Summer of Our Decolonial Love - 9

By Mark Solomon posted 10-25-2017 08:18


Hi its me

 We need to talk about Thunder Bay


Again we are early this week as I am off to attend a CiCan conference on Indigenous Education held in Thunder Bay.  Thunder Bay has a place in my heart.  I spent three years trying to get an MA, but for a variety of reasons ended up not finishing.  It is also where I have to fly into, then drive 4 hours to see my ten year old daughter.


Know that Thunder Bay is a sacred place for many Indigenous people.  Fort William First Nation has Mount McKay which I believe one of the first Jingle dress dances were ever done.  As well the sleeping giant, Nanabush and the sadness why he is sleeping.


Thunder Bay is a hub for many First Nations in North Western Ontario, which is geographically huge.  The First Nations have their teenagers fly into Thunder Bay for secondary education.  Lets pause and talk about that.  Remember the anxiety you had moving into residence at 18-19….  Imagine flying from your home community of 300-600 people into Thunder Bay (120K pop), at 12-13.  To live as a billet in your aunts home or with someone who you have met only 2-3 times in your life.  Due to the small population in the First Nations, and the distance between them, they are not able to sustain a highschool.  Additionally, and most messed up, is that should a school open on a reserve it gets federal funding, not provincial funding, which is about a quarter of the funding.  Seriously look at Jordan’s principle.  Back to Thunder Bay.


If all of that was not enough to cause issues, then Thunder Bay police start pulling the bodies of Indigenous Students out of the various rivers in the city.   Seven Indigenous teenagers between 2000 -2011 died.  This May, a 14 year old and a 17 year old were pulled from a river in the town.  In September a 21 year old body was found in the river. Also don’t forget this Indigenous woman who died of her injuries after being hit by a trailer hitch.


The Police chief said there is nothing unusual about the deaths.  BTW he doesn't have that job any more, not because of these deaths but dealings with the Mayor. 


How does this effect Post-Secondary?  I remember prepping for CACUSS 2017 and seeing the deaths of the two students who died in may.  I was crushed.  I read a tweet that said sorry we can’t attend your 150 Birthday party Canada we are too busy pulling our kids from the River in TBay.  You can’t see it but I am paused after writing that filled with emotion.


All of these students could have been our students.  In PSE we know the effect the death of a student has on our community.  Murder after murder and being told by police literally nothing to see here has to rip out your heart.  Lakehead University and Confederation College have great Indigenous student supports.  But what can they do, what can we all do, when kids are dying prior to attending our institutions.


I want you to be mad with me.  I want you to educate the next generation of students to say why was that chair beside me empty in my class.  I want you give our students the vocabulary to critically think that something is going on Thunder Bay. 


When I read that tweet mentioned above it killed me.  I did not want to go to CACUSS, nor go to convocation, nor go to anything knowing that those students won’t ever get a chance to do it.


I often reflect what if these were non-Indigenous teenagers.  There would be outcries, but how come that doesn’t happen when my people die.  Are we not worth the same attention?  Or maybe there really is nothing to see here.


Also if you have the cash please support CANADALAND who is going to do an expose on Thunder Bay if they have enough with Ryan McMahon. 


AND if you want to read more about TBay and the deaths try this AMAZING HOT OFF the Presses book.