Friday, 21 June 2013

The Red Book

    “My people help each other. Someone there [in Alaska] wants to bring me fur coat, shirt, that’s what I like. Rabbit skin, martin, potlatch food. They [Customs] want tax. It hurts my heart. . . . Where do government people think I came from? A hole in the ground? . . . Who is that Queen Elizabeth anyway? Who made her? We are Queen here, we all are Queens, Native people.” (Mrs. Bessie John, speaking to representatives of Canada Customs in Beaver Creek, 24 October 1995).

    I have actually been doing readings, which is a novel idea to me. I tend to not to readings because I have in the past found them not needed to be successful in my courses. However, I get the impression that this is not the case here.

    The quote above is from a reading entitled “King George Got Diarrhea” written by Norm—the title in reference to a song that is apparently sung by Dineh people as they approach the border, something that probably happens quite regularly as the border literally cuts through their land, to the point where one man’s home was directly on what would become the International Border with the States. I would probably sing a song against King George too if this were the case. As a summary, the border has many implications on the day-to-day life of the Upper Tanana people.  Things like visiting relatives, hunting, and potlatching are impeded. In one case, a funerary potlatch was completely ruined because the goods being brought over from Alaska were taxed to such a degree that it became an unaffordable sum. 

    When the border was being drawn, the Native people were in consultation with Reaburn, and he came to sign an agreement that they would be able to continue to use their land, an agreement that resided in a red book. However, this red book was subsequently stolen from its location within a cache and thus renders no power. 

    Missing: red book

    Reward: human rights

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