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22 March 2008 @ 01:28 pm
Life In Northern Canada (Part Deux)  
Hi everyone!

I promised ages ago to write a follow-up post to my first workshop piece on Life In Northern Canada. sageness and a few other folks had specific questions they wanted me to address, hence the sequel. If you're looking for more general topics about northern Canada, such as landscape and geography, weather, the role of the RCMP, shopping and dining, education and healthcare, I covered a lot of that material in the original post. However, I'm always happy to answer any questions you might have, or go into more specific explanations if you need them for a post-"Call of the Wild" story.

Again, I should make the caveat that I'm not an expert in Canadiana, and a lot of my knowledge is anecdotal. I grew up in a fairly large city in northern British Columbia, and so most of my observations come from spending summers in the communities further north, or taking trips around the region with my parents. Don't take anything I say as gospel, in other words, and if something doesn't sound right or you want me to clarify, please feel free to ask in the comments, or shoot me an email at nos4a2no9@gmail.com

Alright, on to the questions! Most of these are from sageness, because her brain is shiny like that.

1. Okay, if we say that Fraser was born sometime between 1958 and 1960, how different would his childhood experience in the far north?

I'm kicking things off with a question I can't really answer, except by way of explaining something of my father's life. He was born in 1955, and his life was defined by a lot of the same things Fraser experiences: an absent father, a heavy emphasis on physical activity, discipline and hard work, and a fairly nomadic life where he moved from one small community to the next. Like Fraser, he had a very strong female role model in my grandmother, who was widowed four times before my father turned 15. This, I think, is fairly common for children of that generation and generations previous: most of the occupations in the north are in dangerous, heavy-labour industries such as mining, forestry, fishing and working on the oil rigs and pipelines. As access to medical aid was spotty at best in the northern areas (and continues to be), there were a lot of accidents and illnesses that left widow(er)s and orphans behind to muddle through in a very unforgiving landscape.

Fraser was born at a time of tremendous change in northern Canada. The 1950s-1960s marks a time of renewed interest and exploration of the Arctic due to the mining of new resources (minerals and fossil fuels) and increasing tension with Russia due to the Cold War. The 1950s also marks the beginning of the big push to resettle the Inuit in planned communities like Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik. In a single generation, from just after WWII to the 1960s, the Inuit were cut off from their traditional nomadic cultural practices and were forced to live in permanent settlements and villages. You can probably imagine the devastation caused by this forced resettlement. This was partly done to protect Canada's arctic from Russian encroachment and partly due to the Canadian government's belief that the extinction of the Inuit way of life was inevitable, and that it was best to help "civilize" these nomadic hunters as quickly as possible. (Um, hi, I could probably write a thesis about this, but you get the idea, right?)

So Fraser's world wasn't quite the same as his father's, in terms of unfettered movement across vast fields of snowy arctic wasteland. There were more settled communities, more tensions with the Inuit (who were slowly adjusting to a rapidly different lifestyle and the loss of their traditional ways) and a greater RCMP presence in the north.

Sorry to make wee!Fraser's life sound bleak: that's the historical and political context of his childhood, but it's clear from the show that Fraser experienced a lot of the benefits of life in a close-knit community of strict-but-loving caregivers, and he did have friends like Mark and Innusiq. Writers should feel free to play with elements from canon while creating their own unique portrait of Fraser's life and childhood. I've seen a lot of fairly pastoral portraits of life in northern Canada in due South fanfiction, and while that's by no means incorrect, existence up there at that point in time was dangerous, exhausting and there was a lot of unrest and uncertainty among the population.

2. What do teenage boys and girls do for fun and/or to be rebellious brats if they have no access to computers/internet/Playstations/etc? How much of a freak was Fraser for going hiking and reading all the time when he was living with his grandparents? I get the feeling that Mark Smithbauer spent all his waking moments playing hockey, but what would other kids do?

Um, hockey :-) It's a cliché, but organized sports are a huge part of community life in small Canadian towns. The local hockey and curling teams serve as a point of common interest, and given the conditions (eight to ten months of winter, anyone?) and the lack of other entertainment options, a lot of kids get involved in hockey teams, skating clubs and programs like 4H or Scouts and Girl Guides, depending on the size of the community and the availability of the necessary facilities like ice rinks and meeting halls. Depending on how isolated you think Fraser was growing up, it's entirely reasonable that he spent most of his time alone in the woods or his grandparent's library. If the Fraser Mobile Library ever stopped in a more settled community he'd have a chance to play pick-up hockey, or get involved with a youth group run by the local church or a program run out of the local Veteran's or Lions club.

In terms of rebellion or acting out, lot of adolescents in small rual towns do get involved with substance abuse, unfortunately, as a way to stave off boredom or cope with the difficult living conditions. In Fraser's generation, drugs like hash or marajuana would have been popular (and alcohol is always available) but for a contemporary story crystal meth is the drug of choice among rural teens since it's easy to produce with a few household chemicals. And sex is always a fun past time for teenagers, of course.

Which brings us to possibly the best question ever...

3. What about the sex industry? I don't guess there are red light districts when it's -50C out. Are there shops for sex toys or would RayK have to order presents for Fraser off the internet?

Heh, yes, there are many, many sex shops in northern Canada. There's also a much more permissive attitude towards sex in general in Canada: Canadian censors are more concerned with violence than sexual content in Canadian film and TV, and in larger cities (say, above 20,000 people) there are plenty of Adults Only or XXX stores. These stores sell videos, sex toys and usually feature message boards (the old fashion kind, with paper) where people can arrange to hook up or find a new partner. A lot of these stores are part of larger chains out of cities like Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary, and they offer material that would appeal to a variety of tastes, from gay/straight to kinky or unusual predilections. Given the imbalance between male/female populations, even small communities have a steady source of pornography, if not the same ready access to toys and leather gear available in stores further south. There are also a lot of local strip clubs, and most bars (even in very small towns) have stripper or burlesque nights.

One major source of pornographic magazines is from gas stations or roadside coffee shops: these stores usually carry a selection of porn (but it’s almost uniformly targeted at heterosexual men) and it’s sold on the back shelf if magazine racks, either sealed in plastic or with paper wrappers covering the naughty bits. (I like my euphemisms!) To answer the specific question, Ray would probably be able to find a porn store or two, but if he wanted a sexy present for Fraser (and not just a gay porno mag) he’d have to order it online.

And, despite the weather, there are tiny red light districts in most northern communities. Again, due to the imbalance between male/female populations (many more men than women) prostitution has always been a thriving industry in the north. A lot of it is transitory work: a woman might take in clients to make ends meet during a difficult time but find a more legitimate source of income later on. There is also a gay prostitution network, which has been made easier due to the arrival of the internet in most northern communities. Drug or alcohol addiction is also a part of this industry in the north, and the weather isn’t as much as a deterrent to “street” prostitution as you’d think: I’ve seen a prostitute soliciting on a northern highway during a snowstorm, where cars were only coming by every fifteen or twenty minutes.

4. Is there a stigma of any kind attributed to being from the far north?

Oh yes. I imagine it's a bit like the stigma attached to people from the southern United States or those from really remote, rural areas who move to the big city. The stereotype of dumb northern rednecks who are illiterate, uneducated and unfamiliar with "city ways" is fairly pervasive among southern Canadians. Since 51% of Canadians live in major urban centres (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, etc) there is a major divide between urban and rural dwellers, and that divide becomes even more pronounced when you enter into the northern/southern paradigms. Other Canadians I've met here in Toronto are sometimes surprised to learn that I did indeed have running water and central heating in my childhood home, even though I was raised in a large northern city. There's an odd stratification among Canadians: those who live in Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal are at the zenith of political and social representation. People from the west (Vancouver or Calgary) are marginalized, and those who live north of those major cities near the border are almost non-existent.

5. What about the oil industry? In my head, I see drilling platforms across the prairie -- but in my head it's always summertime and there's a sea of grass around the rig.

I don't have any firsthand experience with the Arctic oil industry. Like Sage, I tend to visualize drilling platforms in the midst of rolling wheat fields, but most of the oil excavation in the north is conducted via offshore drilling platforms or through the mining of the tar sands in places like Fort McMurray. Due to the difficulties presented by drilling into the permafrost, mining and oil operations in northern Canada are fairly limited, and it's hard, brutal, dangerous work. Oilmen are more likely to find employment on one of the oil pipelines. Elizabeth Hay's fiction novel Late Nights on Air goes into the debate that arose in the 1970s when plans were announced to build a major oil pipeline in northern Canada. Hay captures a lot of the debate about the issue and the way the question was taken up in the rest of the country. Oil extraction and refining is a major business in the north; forestry was the big industry where I grew up, but no matter where you set your story, a number of the characters will, in one way or another, be in the business of resource exploitation.

As of 2007, plans are in the works to build a major oil pipeline in the Mackenzie Delta (near Inuvik) which would have a vast impact on the economy and ecology of the region. Issues like the building of the hydro-electric dam that got Fraser's father killed in the Pilot are common in the north: there is a lot of environmental fallout due to technological advances that make it cheaper and easier for companies to look north for electricity, oil and gas. And, as most of the residents rely on the paychecks provided by these companies, it's often difficult to voice opposition or openly discuss concerns about environment repercussions.

6. How much racism, segregation, and integration is there between First Nations and whites in the community off the reservations?

There is a lot of anti-aboriginal racism and segregation in northern Canada, and in a lot of ways it's harder to address than the institutional racism in the United States. Canadians have a particularly dangerous blind spot when it comes to racism. Part of the “us/them” binary that exists between Canada and the United States allows Canadians to believe that we are somehow free of the kind of racial conflicts and discrimination that exist and have existed in America. We don't have a huge and diverse cultural industry that calls attention to issues of discrimination and hatred in past and present-day Canadian society. Our television and film industry’s key mandate is to protect “Canadian identity” from American cultural domination, and so media products (particularly in non-documentary forms) that trouble or question the realities of life for aboriginal Canadians are often marginalized or ignored. We don’t often learn about Canada’s history of slavery and genocide in the classroom (although it’s certainly present) and most white Canadians who live in southern cities are fairly content with the portrait of Canada as a peaceful, multicultural nation that respects difference and values diversity.

Of course, this isn't the case. There is a shocking level of violence and discrimination directed toward First Nation peoples in the north. It is both an institutional problem in the federal and provincial/territorial governments, and it’s also pervasive in the RCMP and within the criminal justice system that overwhelmingly discriminates against young First Nations men. Canadians certainly aren’t exempt from the lingering social malady of racism and misunderstanding that passes from one generation to the next.

First Nations (including the Inuit, Métis and North American Indian people) comprise about 4% of Canada’s total population (or about 976,305 people of roughly 33 million) who self-identify in census polls as First Nations. The population estimates are as follows:

o 608,850 North American Indian
o 292,305 Métis
o 45,070 Inuit

The “North American Indian” category encompasses a huge swathe of ethno-linguistic groups, including the Ojibway, Algonquin, Iroquoian and Mohawk tribes (the tribal lines of which cross the US/Canada border) as well as prairie and west-coast tribes like the Hai’da, Dene and Salish-speaking peoples. The Métis are the descendents of Scottish and French Canadian trappers and First Nations peoples who established early trade relations and community groups dating from the 17th century. The Métis largely settled in Manitoba and northern Quebec and Ontario after hundreds of years of nomadic existence as fur traders, hunters and trappers.

It’s worth noting that in Canada, First Nations people claim “status” as descendants of one of the recognized tribes of Canada as per the qualifications outlined by the Indian Register. To have “status” entitles an individual to income tax exemption for any revenue earned on a reserve, as well as some housing and education benefits. (University or post-secondary education, for example, is subsided by the government in an effort to counteract the abysmal rate of aboriginal degree-holders in this country, which itself is a sign of lack of educational opportunities for First Nations peoples). The extent and nature of these status-related benefits is often unclear or misunderstood by white Canadians, at least in my experience, and is often cited as a part of a racist narrative that argues, “Natives have all these benefits and they still can’t pull themselves up.”

There’s a lot of bitterness and anger directed toward First Nations people, particularly in the North among working-class whites. The belief that status-holders benefit from enormous tax breaks and a very generous welfare policy not available to whites is widespread. Of course, it’s an attitude borne of entrenched racism and a lack of firsthand contact with First Nations people, as well as a misunderstanding of the realities of social assistance and the shameful history of Canada’s treatment of aboriginal peoples. I teach a Canadian citizenship course at the college level, and my students are constantly shocked to learn the true amount of social assistance payments (barely enough to afford rent without the aid of housing subsides, which leaves little money for other essentials like food or clothing) or the bleak conditions of life on a reserve.

As I've said, approx. 51% of Canadians live in major urban centres. Those southern cities are a major locus of political and economic power. As the majority of aboriginal Canadians live a) on small, isolated reserves located further north or west and b) are a disadvantaged minority group that has faced systemic discrimination since first contact, First Nations populations are confronted with the hat trick of discrimination in Canada. To be poor, rural and aboriginal is to be invisible in this society.

Living conditions on a reserve are bleak: there is little access to healthcare, education or employment opportunities, and often basic services like sewage treatment or clean drinking water is unavailable. There are about 600 reserves in Canada (link to a list of reserves by population size); most are small, isolated and offer few sources of income for the inhabitants. Occasional land claim protests and treaty negotiations have drawn attention to these conditions, but the attitude of the Canadian government often seems to be “out of sight, out of mind.” I’m editorializing, of course, but having briefly lived on a reserve and traveled through reservation towns in northern British Columbia I can attest to the poor living conditions and lack of attention these communities receive.

Aside from the physical segregation represented by a reserve, there are also aboriginal-stream educational programs that separate First Nations students from their white counterparts in small regional elementary and high schools. These aboriginal-stream programs aim to meet the special education needs of aboriginal students, but it also prevents a lot of cross-cultural contact in the classroom where more understanding of First Nations cultures could be encouraged. De facto segregation is often the result. Canadian aboriginals are treated as second-class citizens, and are often characterized by whites as alcoholic or drug-addicted welfare parasites. The lack of positive, non-cliched portrayals of aboriginal people in popular culture (or any kind of portrayal at all, aside from a few token mentions), coupled with the misunderstanding about status benefits and poor education about the history of the conflict between First Nations and white European culture, has left a large racial divide in this country. And what's worse, it’s a divide few Canadians seem willing to recognize, let alone breach.

I wish I had something a little cheerier to end on. If you have a question that I haven't yet addressed, or you'd like to discuss some of these issues in more detail, please feel free to comment here. I hope some of this is useful for those of you trying to compose a post-CotW story. Or we could, y'know, talk in person at bitchinparty!
 
 
 
HurrySundownhurry_sundown on March 22nd, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Excellent (if somewhat depressing) piece, Nos. I suppose some might take a perverse comfort in knowing that the US is not alone in its effed-up state of racial affairs. I was a bit surprised at the East-West power divide. Although the biggest players in the US are also in the east (NYC, WDC), California exerts a fair amount of influence as well - no one could ever describe them as marginalized.
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 22nd, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
Heh, yes the population distribution in the US prevents the kind of concentrated Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal imbalance we get here. There has to be a total media blackout during national election day because once Ontario and Quebec have voted, that's the ball game. Statistically the way people in the north and west vote doesn't matter, aside from the local ridings races.

spuffydudsspuffyduds on March 22nd, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
That's fascinating stuff. I had never even heard of the Metis.
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 22nd, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
Wow, really? That's good to know - I wasn't sure how much detail to include in case people were bored. The Red River Rebellion is sort of the closest Canada ever came to civil war, and so it's something we learn about as school children but I'd wondered if people outside of Canada were aware of the unique position of the Métis in English-speaking Canada.
æthel the aardvark: fraser out of frameaethel on March 26th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
I hadn't heard of the Metis either until I read a book specifically on Canadian history. (And the writer assumed everyone already knew who they were, so it wasn't very helpful.)

Thanks for the informative post!
LAAAAAAAAANCE!llassah on March 22nd, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating- do you think that there is also perhaps a certain level of complacency on the race issue because of things like the underground railroad into canada and things? The mythology of Canada acting as refuge?

This is wonderful food for thought, will be back with more questions later, no doubt *g*
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 22nd, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm glad you thought it was interesting. And yes, definitely, the idea of Canada as a land of freedom, a "white space" on the map, the mythology it occupies as a country without history (and therefore a country free of the stains of racism and genocide) because we don't have the national narrative of slavery and civil war like the United States.

I hope you'll have more questions!
Tarnish notte the majesty of my TOWER of HATS: Flagsmeresy on March 22nd, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
Awesome post.
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 22nd, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you kindly! I hope I didn't misrepresent anything - I'm never sure what other *Canadians* think of my take on this stuff.
Tarnish notte the majesty of my TOWER of HATS: Flagsmeresy on March 23rd, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
I think you're pretty spot on. The state of native affairs in this country is terrible, everywhere. There wasn't a blockade at Caledonia for nothing. And what I leanred last Canada Day about the Saugeen land claims alone blows my mind. It sucked so hard when that money deal with the Liberals fell through after the election. /o\

The vision of Canada as a multicultural happyplace is definitely a fixture in this part of the country. Of course it's the MORE open-minded (if naive) people who cling to that around here -- they're the ones who see the growing immigrant population as a good thing.

My father's family is from the area around North Buxton, which was an end station on the underground railroad. Many descendants of escaped slaves still farm there, and that's the sort of thing we learn in school about racial issues in Canada. To my high school history teacher's credit he did teach us about the forced settlements and the residential schools, Japanese dispossession and internment etc.

Also: a vision of a drill platform out in the rolling grass is a nice image compared to what an oilsands operation actually looks like. =/

Edited at 2008-03-23 12:46 am (UTC)
vienna_waitsvienna_waits on March 22nd, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
Wow, great post! Thank you for providing all of that meaty info.

What is this "bitchinpary" you speak of? OK, I'll stop making fun of your typos now. ;-)

Hope to have my flashfic done by end of weekend...
*puts nose back to grindstone*
vienna_waitsvienna_waits on March 22nd, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
*blinks* Hey, did you just edit and fix your typo, or did I read it wrong to begin with? One of life's great mysteries, I suppose...
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 22nd, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
Hee! I did see it just before you put up your comment. Now don't you feel like a fool for mocking me? :-)

Hope to have my flashfic done by end of weekend...

Yay! That's awesome! I'd wondered how it was going, and I'm glad you'll be finished well before the challenge deadline. Go you!
sprat: diary frasersprat on March 22nd, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is a fantastic resource. Lots of great information here -- including stuff I didn't know, despite being a Canadian myself. Saskatoon is as far north as I've ever lived. *g*
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 22nd, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
Heee! Well, Calgary is as far east as I'd been across the prairies, so you're one up on me there :-) I'm glad you found this interesting.
the world's most huggable supervillainzabira on March 22nd, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
nos, you are a rocker of houses and a kicker of asses. this is all fascinating information, and i loved reading it. thank you for taking the time to put this together!!! \n/
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 23rd, 2008 03:36 am (UTC)
Thanks Z!
Sage: bear hugsageness on March 23rd, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Nos, you are a rockstar! This is exactly the kind of post I was dreaming of! I'm sorry to have given you something to stress about in the midst of everything else you're working on, but this is awesome and SO VERY appreciated!

The really big thing for me is that as a viewer, I get so much MORE out of DS knowing the darker context it's working against. I mean, yay fluff and all, but every time Fraser invokes Inuvik, he's also evoking this great wealth of history -- dark and light -- and insisting that Canadian viewers acknowledge it.

It reminds me quite a lot of American television and popular culture in the late 1980s, when hiphop and Bill Cosby brought African American culture into the mainstream. MTV really did change everything -- but location was everything. It was nothing for Aerosmith to film a video with RUN-DMC in a New York studio, a cab ride's distance from where the rappers lived. There aren't major television studios in Inuvik or Tuk. (Wow, can you imagine if there were? If they had funding and support for a northern-based entertainment industry?)

Speaking of industries (see my clever segue), the sex industry bits shocked me. I get necessity==>invention, but wow. I am a Southern girl in ways I don't even *realize*. Sex shops here are...well, okay, Texas only legalized vibrators and dildos about a month ago, so obviously it's different here. In Austin, sex shops here tend to be really large, brightly lit with fluorescent lights, have mostly vids, have crazy security, and have staff dressed in shirts and ties (unless it's a head shop, in which case it's a dingy shop full of all kinds of crap with sex toys on the far wall while the rest of the place is full of bongs and pipes and kitch). The more sex-positive and woman-owned shops have more fetish clothing and more boutique layouts, but god. I can't imagine actual bulletin boards. Like, the new age bookstores have bulletin boards. D&D gaming stores have bulletin boards. And I don't know why, but I always have a sort of kneejerk, this is skeezy reaction. (Hi, I have issues, but srsly, how could people trust each other with their bodies on the strength of a sheet of paper tacked to a cork board?)

Anyway, this is a FABULOUS post and I'm bookmarking it now. (I'm going to wait til Monday to pimp it on the noticeboard in hopes that more people will see it and come look.)

Yay Nos! \o/
Nos: classic fishienos4a2no9 on March 23rd, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
This is exactly the kind of post I was dreaming of!

\o/ Hooray! You gave me such an excellent series of questions, and I was so hoping you'd find the answers useful.

I'm sorry to have given you something to stress about in the midst of everything else you're working on

Oh, hey, no, don't worry about it. It was my fault I got so over-extended. It was fine, and once I sat down and started to work on this it was a lot of fun to put together. Thank YOU for the opportunity to, once again, inflict all this meta about Canada onto unsuspecting fangirls :-)

The really big thing for me is that as a viewer, I get so much MORE out of DS knowing the darker context it's working against. I mean, yay fluff and all, but every time Fraser invokes Inuvik, he's also evoking this great wealth of history -- dark and light -- and insisting that Canadian viewers acknowledge it.

It is interesting! I love the comparison you draw between American TV and popular culture and the arrival of the hiphop scene. There are so many conversations going on in due South about marginalization and isolation: Fraser is isolated within the RCMP, he's not comfortable with contemporary "white"/mainstream Canadian culture (or contemporary culture at all); by virtue of being from the exotic north he's isolated from other Canadians and a complete freak by American standards, and he's not Inuit, so it's another point of division. He doesn't fit in anywhere. And that's a very Canadian story, y'know? Part of the narrative of this country is that it doesn't quite know what it is: we're not English or French or American, and we have no real idea what it means to be "Canadian." So I do like your point about the show trying to explore what it means to be "Other" in an unfamiliar or strange society, and trying to set up a counter-narrative to both perpetuate and undercut the mythology of the North.

And heh, yes, I thought the availability of sex shops and pornography would be a bit shocking, particularly to someone from the south. And I'm totally with you on the skeeviness of the cork-board swap n' shop. Eeew.

Thanks again for encouraging this post, and for giving all of us this forum to find useful information and help with our writing endeavours! You are the best, Sage!
bee: DS } OT3barbarianwinter on March 23rd, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
Very interesting, thank you for this!
Luzulaluzula on March 23rd, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)
Wow, what a great post! One of my WIPs is set in the north and has some OC:s, so this will be very useful, I think.

For some comparison: In the first half of the 20:th century, Sweden had pretty much the opposite approach to the Sami, our indigenous people--supposedly, they weren't suited to the modern lifestyle and should just stay up in the mountains, live nomadically, and herd their reindeer. And I'm sure you can imagine that wasn't such a great solution, either. I do know that there are still conflicts concerning land use in the north, but I don't think our situation now is as bad as what you describe, at least as regards standards of living. We don't have reservations, and most Sami are pretty integrated nowadays, I think. Though my knowledge is probably sadly lacking, because I'm from the south and it's not a subject that's taught in school much.

And no, I hadn't heard of the Métis, either; that was interesting.
Davey: RayK headache [rullaroo]ruggerdavey on March 26th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
This led me to wikipedia, and - man - how interesting. The whole subject is very different from the treatment of minorities here. Protecting a job so that it's just theirs (reindeer herding) was pretty surprising. And I have to say that I was really surprised at the images of the modern Sami - I don't know that I've ever seen a native group that looked so white before. Though I suppose I should have expected it since they are from Northern Europe.
ignaz wisdomignazwisdom on March 24th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
This is freaking amazing and I adore you for writing it all up.
anna_luna: Fraser Dancesanna_luna on March 24th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
This was an awesome post, insightful and complete. I love how you addressed the many issues that make up real life in the north...

Am I really shallow if I say that my favorite part was the bit about the sex industry?

I could just picture RayK stockpiling condoms and magazines and videos and stuff in preparation to moving north and then arriving and finding they had it all there... with a discount. I can just hear him saying "Fraser..." and Fraser going "Yes, Ray, that was a sex shop, we have a lot of them in the North Western Territories, it's a growing industry, you should consider it as a career choice..."
M'lyn: due South Fraser pull hatmlyn on March 25th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
most white Canadians who live in southern cities are fairly content with the portrait of Canada as a peaceful, multicultural nation that respects difference and values diversity

I'm embarrassed to say I've bought into that idea, too. I've read dS fics and watched the episodes where First Nations people are portrayed as underprivileged, and certainly believed them, but at the same time I have this "la la la it's so much better than the US" idea. The grass is always greener, I guess.

Thanks for another illuminating and interesting post. :)
dugrival: stampdugrival on March 26th, 2008 12:35 am (UTC)
This is great all over again! Though I do kind of miss Gus the Recruitment Mountie. : (

You talk about people from the North dealing with a lot of harassment in the cities, but what about the reverse? I know whenever I visit my family in "the sticks," they tease me plenty about being a city kid. If Ray - looking all Chicago hip and setting off gaydar at 200 yards - drives up to visit Fraser sometime, is anyone likely to, say... key the GTO? *cringe*

Maybe I've just seen Easy Rider too many times.
secretlybrontesecretlybronte on March 26th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
I always seem to miss the most interesting things on my flist. You're supposed to go, "Hey, stupid, over here!" whenever you do something like this.

This sort of first-person narrative of cultural history is ultimately twice as useful as any research I could do myself. Given my taste for the darker under-side of things, for conflict, this sort of background is fascinating. More interesting than the pastoral, certainly. I think it makes everything so much richer and provides so much context. Of course, mostly, it makes me want to visit where you grew up, where Fraser grew up, to see these places, to write. (And I'm sure I would not stand out at all.)

Anyway, I'd love it if you'd keep writing these pieces. I think you don't always get that this is a foreign country, more remote than France in all but language and sometimes there as well, I'd imagine.
(Deleted comment)
claudieanne on March 26th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
This was very interesting,especially to someone who hopes to soon emigrate to Canada. During my visit last Feb both my partner and myself experienced an uncomfortable brief exposure to racism that surprised us as it appeared to be so at odds with the rest of our experiences that trip.We stopped at a breakfast diner in Hundred Mile House and the lively restaurant went very quiet when a small group of native people came in, nothing was actually said, they were served but somehow without the same civility that we received although I couldn't actually pinpoint any discourtesy. A middle aged couple a few tables over leaned over and passed the communal coffee pot and broke the silence but they were the only ones being friendly, this was sadly so at odds with all our positive experiences as compared to my part of England Canada really does appear soo much more tolerant, polite and most of all clean!
Davey: FraserRayK our time [dubhartach]ruggerdavey on March 26th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
Both parts were very interesting. I've heard a bit about the harsh situation for First Nations on some of the teaching communities I belong to (and also how isolating it is if you're teaching there and not part of the group), but it was still interesting to read more about the dark realities of life that far North.
julia_here: 101 Northjulia_here on March 26th, 2008 11:32 pm (UTC)
South-of-48 note about racism:

When I spent time in BC in the late seventies, I was constantly struck by the difference in quality of life between Coast Salish people on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands and the Lushootseed/Puget Salish peoples I grew up with. The housing and public facilities on reserves was much like what it had been down sound when I was a small child, before LBJ's anti-poverty programs and the Boldt decision gave the people I knew more autonomy and better access to resources. I knew, intellectually, about the anti-Potlatch acts and other attempts at cultural genocide, but it was disturbing to see a level of day-to-day racist behavior which was public and unashamed and seemed like something from the dim past.

Julia, my first Anthro professor worked with the "Tsimshian" now Gitskan, on the Yukon side of the border, and had a lot to say about how family wealth had passed out to the Alaska side of that border- mostly, I think, because as little attention as Canada paid to its NW, it was a lot more than the US had for the Alaska panhandle

Edited at 2008-03-27 04:06 am (UTC)
galenlisle on March 29th, 2008 02:13 am (UTC)
This was great! #6 was especially interesting to me--I'm moving to ON from the US for a position where I'll be teaching about diversity issues, which I know about in the US but not so much in Canada, so this was a great primer. :)
Luzulaluzula on March 31st, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
Thought of some questions:

- how big a presence did the Christian church have when Fraser was growing up? And if so, which church? I'm guessing some kind of Protestantism...

- how common was it with marriages between First Nations peoples and people of European descent? Is it common now?
lamentableslamentables on April 22nd, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)
Had this tab open for aaaaages: finally got around to reading. Fascinating article, Nos. Thanks.
lherelenfelinelherelenfeline on April 29th, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
"Canadian aboriginals are treated as second-class citizens, and are often characterized by whites as alcoholic or drug-addicted welfare parasites."

It's funny how this attitude is just as prevalent over here in the US, and it pans true throughout the country, form Upstate NY, to Florida, to the Plains and certainly California and the Northwest. I've had the pleasure of meeting a number of Native American rights activists at a conference and every one of them had to deal with this sort of attitude...

There's a perception here, of Canada being this city on a hill, this holy grail of tolerance where one can escape to. We have a long standing tradition of it too, from the Native American flight, to Underground Railroad, to the draft resisters and now the gays. I must confess to being one of those gays looking to immigrate ASAP, and reading this served as a bucket of ice water. Not in a bad sense , but just showing that it's not necessarily paradise. Thank you.
Nevvererdovitthe_antichris on May 13th, 2008 11:24 am (UTC)
(just found this where it was hiding in some old tabs)

I have an idea! Let's swap our racist and thoughtless idiots. I bet idiot New Zealanders have no preconceptions about First Nations on account of they probably have never heard of them, whereas they have EXACTLY the same stupid ideas about Maori as yours have about First Nations. Apparently Ngapuhi (the major South Island tribe) giving small scholarships to Ngapuhi kids out of its own investments is a sign of the Gummint favouring Maori and how they totally have it better than Pakeha and OMG REVERSE RACISM. LE SIGH.