By Matt Remle
Personally, I loved it. It reminded me of the images from our AIM warriors who would fly the upside down United States flag during their rallies and demonstrations. And honestly, it made me wonder why it hadn’t been done before, but this article though is less about the flying of the Canadian flag upside down and Colby’s action, he himself sums it up best at http://lastrealindians.com/canadian-flag-hung-upside-down-in-a-powwow-grand-entry-by-colby-tootoosis/, but rather I would like to explore this skewed notion that we as Native peoples somehow owe any semblance of support for either the colonial governments of the United States or Canada.
It is rather well known that as Native peoples we serve in the Armed Forces at higher rates, per capita, then any other racial or ethnic group on both sides of the border. The standard explanation for this is that we need some sort of outlet to release our inner warrior, which in some cases might be true, but I seriously question this as the sole reason why we enlist at such high rates.
I suspect that poverty may play an equally, if not more so, important factor as one of the reasons why so many Native brothers and sisters enlist. After all, poor people of all races make up the vast majority of enlistees in the Armed services. According to the Department of Defense’s own data, in 2004 nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, of recruits to the military were from counties that have average incomes lower than the national median. And we know that poverty in Indian country on both sides of the border runs deep.
But questions about motivations for enlistment aside, the deeper question lies around what does it truly mean to defend our “homelands,” as is so often stated for reasons to go into military service, when the honest brutal reality is that assaults on our traditional lands, natural resources, sacred sites, water ways, and health of our communities (think the locating of hazardous and toxic waste facilities) comes not from some foreign enemy, but from the Canadian and United States governments and their corporate rulers.
Below: "Cobly Tootoosis and upside down Canadian flag at the Manito Ahbee powwow."