1. Kiki says:

    Good on you. It does bother me a great deal that whoever that “journalist” was–since that was not journalism–that just reposted your work in the National Post, got paid for it and you didn’t. He should be publicly shamed.

    I’m grateful for your blog. Thanks!

  2. I think you are amazing. I am glad this has reaffirmed your faith in people rather than the opposite.

    The whole topic of substandard housing on reserves in general has now been blown open. The two reserves near me have absolute third world housing and grinding poverty in one area with Chief and council living very well elsewhere. The whole system needs looking at. But it must come from within. Here is a website I built for a local First Nations activist group. Alas only one of them got elected in the recent elections and he appears to have “crossed the floor.”

  3. native32 says:

    we have read over this in school, I know your comments and awareness have been an inspiration to us all…we thank you for being a women that has brought this to the eyes and ears of a nation that needs to know what is going on, the truth is needed.
    thank you.
    Glenda L. Hill sr

  4. David York says:

    Here’s the thing… people are hungry for real, honest, heartfelt reactions to circumstances. We KNOW when people are trying to manipulate us,or use a disfficult situation for their own selfish aims… so when we read something like your piece (and subsequent ones too) we recognize the words of someone who is simply trying to make us think harder, better and in a more informed way about an important issue. I’m sorry that it comes at a price. I am grateful that you are prepared to pay it to help us understand. Thank you.

  5. Bruce says:

    Ay ay apihtawikosisan iskwew. Tapwe etikwe ayiman omisisi kamasinahike. Maka kitinisin ekwa kweyas ewitamowiyah kamasinaman. asay mina kinanaskomitin. moychi nismis kanikamot pimote kaya pome. ahaw.

  6. Murray says:

    Your piece was awesome. Finally, somebody who was able to extrapolate the truth and present it using fact, not ignorant rants or second hand small minded dialogue. The reason the usual suspects are trying to smear you and your contribution to the discussion is because you exposed the truth in a way that they couldn’t refute it so they revert back to ignorant baseless comments. As for all of the attention by politicians, the public, publications, and pundits….well you taught them all about the value of spending some time to research the subject and put forth refreshing counter points to the usual back and forths that are unfortunately the status quo. For me, I joined your blog page because I was genuinely proud of you and want to thank you for the work and time that you have contributed in putting forth an eye opening piece that the usual suspects just cannot refute! Finally, somebody arrives on the scene who gives it back in a way that we as a collective have so far been unable to do. I’m sure I speak for all of us, who feel frustrated and who feel like we don’t have the capacity to refute the professional pundits who slag our peoples and the issues that involve us based on short sighted arguments…..Thank you, and I for one will follow your blogs with great interest and pride!

    • Marc André says:

      I also feel frustrated about the professional pudits. I console myself with the fact that there are thousands of amateur pundits out there that are much easier to get to, and much easier to refute. Think of “that guy in the lunch room” that just waits for his cue to start his eulogy. He needs to be refuted just as much as that pro on TV. They are everywhere… but so are we 🙂

  7. Justice Murray Sinclair says:

    Your article was articulate, reasoned, helpful and strong. I was very impressed. Keep up the good work. We need thoughtful, positive contributions such as yours.

  8. Jay Lambert says:

    I really appreciate this reflective piece. On your being called an ‘activist’ I don’t consider that a bad thing. We all should be standing up for what is right, too few are happy to sit idly by, for all sorts of reasons, but I suspect mostly selfish ones (i.e. what does this have to do with me)

    These same people are usually cry the loudest about injustice when the issues inevitably creep into their own lives.

    I applaud your search for the truth!

    • ‘Activist’ like other potentially pejorative terms (‘feminist’ for example), mean radically different things to different people. In the way I saw it used to refer to me, it meant that my opinions were invalid because I have ‘an agenda’.

      Hell yes I have an agenda! I want people to stop automatically believing the worst about aboriginal peoples all the time, and I want people to learn about the issues so they no longer repeat myths and represent them as facts. I am brimming with agenda!

      Does that mean what I’m saying isn’t true? It’s certainly not the entire truth, because the entire truth is complex and vast, and very much influenced by people’s underlying philosophical and cultural views which can vary widely. You’ve got facts, and then you’ve got ‘here’s how we’re going to deal with those facts’, ending up in approaches that can run the ideological gamut.

      I don’t think anyone can accuse me of not being open about my biases here. Yet pretending that anyone is approaching this issue without some sort of bias is laughable. If my ‘agenda’ and my ‘biases’ invalidate everything I say, then my goodness, we’ve got a lot of politicians who are no longer qualified to be talking about any subject!

      This is my first coffee, you get me in full chatter mode I guess 😀

      I just wanted to add that my search isn’t really for ‘the truth’. ‘The truth’ is a weird concept. It’s like there is only one answer for everything, when that so clearly isn’t the case.

      No, my search is for dialogue, and I’ve got a really, really radical suggestion.

      We’ve already got ‘expert reports’ on a variety of issues impacting aboriginal peoples, written up by people the Canadian state trusts and respects and feels are qualified to speak on such things. Why don’t we take those expert reports and go that one important step further….and ask the peoples themselves what they want?

      Oh, that’s not even the radical part. The really scary thing I’m suggesting is…that we listen to them. Really listen.

      Maybe that would stop all the needless guesswork going on as to what our communities ‘expect’, ‘want’, ‘believe’, ‘think’ and so on.

      • Arlene says:

        There are so many great books out there for people to read. How about opening up your links page so others can add their favourite resources. One book that stayed with me was Noel Dyck’s, “What is the Indian ‘Problem’?”. Fiction is also a good way to get to know people. “Writing the Circle: Native Women of Western Canada,” by Louise Halfe is a great source of poetry and short fiction. Indulge over Christmas!!!

        • I am such a luddite, I wouldn’t know how to ‘open things up’…what I would suggest is commenting on that page with the resource you want to highlight, and a little review. I could eventually put them together on the main Learning Links page under a sort of “Reader’s Suggestions” section?

        • SueZoo says:

          Thank you Arlene.

      • sunsin says:

        It staggers me… utterly… that “having an agenda” can even be brought forward as a charge without everyone collapsing in laughter. It was comprehensively damned centuries and centuries ago by those old rhetoricians who gave us the term argumentum ad hominem, or in other words, attacking the messenger instead of the message. We really need a class in logical argument in high schools.

        • For sure. Plus, if there’s one thing that postmodernism et al. got right, it’s that Everyone Has An Agenda. I trust someone who’s forthright about their point of view much more than someone who clearly has a point of view but claims not to, or claims that their point of view is just “rationality”.
          Take the econ guys at the top of the European Central Bank; they claim they’re just relaying the rational economic wisdom, but obviously their rational wisdom says bankers making a profit is much more important than real people having jobs or a roof over their heads; this is not a neutral point of view no matter how much they claim it. But all the financial pages will swear up and down that there is no political content to their economic claims, it’s all just pure and agenda-free. Bollocks. For them I guess an activist is just someone who isn’t allowed to get away with lying about what side they’re on.

  9. Moira Dunphy says:

    You have led many a thirsty horse to water with your original post on Attawapiskat, but you cannot make them drink. The ignorant who choose to remain ignorant are like the thirsty ignoring the lake in front of them. I gather since you are already aware of the ignorant hatred out there, keep it in its place, don’t take the ugliness on as a burden. Just don’t lose sight of the thirsty ones, grateful, drinking, sharing.

    You have me hooked! Go ahead, write about what you want to write about, I’ll happily read you discussing an arcane Cree word. Because I know the value of a word. And you are definitely worth it.

    I haven’t followed the interviews or buzz, will purposefully ignore my curiosity about who you are and respect your wish for privacy

    • Thank you, I really appreciate that. Who I am isn’t all that important really. This isn’t about me. I didn’t write the Auditor’s report, I didn’t create any of the sources I linked to. All I did was pull them together and I think most people are capable of doing the same. I hope they do.

  10. Thank you for all the effort you put into “Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat”. As a non-native person on the sidelines, it’s difficult to see people endure this hardship. We have seen a lot of heartache for native people in our area (Treaty 3), love and respect them, want them to maintain their culture and their language, but feel helpless. I guess being informed & sharing the truth is the only way to do that.

  11. Marc André says:

    Just thought I’d add my voice to the throng of hysterical admirers you are creating for yourself 🙂 Thank you for countering the government’s (and all those others’) bullshit with your thoughtful, informed and well supported argument. I just love it when people do that. People like you are rays of hope in the stormy cesspool that compromises our political landscape.

    It is despairing at times to realize how indoctrinated people are in relation to the history of Canada’s colonization and the Americas as well. I sincerely hope that the historical narrative can be rectified once and for all and that the frame can be put in its rightful place.

    I like to think that people like yourself are making this shift inevitable. Thank you!!!

  12. Linda Oldford says:

    I’m very impressed with your blog. Thank you so much for your imformation and views, it gives me an in-depth view of the problems. Keep up your good work.

  13. Kayla says:

    Even if it was in the National Post, your piece did a lot of good. Thank-you for sharing it, and thank you for the good work.

    • Marc André says:

      Personally, I think that the National Post was probably one of the most important places this blog could have been showcased. It may not have an immediate effect… but it reaches a lot of people that take it upon themselves to personally propagate negative stereotypes towards first nations peoples. Not saying they will “see the light” immediately… but it becomes one of those pieces that doesn’t fit in their worldview. Once there are enough of those anomalies floating around… some will eventually begin to question their own stances and start connecting new dots together. Not everyone chooses to be ignorant, and not everyone remains ignorant once they have the opportunity to know better.

      • A good point really. I’ve had a few people talking to me about the value of having a piece like this in the NP. Did you read the piece by Wayne Spear that I linked to in the First Nations taxation post? That was also featured on NP, and I found it an excellent read.

        I was very nervous about being ‘exposed’ so widely, but it hasn’t been as horrible as I feared. I’m mostly staying away from the comments anyway.

        • Marc André says:

          Reading the comments sections in mainstream news websites feels like an exercise in masochism on most days. The only joy in the exercise is flagging a bunch for removal (for good reason). The Wayne Spear article is indeed a good read… especially because it seems to criticise the editorial stance of the NP and actually dismantle some of its more demagogic arguments.

  14. Sharon Fitzpatrick says:

    Loooonnnnnngggggg articles are good. Facts are good. When the media plops “$90 million spent” without any research to go along with it (5W’s), that is almost criminal. Does it insight hatred???? I wonder??? We Canucks need to demand the facts, and be willing to read the loooooonnnnnnnggggg articles. When our PM plops the comment – “$90 million spent” on us without the facts either, is that criminal too??? Does that insight hatred? I wonder??? I have lived in both Canada and the USA, and journalism in Canada used to be starkly different than the USA. The drama of the USA versus the facts of the Canadian media was very evident. Now, they seem to be quite similar. No facts, just two sentences, said dramatically, and then move on to the next 2 liner. Do they ever leave their office or television studio anymore??? Thank you for waking up a sloppy lazy giant! I doubt if they will change much, it takes too much effort to do the research you did, plus they would have to spend $$$. But, thanks again. Keep writing, you are gifted, sincere and the pen is mightier than the sword!!

    • Arlene says:

      Of all other industrialized nations, Canada has the most concentrated media ownership. There is a definite agenda behind it and the more we understand it, the more we can fight it. I recommend supporting independent media with your time and money.

  15. Jenn Jilks says:

    This is one of my pet peeves = stealing intellectual property from bloggers, whether it be your words or your images, photos, and art. It is plagiarism and it is illegal in Canada according to Fair Use laws and Fair Practice in the US.
    Good work. Well done.

  16. Debra Huron says:

    The reason your post went viral is that you had something very important to say.
    Bravo for having said it so well! 🙂

  17. Dale Copps says:

    I am hugely impressed by your posting. It reminded me of the iconic US journalist, I.F. Stone, whose tireless digging into the documentary record brought scores of governmental deceptions and mismanagement to light. We have not seen his like down here since the passing of his Weekly.

    I believe Canada will be at the forefront of a worldwide democratic resurgence in the 21st century. You brought us Occupy Wall Street, and now this fearless blogger. There are doubtless many other grassroots forces at work up there, and my wife and I hope to obtain permanent resident status soon, in order to come up there and join you.

  18. Holly Stick says:

    There were a lot of tweets about Attawapiskat and I saw your blogpost mentioned on twitter quite a few times and retweeted it myself several times. I think that is one reason it spread so far and so quickly, because it is so easy now to pass on a link to a good article.

    • Yeah, the whole phenomenon of social media has certainly made it possible for ‘alternative’ voices to actually get out there. It’s amazing actually. I think of it as the modern day Moccasin Telegraph 😀

  19. balbulican says:

    Unfortunately most of the people who react to a blog post are folks who already have their minds made up; because they’re passionate (on either side of any issue), they’re the ones most likely to jump in and congratulate you, or tear you to shreds.

    But there’s a huge, OTHER audience out there – not the folks who blog or write letters to the editor, but the vast majority of people in the middle, trying to sort out the world for themselves, and looking for accuracy, honestly, and thoughtful people to help them do it.

    You don’t need to convince the convinced, and you’ll never change the minds of the haters. But I think you reached many, many people who are just trying to understand, and who appreciate, as I did, a thoughtful, truthful and moderate guide.

  20. Your blog will now be a regular haunt for at least one of the thousands who read your last post. Thank you so much for educating us.

  21. Kelly Rodgers says:

    I would just like to add my voice to the chorus of positive comments. Well written and thoughtful, how unusual to find those two characteristics on a blog. I also stumbled accross it and have now added it to my favourites. Thank you

  22. I enjoyed your article. I can understand the stresses that can occur with going viral, but wow, what a great way to spread the news of the plight. Bringing First Nations issues to the front of public viewing is a great success. Way to go. 🙂

  23. Nathan Rao says:

    Thank you for your excellent piece on this vitally important issue.

  24. Terry Maloney says:

    “I’m not a professional journalist”

    Yet you’ve just published the best piece of journalism Canada has seen in years.

    Congratulations and thanks.

  25. Gail Taylor says:

    Just a smile and thank you. I do not feel as angry today.

  26. jb says:

    Don’t fret, most articles via news agencies provide far less information than your article did. Probably the biggest reason why your article went viral was exactly because you provided a more complete perspective on this issue than any reporter or news agency has thus far. I believe many Canadians are politically engaged people who are suspicious of the many “sound bytes” that we get fed through the news. We recognize that this little blurb of information can’t possibly represent what is in reality a complex situation. When I heard Harper saying, “where did this $90M go, where is the accountability?” I had to agree- who wouldn’t, if that was the ONLY info you were given- yet at the same time knowing that I don’t agree with the Harper/Conservative political perspective, I knew I was being manipulated, I was suspicious. Your article gave us the information we were craving. We respected it and we passed it on because it treated US respectfully, by giving us the facts, breaking down the numbers, and telling us the truth, rather than trying to twist the facts or withhold information to skew our opinions.

    So you want the hype to die down… really? 🙂 Look at the opportunity it has provided you. You have passionate views, you believe in dialogue, and you have a skill for presenting factual information in a way that your readers can digest. Perhaps this attention is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps it is worth taking this opportunity to use your blog as a platform to bring to light the issues that you feel are important, to an audience that is willing to listen.

    There are many people out there that do give a damn and that try to be politically engaged but that just don’t feel like they know enough about the issues to speak out. For many people, political inaction has less to do with apathy and more to do with the feeling that we don’t know enough about a political issue to speak strongly about it with confidence. We know that these are complex issues- how our govt approaches First Nations policies, how our govt is changing our policies on crime, the issues of homelessness, mental health, environmental policies, economic policies. We, like you, know that there is no easy answer and there is no truth, no black and white. Hearing the voices and opinions of people who have knowledge and perspective on these issues- people like you- helps us to inform our own views on these issues. We may agree, we may disagree, but we feel informed enough to know where we stand and in feeling so, we feel confident about taking action. We need to hear more voices. People like you ARE the “experts”. It’s just like talking to nurses about our health care system and teachers about our education cuts- people who are affected directly by these policies can tell you a thing or two about what goes on behind the scenes.

    People care, they just don’t always know how to take action. Today I wrote my first-ever personal email to a politician! I wrote to John Duncan about the Attawapiskat situation. I did that because of what I learned from your articles and the links your commenters provided, and because of the call to action I found on your other post, “Attawapiskat, Action Needed!” I never read your blog before today. But if you keep on writing, I will keep on reading. And if you keep telling me how to speak out about how I feel about these issues, I will. So, a great big thank you from Kelowna, BC for your hard work and bravery in speaking out!

  27. She:kon nok sken:nen. I was told about your Attawapiskat writing in the NP by a friend of mine. I am here to affirm that what you are doing is good, and that in my view that is all that matters. As you go forward, remember you are not alone and that your words have power. It picks me up to have found you. Nia:wen kowa, -Wayne K. Spear. (p.s. I’m a big roller derby fan from way back as well as a Derby widow and a season’s ticket holder for the Montreal Roller Derby. My aunt was in the original roller derby in the 40s, and I can tell you there were even less Onkwehonweh in the sport back then, heheh.)

  28. No, good guess but I should have said former widow because she’s retired now. Thank-you for the kind words.

  29. bruno says:

    I also shared your Attawapiskat article online, and wish to thank you for taking the time to write and share it.
    Mahsi Cho!

  30. Cynthia Preston says:

    I’m feeling much better today so heres my last addition to your topic.
    Ghandi said ” be the change you want to see in the world”
    YOU have lived up (albeit unknowingly) to this challenge!
    positive and negative, successful and unsuccessful lets follow this example BE THE CHANGE
    Brainstorm in your community, choose a community just like when our individual communities twin up with a community in another part of the world but instead of just for one year do it for ten or twenty. Lets try to remember the Government ARE the people ALL the people if the individuals who represent us don’t have the will maybe just maybe we the people do? When we stuff those donation boxes with clothes, and leave our old but in good condition furniture, when we see that composting toilet in the hardware store… that solar panel on sale at Canadian tire….is someone researching alternatives to modern sewer treatments for off grid of city services is there a way, should we dig out our Robinson Coruso novel or our swiss family robinson, Can we in conjuction with in need communities, families, places, work with the resources in and around communites in new and novel ways to assemble life affirming, land and resource conserving ways to provide clean water, healthy warm homes, safe conversion of waste to nutrient cycle in our poorer communities? Are we up for the challenge?! Links, resources, ideas and a place to exchange them link up reach out Love your neighbour as yourself, Walk in anothers shoes (I can’t spell moccason tonight 😦 )

  31. Dr.Dawg says:

    I’m late coming over here, and can say little but “me too!” But You’ve been up on my blogroll for a few days now, and I’ve posted twice on this bizarre tangle.

    Your article was extremely well written, firmly factual and moving at the same time. I was struck by your tone of voice. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    Incidentally, I’ve had a few pieces in Full Comment, and in my experience McParland is a fairly classy guy. I’m glad he gave you a call. Closure is good.

    • Yes, I was really happy to hear from him. The whole thing reminded me how important it is to deal with people on a personal level rather than let things get out of hand. I had attempted from the beginning not to assume the worst, but my own negative reaction based on not being prepared for something like that meant I was excusing the fellow who forwarded the piece on, while blaming the ‘person in charge’ at NP. I wasn’t as willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and that was very much more about my dislike for the National Post as a publication rather than on a realistic expectation of what he ‘should have done’. It’s taught me (once again) not to jump to conclusions or assume the worst of people. McParland certainly did not deserve that assumption and all it took for me to be certain of that, was being able to actually speak to him ‘in person’ over the phone.

      I think that says something about what is needed for a wider dialogue on any contentious issue, to be honest.

  32. I don’t know what the pay is these days for journalists, but ….you deserve top pay for that blogpost, and I think the NP should be putting a checque in the mail for you,since they used the post. Not one of their regulars did the thorough research and put it together as well as you did. Nor did any other journalists who work for the big papers,that I came upon, I should add.
    And taking it further, the Canadian government should send an honorarium to you too!

  33. Bob Lovelace Decolonization Blog
    Seeing the Forest and the Trees

    • What an awesome read. I’ve asked Mr. Lovelace if I can share the piece on the Learning Links page. Some good background information here and a great argument for looking beyond the crisis to the underlying issues at play.

  34. Dr.Dawg says:

    That’s a fact, âpihtawikosisân. Heck, they aren’t even paying columnists most of the time.

    • I think we’ve identified another widely held myth…that most journalists and other writers make decent money. I considered journalism when I was in high school, and we had to investigate our possible career choices…I discovered I’d have more financial stability working full time making minimum wage.

  35. Gord C. says:

    I really want to thank you for posting what you have. There’s a painful lack of detailed information about native life & culture taught in public schools and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself and my children on the issues and what might be done to help. Pieces like yours about Attawapiskat, with a refreshingly conversational style, make my task somewhat easier.

  36. Alya says:

    I am so happy to have found your blog! I am so grateful that you want to engage in interesting discussion about difficult issues. While I share your distaste for The National Post in general, a lot of people do read it and maybe your post even got through to one or two of them, at least enough to make them ask a few more probing questions about how politicians manipulate numbers to suit their own purposes. I am going to use Attawapiskat as an example of the current challenges 1st Nations face when I write my First Nations 100 exam later this week. The way you explained the numbers will help a lot! Thanks, I plan to keep reading your blog.

  37. S. Larkin says:

    Your article was an example to me of how much effort it actually takes to get any where near the facts on a subject like this. Thank you so much for taking the time to put together the facts and expressing your thoughts so eloquently. It’s rare thing these days to encounter such a fine journalistic piece – like water in the desert.

  38. Joyce says:

    I am one of the people who forwarded your writing without asking, please accept my apology for not asking. I was just so impressed with your words of truth that I sent the link to CBC, APTN and CTV. I wanted some broader scope in the coverage Attawapiskat was getting, to challenge the views presented by reporters who have never lived the life and whose perspective is slanted to what the government has promoted for years. Your words were dynamite and I took advantage of the fact you’d already done so much work and good work should be recognized. I heard a strong message in my ears to make this visible to those who capture the views of Canadians with their cameras and words so that reality could reign. Again I am sorry I didn’t ask first but I’m not sorry your work made such a significant impact on so many people. Those who are hard core disbelievers have a lot to learn and your words will ring in their hearts until the hearts bring them to their minds and spirits. Congratulations and I hope you never give up the good works you do!

    • No no, I have no problems with people forwarding my stuff on, at all! There are no restrictions on that whatsoever! The issue was rather with having a news publication repost the blog without first asking, and attributing it to someone else…but that was a mistake and has been fixed up. Forward away!

  39. Aretha says:

    I can not share enough how much your articles have helped me.
    As a First Nations Canada whose family is from Fort Albany, a reserve close to Attawapiskat and I have family that live there too, every time I read a ignorant or racists comments a part of me died inside. I not only felt like they were attacking me as a Native but my family and my people. Your article helped me say the things I wanted to say by referring others to your article.

    Thank you again.

    • G Harrison says:

      Please remember that ignorance is our planet’s worst enemy. I am the daughter of immigrants and I die a bit each time I read those comments too. I am very touched by the grace that has been displayed so far and hope that you are able to find the strength to hold on until the truth gets out. Articles such as these and comments such as yours go a long way to dispel the myths.

  40. Emo says:

    I realize that we’re now into the phase of comments about comments about comments, but… briefly…

    A lot of comments critiquing this post have to do with information I didn’t give, and things I didn’t explain. […] Can you imagine if I tried to tackle more in a single piece?

    This is a recurrent and fundamental problem with the digital page, and, for myself, it has become a significant disincentive, i.e., deterring me from posting articles online. Over time, the articles I posted became ever more explicit (and even redundant) in opening and closing with explicit statements of the scope and limits of the article (“I’m going to discuss x but not y…”). Nevertheless, in publishing something specifically concerning the British Empire, I’d receive criticism that I had failed to mention some comparable issue from the history of Germany or France, and even reproaching me with the assumption that I must be ignorant of anything I do not mention in a single article (not the stupidest example I’ve experienced myself, but one of many actual examples). With the possibility of instant replies online, the author is then put in the position of saying, “this essay is already x-thousand words long, and it supports just this finite thesis, within these words, and no, I’m not interested in expanding the scope of the article”. This is a problem in the context of formal peer-review articles, and it seems to be an even worse problem on the digital page… where any finite thesis is held up against the impossible standard of an infinite set of other possible theses that you could have dealt with.

    I understand your frustration with this. For the author, it feels unfair, because it is unfair: you’re not being evaluated for what you wrote, but for something that you decided was outside of the remit of a particular article (and this shouldn’t mean that readers can presume you’re unaware of it, etc. etc., nor that you should be reproached for it, etc. etc.). This, too, is an incentive to write paper books.

    The other lesson (for others more than for yourself) that people could take from this episode is that quantitative methods count. You say that you’re not a journalist, and that is merely true; but the sad truth is that very few journalists employ quantitative methods of any kind. There was a rush to get (qualitative) quotations and snippets of opinions, but those neither ask nor answer the type of questions that you were able to broach with old-fashioned digits. The numbers that you employed basically raised the stakes of the game that had been played by journalists, and hundreds of thousands of people recognized that immediately (and this is what made the article so popular… it wasn’t literary or poetic merit that set it apart from what the other journalists were already doing, and you didn’t have quotations from politicians, etc.).

    As the value of such numbers are inferred relative to other numbers, it is a simple but devastatingly effective method to present such numbers in the context of other salient numbers: in that article, you did this several times over, and really put many other sources to shame (including, apparently, parliament itself…).

    You’ve know “known” me for more than six months via this web-forum, so you may be surprised to hear this: but I plan to never publish anything political about First Nations. Really, genuinely, my own political statement will be limited to learning the Cree language itself –and hopefully attaining fluency (in another 5 years? 10?). I understand that’s something not everybody can do (due to constraints of time, money, etc.) and that’s another reason why I don’t really want to preach about it as if it were a political cause; however, I’m recognizing that this is something that I can do… and I’m doing it.

  41. Matt says:

    Hey, so I know you weren’t too keen on your article going viral, but for my part, I’m glad it did. I wanted to thank you for writing it. You’ve been able to argue the case in ways that people will understand without trying to further any political agenda. It’s also a relief that someone was willing to speak out against the bigoted assumptions and scapegoaing that ensued, even if unintentionally. I’m also greatful for your follow-up article. This whole event has caused me a lot of pain because of comments I’ve read elsewhere. I can’t believe people still so often think that way. At any rate, your experience with this helped me to understand the importance of advocacy and the fact that it can have meaning. Thank you very much for your work.

  42. Personally, I think you are, in an important sense, an activist. An activist surely is a person who acts. You acted, on an important issue, at the right time, in a good way, and had a positive impact. What activist could ask for more?

  43. The MoccTel Runner says:

    I really enjoy your writing style, a little authoritative, a lot funny….

  44. Phil says:

    I would like to add your blog to the “consistently visited sites” roll on my own blog []. I can’t add anything to the praise that you’ve already received for you fine post. I have tried to explain many of these points to people at various times, but never achieved this kind of clarity and precision.

    I am one of those who does think that the largely fictitious “privileges” of Indian Status should be cast into the dustbin of history, but NOT out of any desire to see any “assimilation.” If anything, the bulk of Canadians need to be “assimilated” into the democratic traditions of Native Canada. But until reserves have a tax-base that they can control, true self-government, and can reclaim large swaths of territory that were taken away from them largely through fraud, there is little chance that they can become viable economic entities, and simply making the Indian Act vanish will leave an entire generation stranded in oblivion. Reforms need to be made, but no National government can be trusted to make them, especially not the current one. I have met enough high-level Tories to understand that men like Harper and his cronies regard almost ALL Canadians with the same smarmy contempt that they publicly display for Native people…. they consider themselves a “productive” aristocracy saddled with manipulating and catering to millions of lowly peasants and proles. But if Canadians knew this, they would not hold the powers they do. All such aristocracies like to have an “under-underclass” to deflect attention to. In Britain, they are the council-housed in low-status districts, slangily called “chavs”, in the U.S., they are “trailer-trash”. In Canada, reserve-dwellers have increasingly been assigned this stigmatized role.

    As an aside, building southern-style houses in places where it gets to be fifty below also needs to be rethought — why aren’t our architects and engineers working on this problem? Brand new conventional houses in the sub-arctic disintegrate after a few winters, requiring an endless re-investment of capital, which mostly goes to southern businesses. Like most capital investment in the north, it leaves the reserves almost the minute it gets to them.

  45. Naomi Martin says:

    Nia:wen. I’m very happy to have found your blog. Please keep doing what your doing. We need this.

  46. Hugo Dann says:

    Please allow me to apologize. I also posted your blog on my Facebook page without asking your permission. I did it after I heard you being interviewed on CBC radio and I was so impressed by your approach. At last, someone who wasn’t speaking in soundbites or journalistic cliches, but who was getting right to the heart of the matter. It is so hard for so many of us to grasp what is rally going on when the government makes claims like “we spent 90 million dollars.” You showed us the truth that our newspapers and media outlets couldn’t be bothered to investigate. Thank you so much and do please keep writing. My thanks and very best regards,

  47. urbanpionqueer says:

    As a fellow blogger & future law student, I just want to say thank you for this post and the post it is in reference to.


  48. James Mackay says:

    Hi –

    I co-authored an article for the UK Guardian site about the Attawapiskat situation (here:, both using and linking your blog. The comment debate has been much more interesting and productive than similar comment sections in the past – maybe some minds were even changed – and I put that down to the great work you did on the original post, which a number of sympathetic commenters draw on. Hope you write many more such posts in the future.


    • Thank you for writing the article you did, I think getting some international attention helps put the issue into perspective for people here. When you are ‘close’ to an issue it’s easier to accept injustice I think, than say…seeing it played out in another country. Having a chance to get a glimpse of what this situation looks like through non-Canadian eyes is another important perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s