July 09, 2007

Coyotes and Kings

Thomas King is a native Indian who lives in Canada. He's also a great story teller who imbues his conversations and correspondence with a measure of historical perspective.

I had the pleasure to hear Mr King on the radio again today, a repeat of a lecture he gave many years ago. He talked about "status" and the law, and the way in which white mans legal definitions can remove the status of being a native Indian.

topics of this nature are often dull listening to a western audience, we don't like to hear about our cultural failings and especially the plight of minority groups who have not faired so well from the historical events of recent centuries. But in the hands of Mr King the task of education is blended with wit and intellect.

In particular I got another chance to enjoy the story of the Coyote, whom the story reveals as being envious of the brilliant white feathers of the ducks. The hapless ducks are placed into peril and forced to bargain for their survival. Over successive dealings they trade over most of their feathers so that they may keep a few for themselves. The Coyote is careless with his bounty and repeatedly returns to extract more from the ducks.

The symbolism is not hard to grasp.

In Australia today we have a government that is seeking to remove the what few feathers our native people have left, in the hope of extracting a hint of authority for themselves. This is a careless government indeed, people who have neglected the rights of children in refugee camps but now claim to be defending the needs of children in aboriginal communities.

It's an embarrassment to the nation.

Haven't we taken enough feathers from the traditional land owners of this country? Have we failed to heed to ramifications of imposing our white-mans way of thinking upon a proud people? Have we so little respect for other cultures that we would ignore common sense to impose chaos upon the lives of those who have so little?

It's the height of arrogance and folly that the Australian government should return to the disadvantaged and politically abused communities of Australia and seek a few more feathers to dress themselves with.

Clothes do not maketh the government.

1 comment:

yewenyi said...

Hey Ewen you really should go to the top end, anywhere from Cape York around to Broome, but visit the lot. You will see everything from communities rebuilding them selves to ones that are still completely lost. The former give a ray of hope. With your camera you could take such good photos to show the difference.