By Jessica Yee
Case in point. I’m listening to CBC radio a few weeks back and there are two stories that really got me thinking about this whole phenomenon now. The first was called “Polar Prom,” about a high school in Igloolik, Nunavut that had their first prom this past summer to reward students for staying in school--headed up by three teachers from the South. It all sounds great, until they get to the part about how they are trying to tell kids to “stay in school” as opposed to going out hunting and fishing with their communities and Elders during the last month of school.
They go on to detail how in order to be pretty and “dress up,” you just have to wear the conventional prom dress and suit deal--aka no traditional Inuit clothing. It’s an oddly reported story--considering how during parts of it they are talking about how important it is to learn about and incorporate culture--while at the same time saying “you will be a role model for younger ones if you don’t leave town and go out on the land with your family.” And I have to strongly disagree with that approach that off-routes traditional lifestyle because of some new institution’s decision to think it knows best, for example, when school should be held in light of 4000+ years of healthy cultural living.
The question is what form the impulse takes. Conservatives with "socialist Indians" theories, missionaries with Bibles, teachers with "stay in school" messages, charitable workers with food and clothing, entrepreneurs with business opportunities, and me with my website and comic books. Some of these efforts help and some hurt.
It's hard to say that any of these efforts are all good or bad. I guess the underlying point is that people should listen and learn rather than presume and pontificate. Indian aren't children who need "parents" to help them grow up.
For more on the subject, see Rob Knows Best About Redskin? and Rob the Presumptuous White Man?
Below: Maybe the Anglos and Inuit could compromise on prom dresses such as this one: