I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately, from aboriginal people who are unfortunate enough to be cornered on CBC, about the Connection to the Land that aboriginal people have, etc. This is in the context of land rights and treaty rights issues.
That’s all fine and good, or whatever, but I want to remind aboriginal people of something:
However long you’ve been on that land, your language is older.
Your language is older than everything else you have. It’s older than your culture, it’s older than your religious beliefs, it’s older than any material objects you have, it’s older than your actual genetics.
Things like “race” are very slippery. In actuality, most “Cree” people share vast genetics in common with other aboriginal groups and also with Europeans.
Things like “land” are very slippery. The Cree have moved all over the place. You know – like a lot of other people have. (Hi!)
Things like “culture” are very slippery. Some Cree people are Christians. Some are traditionalists. Some live in cities, some live on reserve, some live in Hawaii. Some like TV, some live in the bush.
This is something everybody needs to remember in these debates. It’s easy enough to demonstrate that some aboriginal group has moved around during their history. It’s easy to use “blood quantum” to (literally) bleed the aboriginal “race” out of existence. It’s easy to drive a divisive cultural wedge between aboriginal people. It’s impossible to show that, at some time in the past, Cree people didn’t speak Cree. By definition, the Cree language has been around exactly as long as there have been Cree people.
I think it was Richard Littlebear (Cheyenne) who first pointed this out. You lose your language, you lose the only certain argument you have that you are a distinct group of people. Lose that argument, and you’ve lost the whole thing.