let me show you what authentic Aboriginal kids look like // personal

** this is a political and personal post. You may not agree. That’s fine. But any comments that degrade another person will be deleted. Any racist comments will be deleted. I am open to discussion but this is not a place to spew hate.

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I was perusing through one of my favourite photographers’s blog (they shall remain nameless) when I saw something that made me flinch –  it was a family session, focusing on what seems to be the family’s connection to the land and each other. The mom wore some tribal-looking sweater vest. The family was cute, adorable. Very magazine worthy looking couple and their kids.

And the kids (two boys, one girl) were playing and dressed up as “Cowboys and Indians.”

With a tipi in the background.

And “crafty” bow and arrows with felt accents.

Guns and cowboy hats.

I sighed deeply, closed my eyes and tried to brush it off.

Inner peace. Inner peace.

But then I got pissed off two huge reasons.

The Game:

How is this even deemed an acceptable game for kids to play? Especially cute, pale-faced kids. Kids who perception of First Nation is still, unfortunately, dependant upon media and teachings that promote stereotypes and ignorance and fear.

I know. I know what you want to say, what you may be thinking.

It’s kids. It’s innocent. They are just having fun. Maybe they are 1/8th Cherokee. Maybe their great-great Grandmother was an Indian Princess. Maybe they are Indian. And we are all equal nowadays and kids playing are cute. Look how adorable she is with that feather in her hair, just like Tiger Lily in Peter Pan. So sweet.

But I will say this as blunt as possible: “Cowboys and Indians” is a degrading, racist and politically incorrect game.

You are making a bad parenting choice letting your children play this game (yeah, I went there).

But if you want to be an ass, be an educated ass. Please explain to your kids, and to yourself, that:

  • There were no “Indians” in North Americas at that time, only Native Americans/Canadians. “Indian” in the name Columbus gave to the original inhabitants of this land, as he was lost and thought he was in India. Basically.
  • The Cowboys tried to take away lands that belong to the Native Americans/Canadians forcefully, thus the Native Americans/Canadians had to defend their rights. And are still defending their rights, as the relationships between the Government and First Nations is very wrong, very paternalistic, and very demeaning. Ever hear of the newest social movement, Idle No More? You should read up on that.

If the basis of the game is to fight one another, how is that promoting equality, education, awareness?

It is not.

And I don’t care if the family was 1/8th Cherokee or not. I care about the fact that this game stems from a racist history and teaches kids to put down and “kill” people who are different from them.

No kid should play this game, a game that divides based on culture and race.

The Image:

And as for the artist point of view – think before you pick up your camera.

What are you shooting?

What are your images contributing towards?

Is there any way that what you are shooting is demeaning to anyone of any gender, culture, sexual orientation, etc?

What does this session say about you, as an artist?

Is this what you want to represent?

What about me?

I am a proud member of English River First Nation, located in Northern Saskatchewan.

I am Dene and I am Metis.

And this is who I represent.

This is who I am about.

These are my people.

These are Aboriginal kids in Canada.

These are children who have grown up in small towns, cities, reserves.

These are the kids who come from Aboriginal heritage, be it Dene, Cree, Metis, Dakota, Nakota, Saulteaux, Metis etc.

These are the kids who have to grow up in a world where the stakes are set against them due to their cultural background.

These are the kids who will have to fight against the inherent racism and prejudice that is built into society.

And these are the kids who would be “Indian” and be “killed” in this game of “Cowboys and Indians”. 

So I ask you to think before you contribute images to the the stereotypical perception of Aboriginal People in Canada.

Use your talents for good, for awareness, for art.

Think before you take that camera snap.

Think **really hard** when you see a tipi used in a session, or a headdress, or feathers, or war paint, or a bow and arrow, or anything that does not represent the family or people you are shooting.


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  • Dora LariviereJanuary 10, 2013 - 5:35 AM

    Love it!!ReplyCancel

  • Shayla WeisbrotJanuary 10, 2013 - 5:46 AM

    Yohr amazing. I love this ReplyCancel

  • Shayla WeisbrotJanuary 10, 2013 - 5:46 AM

    Fat finger typo 🙂 your*ReplyCancel

  • Diana LaliberteJanuary 10, 2013 - 5:54 AM

    Word. Totally agree. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Wanda DaigneaultJanuary 10, 2013 - 6:01 AM

    I 100 % agree and love the pictures you always share…..ReplyCancel

  • Ed MihaliczJanuary 10, 2013 - 6:13 AM

    Thank you, Tenille! Well said.ReplyCancel

  • StefanieJanuary 10, 2013 - 10:35 AM

    Totally agree!! Your work shows their personalities great! Props should tell part of the story, and you are right – Exactly what story are you telling?ReplyCancel

  • Gloria ApesisJanuary 10, 2013 - 4:51 PM

    Nazu’ ah nay la’. .. ReplyCancel

  • Lillian SandersonJanuary 11, 2013 - 6:33 AM

    Awesome! Our beautiful children, many tinikihs!ReplyCancel

  • Miguel SanchezJanuary 11, 2013 - 7:30 PM

    It was a game we played as children, not knowing the true history. Once we moved out to Masset BC, if you tried that shit, the cowboys always lost. My daughter is learning about pioneers in grade 3 and they don’t teach any of the bad things European “settlers” did to the original inhabitants. I try to teach her that Europeans and Columbus couldn’t “discover” a land mass if that land was already inhabited by millions of people. It wasn’t a discovery, it was an invasion that led to the near destruction of a strong, proud people who have been the stewards of this land for over 10,000 years.ReplyCancel

  • Swift Eagle - Conceptual Graphics & ImageryJanuary 12, 2013 - 7:47 PM

    Awesome! Love this!ReplyCancel

  • Ellen Jordens PetersonJanuary 10, 2013 - 5:53 PM

    Well said. And beutiful pictures of the sweet children.ReplyCancel

welcome tho.

Welcome to the blog, showcasing the latest sessions and adventures. In case you missed it, I'm Tenille, Dene photog, living in Treaty Six, YXE. Feel free to lose a couple hours creeping around, and drop a line if you have any questions.