Friday, January 11, 2013

Who says it was "ceremonial"?

Theresa Spence forces highly political and successful meeting with Governor General

Lady Minto wife of Governor General of Canada presenting colours to Herchmer's Horse before they left Ottawa for Second Boer War
Lady Minto, Mary Caroline Grey 1858 to 1940, wife of Lord Minto, Governor General of Canada presenting colours to Herchmer's Horse, before they left Ottawa, 19th January 1900. Herchmer's Horse were an irregular volunteer unit heading for service in the Second Boer War in South Africa. From the book South Africa and the Transvaal War by Louis Creswicke, published 1900.

This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase that anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.
George Orwell
Politics and the English Language

I don't know how "ceremonial" got worked into the political reporting today, but the chaotic, shambolic improvised meeting of the Governor General of Canada with Chief Theresa Spence and her miscellaneous and fluid entourage, was anything but ceremonial. Ceremonial is trooping the Colour by the Governor-General's Horse Guard, awarding the Order of Canada, and appearances on Remembrance Day.  This was not that.  This was a forced meeting between the representative of the British Crown in Canada and the crazed, disorganized, delusional and possibly corrupt descendants of the First Nations signatories to the Numbered Treaties who nevertheless can distinguish chicken shit from chicken salad (a Lyndon Johnson specialty).

I admit there was a "smudging ceremony."  Very nice.  That's as ceremonial as it got.

Somehow, "ceremonial" seems an attempt to denigrate the First Nations power that was so much more wildly effective that government "messaging" that it would be laughable if so many reporters were not parroting the term, apparently without conscious thought.

Lord Minto had no compunction in advocating for the First Nations when they appealed to him over the head of Clifford Sifton and the government of the day.  He lost, but he did not hesitate to make his views known, or to hear such representations.

And then we have the brilliant chief Mawadoponess of Rainy River, giving his speech after the signing of Treaty 3 in 1873, a treaty that saved the CPR and possibly Canada from American Manifest Destiny, and  the Saulteaux from a fate suffered by American tribes when the Fort Laramie Treaty was trampled in the interests of greed.
“And now, in closing this council, I take off my glove, and in giving you my hand, I deliver over my birthright, and lands, and in taking your hand I hold fast all the promises you have made, and I hope they will last as long as the sun goes round, and the water flows, as you have said.” 
Alexander Morris
The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories

That seems pretty clear:  the negotiations occurred about 140 years ago, and are in perpetuity.