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Category: Idle No More

Gord Downie’s Secret Path shows: Did fans or scalpers get the seats?

In Ottawa and Toronto this  October, Downie will launch his reconciliation project, the Secret Path, to raise awareness about residential schools and raise funds for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

My friend and I tried to get tickets the Ottawa show, which will take place at the National Arts Centre. The Ottawa show will be held at Southam Hall, which only seats 2300 people.

Given how many people were probably trying for the general admission tickets, we knew our chances were slim. Especially since half the tickets were sold in a pre-sale, which I think was for NAC members.

However, when my friend tried to buy tickets, she was stunned to find that all of them sold out in about four seconds. She wondered if scalpers were to blame, since they use bots that take up all the connections on the Ticketmaster’s servers so no one else can buy tickets.

I was thinking maybe not, since for this show, Downie requested that all the tickets be “paperless”, meaning that you buy them with your credit card, and in order to enter the venue, you present your credit card along with government-issued photo ID at the ticket booth. This way, only the actual owner of the ticket and his or her party can enter. All tickets are non-transferable. This makes it more difficult for scalpers to profit from artists who are in high demand.

I also figured that around 30,000 people where probably all clicking furiously away at their computers and mobile devices at the same time, hoping to score one of maybe 1200 tickets.

I did some research,  because I wondered if the paperless method actually lowers the number of scalped tickets, and because if I was wrong, and it was scalpers scooping up all the seats, well, that is just infuriating.

In my research, I learned that to get around the paperless method, scalpers purchase tickets using gift cards from credit card companies and send the gift card to the purchaser. At the venue, the gift card is swiped. And many venues don’t bother checking ID. I also read that in some cases, scalpers will send someone to the venue along with the purchaser, and that person has the credit card and required photo ID. He walks the group into the venue and then leaves. I could see doing this for a few, very  expensive scalped tickets. But hiring someone to do this for thousands of people would be really expensive for the scalpers and a logistical nightmare.

To find out more, I opened an online chat session with a customer support rep for Vivid Seats, an American ticket “reseller”.

Here is part of that conversation:

Jennifer: Hi, I was wondering about buying tickets for the Gord Downie show in Ottawa, Ontario this October. How do you guys handle paperless tickets? I was told that you have to have the original credit card, plus photo ID to get in.

Lauren, from Vivid Seats: For the paperless tickets, the venue does not check IDs, they only scan the gift card and then you receive your seating voucher. We have not had any venues check IDs when scanning the gift cards.
However, our sellers will make sure you receive all of the necessary information to enter the venue.

Jennifer: The NAC says they do check. It’s a small venue. [I was just making this up, since I hadn’t spoken with the NAC yet.]

Lauren: Our sellers have special relationships with the venue and would not sell the tickets if they could not be used by someone else. If there is any other information or anything else required to enter the venue with the tickets, our sellers will make sure you receive that information.

Jennifer (losing my temper): Wow, that is so awful. Downie is doing a fund raiser and you are exploiting his efforts and artistry, while shutting out fans who can’t afford your prices.

Lauren ends the live chat.

I guess I blew my cover as a potential buyer.

After that, I called the NAC box office and asked them what information they require when processing paperless tickets (I did not ask if they accepted gift cards, or if they asked for credit cards or ID, because I did not want to provide any leading questions).

The woman I spoke to said that for Downie’s show, they will be checking credit cards and photo ID for every purchase. And they won’t accept gift cards. She also said they have never done paperless tickets before, and that Downie requested it because of the high demand for tickets.

I told the woman I was glad to hear this, and mentioned how apparently many venues don’t other checking for ID and accept gift cards. She assured me that the NAC would not be taking this approach.

In the end, I expect that there will be people at that show who did not purchase their tickets in a way that is fair to the artist or his fans, but I guess there won’t be very many. I also wonder if some people with scalped tickets will be turned away, because the NAC will not accept gift cards.

Ticket scalping is so unfair to everyone who cares about music, fans and artists especially.

I wonder if we should stop selling tickets online and go back to requiring fans line up and buy them, like we did when we were kids. And limit the number you can buy to four, and still require a credit card and photo ID at the show.

I’m sorry I won’t be sharing an evening in October with Gord. But I really hope those who have the privilege bought their tickets fair and square.
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Powerful reflections on the Oka Crisis at Red Post Art Exhibit

Here is an article I wrote for Rabble.ca on the exhibit that took place in Kanehsatake earlier this month. I made the trip out and visited the exhibit at the elementary school in Kanehsatake. I chatted with Ellen Gabriel, the show’s curator as well.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Onekwenhtara Kanehtsote – the Red Post Art Exhibit, curated by Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel of Kanehsatà:ke and Jolene Rickard of Tuscarora, commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Crisis of 1990, also known as the Oka Crisis, by demonstrating its impacts through art.

This exhibit brings together the work of 16 artists, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have reflected on their experience of the Crisis of 1990. In some cases, artworks reflect first-hand experiences of Kanehsatà:ke residents, and in other cases artworks reflect on the long-term impacts of the Crisis.

The Crisis of 1990 began with a peaceful protest against plans by the town of Oka, Quebec to expand a private nine-hole golf course. The expansion would destroy part of a mature pine forest in Kanehsatà:ke and required the destruction of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community graveyard. The peaceful protest escalated when the Kanien’kehá:ka people of Kanehsatà:ke were surrounded by the Quebec provincial police on July 11, 1990.

Many of the artists represented in the exhibit are Kanien’kehá:ka from Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawake, a Kanien’kehá:ka community which was also involved in the Crisis.

The exhibit offers visitors an opportunity to reflect on the effects of the conflict on the people who were personally involved, as well as the impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous societies and politics across the continent.

In the centre of the exhibit is the red post itself, an installation piece created by Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel. The red post refers to the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) practice of erecting a red post in communities during times of conflict or war.

Gabriel’s installation, a post painted red, a colour signifying power and war, reminds us of the Kanien’kehá:ka people’s long history, one that began long before European settlement and continues into the present. The symbols depicted on the post include wampum beads, corn, a war club and the tree of life.

At the top is a circle of people holding hands, united in protecting the land. These symbols emphasize the richness and longevity of Kanien’kehá:ka culture and calls into question the settler notion that Indigenous people belong only to the past, or that their cultures and political systems have no role to play in the modern world.

The red post also reminds those entering the exhibit of the long-standing and unresolved conflict over land rights that grew into the Crisis of 1990 and remains unresolved today. The pine forest where the conflict took place is considered by the municipality of Oka to belong to the town. However, the Kanien’kehá:ka never ceded the land that is now Kanehsatà:ke (includes the Pines).

Photos used with permission from the artists

Among the artworks contributed by artists from Kanehsatà:ke is Douglas Tehonietathe Beaver’s  backpack called “Pelt and Pine, Armed with Healing.” This work alludes to a soldier’s pack, and reminds viewers of the Canadian Army soldiers who surrounded Kanien’kehá:ka s in 1990. But instead of being filled with ammunition, grenades and guns, this backpack is “armed” with an eagle feather, a sweet grass braid, a cedar smudge stick and pot, and other items related to spiritual healing, presenting an alternative response to land conflict both in Kanehsatà:ke and elsewhere.

Another artwork emphasizing the importance of Haudenosaunee culture is a quilt called “Sky Woman’s Descent” by Carla Hemlock, a Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake. The story of Sky Woman is the creation story of the Haudenosaunee people — Sky Woman descends into our world and lands on the back of a turtle that transforms, with the help of various animals, into North America. In this blue, gold and black beaded quilt, we see the back of the turtle from the perspective of Sky Woman as she descends.

Elizabeth Saccà, a non-Indigenous artist and retired Concordia University professor who lives near Kanehsatà:ke, contributed an abstract monotype called “Maelstrom.” For this viewer, this print evokes the confusion and disorientation that must have reigned in the Pines when the Quebec police first attacked Kanehsatà:ke with tear gas and smoke bombs. It also represents the ever-present potential for violence that Indigenous people face when they protest land development on their territories.

Nadia Myre, an Algonquin artist based in Montreal, contributed “Still Life,” an ink print depicting two protesters in silhouette with flags. The image connects the Red Post exhibit to the broader history of Indigenous social and land justice issues and brings to life the widespread support for Indigenous sovereignty manifested nation-wide in the form of demonstrations, blockades and flash mobs, as well as Idle No More.

Photos used with permission from the artists

Along with these artworks, pieces include Patrycja Walton‘s “Dress for Amicee,” a sculpture of a dress made of animal hide, wire and stain glass, and dedicated to missing Aboriginal women and girls, including her friend Amicee. Julie Otsi’tsaonwe Gaspé’s created her untitled graphite drawing of the Pines before the protests against development turned into an armed conflict. Her prophetic drawing depicts a conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the Pines, while above them in the trees, faces look down, watching the conflict unfold.

Onekwenhtara Kanehtsote – The Red Post exhibit moves from Kanehsatà:ke to Kahnawake, Quebec. Visitors are invited to reflect on these works and on the impact of the Crisis of 1990 at the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Centre from August 24 to September 4. The Vernissage is on August 24 at 6 PM.

To learn more about the impacts of the Oka Crisis, and to hear a discussion by the exhibit’s curators and some of its featured artists, check out the webinar: 25 Years Later, Impacts of the Oka Crisis.

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Mohawk/Kanien’kéha word of the week

This week’s word is Shé:kon: Hello. I have probably done this word before, but I thought I would post it again, because it is the one Mohawk word that I actually use on a regular basis. At work, I greet my Mohawk colleague this way almost every day, and it has become a natural part of my vocabulary, much like “Hi” or “Salut.”

I am now working on getting Carmen to reply to the question “Skennenkó:wa ken?” with  “Ianerátie’.”

That is, “How are you?” “It’s going well.”

But it hasn’t yet become a natural part of daily speech.

I think simple words like “Hello” are really important, because if we can learn each other’s words for this simple greeting, we can come closer together in friendship and show that we care about each other’s way of seeing the world.

In light of the 25,000-strong climate change demonstration in Quebec City this past weekend, and the major impact of Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, will have on our civil liberties, using words that bring us closer together is more important than ever.

I first learned this word when I was a student in Montreal. I was helping to organize a fund-raiser for the Mohawk warriors who had been arrested during the Oka Crisis. We had invited a Mohawk rock band to perform, and one of the band members wrote the word on the wall in the dressing room. I asked what it meant, and ever since, it’s stayed with me.

Hello! Shé :kon!

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Honour the Treaties

Yesterday morning I watched Aaron Huey’s TED talk on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Lakota Sioux. To me, the most important thing that he said was:

“Honour the treaties. Give back the Black Hills. It’s not your business what they do with them.”photographer_aaronhuey_thephotolifepodcast_0061

In these few words, Aaron voices the transformation needed here in Turtle Island – a shift from the patronizing, controlling approach to First Nations politics, land and culture – to one of respect. Canada needs to get out of the business of Aboriginal nations. It’s not up to us how a Mohawk or Ojibway or Haida community decides to use its land or organize its community. It’s long past time for us to get out of their business and start listening instead of dictating. I believe our future depends on it, because resource extraction in the form of mining, drilling for oil, forestry, etc is destroying our ecosystems. Maybe Aboriginal people will treat the land the same way. But if past experience is any indication, I believe things would be different. I also think that our colonial relationship with Native peoples is stunting our growth as Canadians, and undermining our humanity.

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I recognize that ending our colonial relationships with Indigenous nations does not mean that First Nations become closed societies that don’t need or require relationships with other societies. It’s just long past time for use to get out of the way.

Thank you, Aaron Huey for saying it so well.

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We have the most in common with our enemies…

It has often been said that we have the most in common with our enemies. This is, in many ways, true of Israelis and Palestinians. They occupy the same part of the world, have similar desires for nationhood, identity, safety and freedIsraeli times articleom, and even follow religions that are very similar. With a few changes, this angry letter from an Israeli could have been written by a Palestinian:

“But I will not apologise for surviving. For surviving missiles intended to kill me. The fact they didn’t kill me doesn’t mean they weren’t sent with the intention to murder. I will not apologise for living and surviving thanks to being prepared because we have a culture that celebrates our lives and cherishes them…I will not apologise for having a business, a home, a family and friends here who want normal lives and to live in peace with our neighbors. I will not apologise for existing and I want nothing more than to co-exist quietly with neighbors who accept me here.”

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/shalom-motherfr/

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Too many first nations people live in a dream palace

Too many first nations people live in a dream palace

SImpson’s Dream Palace

Wow, does Jeffrey Simpson not get it or what! He rolls his eyes at Attawaspiskat’s unreasonable refusal to move their entire community closer to Timmins for jobs and to avoid flooding! Cree people have been hunting and fishing at Attawapiskat for longer than western history, but I guess a few jobs in Timmins mean more than that. Geez, why doesn’t Simpson tell those unrealistic, out-of-touch Venetians to move from their city that has already BEEN flooded? And how come the Dutch are not living in a “dream palace” for insisting on building dykes instead of moving their country somewhere drier? Theresa Spence is full of “dreamy, flamboyant rhetoric,” he says, or implies. What about Martin Luther King? Mohandas Gandhi? This man is very, very out of touch with life in his own country.

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Harper’s Terrible Mistake

Chief Spence on Victoria Island
Chief Spence on Victoria Island

Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike for three weeks now. She will not eat until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to meet with her and talk about the changes his Conservative government has made to the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and many other laws. These changes directly affect Indigenous people in Canada – they affect all Canadians.

It’s taken me a while to understand why Harper’s government made changes to the Indian Act in particular. The changes will make it much easier for Band Councils to enter into lease agreements governed by provincial laws. Band councils would only need a simple majority from a vote, regardless of how many people show up to cast their ballot.

The changes move us in the direction proposed by Pierre Trudeau’s White paper. The White paper was laughably naïve. It was obviously written by politicians who had no idea what land means to Indigenous people. Its authors proposed that the Indian Act be abolished, that all treaties be dismissed, and that land belonging to First Nations be privatized, so that individuals could sell their portion if they chose.

Opposition from Indigenous people to the proposals in the White paper mounted and eventually it was shelved. At least that Liberal government had enough respect for the democratic process to propose changes and listen to the opinions of others about the proposals.

Harper’s government has no such respect. Why propose changes that you know will not be accepted when you can use your power as a majority government to legislate the changes without meaningful consultation?

But I don’t believe that the changes to the Indian Act, which will make it much easier for business to take advantage of natural resources on First Nations lands, were pushed through without debate because the Conservatives do not respect democracy. At least, that is probably not the main reason.

I believe that Harper made the changes – a terrible mistake – because he is completely out of touch with the hopes and needs of Aboriginal people. He has no idea of the importance of each nation’s territory to its people.

He is so out of touch that he forgot all about the Oka Crisis, a 78-day stand-off between Mohawks (along with other Haudenosaunee peoples and their supporters) and the Canadian Army. The Army was called in when the government panicked and realized that the Mohawk people were not going to back down and allow the municipality of Oka to expand its golf course over a Mohawk graveyard and a very old stand of trees belonging to the community of Kanehsatake.

The land meant something to them.  The Oka Crisis happened only 22 years ago.

If Chief Spence dies because Stephen Harper will not meet with her, First Nations people of this country will not be humiliated. That role will go to Harper, whose lack of grace and inability to connect in the simplest, most basic way by having a conversation with a woman named Theresa Spence, will have led to a conflagration– an explosion of anger and rage that would make the Oka Crisis seem like a schoolyard fight.

It is not too late yet for Harper to walk to Chief Spence’s tipi and share a drink with her. But soon it will be.

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Trickster art: The digital storytelling of Chris Bose

In Nlaka’pamux (pronounced ng-khla-kap-mh) country in south-central British Columbia, you can hear coyotes howling in the canyon at night, and glimpse them disappearing into the woods. For the Nlaka’pamux people, coyote is a trickster, using his creativity to transform the world, while rebelling against and disrupting established order.

As a scavenger, coyote is the ultimate survivor, constantly adapting to changing times.
Chris Bose, a photographer, filmmaker, digital storyteller, poet and musician, has a lot in common with coyote.

Living in Kamloops, B.C., Chris is also a creator, rebel, disruptor of the established order and, most of all, a survivor. Chris is from the Nlaka’pamux nation, which means “People of the Canyon,” referring to the B.C. region where the Fraser and Thompson Rivers join.

Through his artwork, Chris wrestles with demons in the form of the traumatic effects of residential school on his parents, aunts and uncles, and how that trauma has rebounded on his generation.

He also criticizes Canada’s policies of forced assimilation, and reflects on issues ranging from Duncan Campbell Scott’s proposal to “kill the Indian in the child,” to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official apology for the residential school system.

Until recently, Chris followed in the footsteps of Aboriginal artists like Jane Ash Poitras and Carl Beam, masters of mixed-media collage. He made art by scavenging: collecting objects, photographs, fabric, etc., and transforming them with paint and glue.

In present tense, Chris’ most provocative storytelling medium is digital — he is a self-taught expert in image manipulation technologies. Using Photoshop, First Cut and other applications, he recreates the effects of the mixed-media collage on a computer screen.

“I’ve collected thousands of images, many of them from archives, of residential schools — photos of Indian children in uniform, photos of Indians being measured with rulers. Over the last fifteen years, I’ve worked in the buildings where residential schools used to be. I’ve explored these places and found secret passages, heard ghosts. I’m fascinated and traumatized by them. Residential school is our hidden holocaust. The residential school is always going to be in my art and in what I do until I figure out a way to destroy it.”

“Because my parents grew up in residential school, they never learned how to be parents. So I never learned either. I grew up in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.  My mother moved us a lot so child welfare wouldn’t take me away. It was during the sixties scoop.”

During the “sixties scoop” Aboriginal children were removed from their families and placed in non-Native adoptive homes. Most adoptions took place in the sixties. Children were often literally scooped from their homes by the child welfare representatives without the consent of their families.

“I think about the idea of home a lot. It’s a funny place, I guess. A place I can never go back to. Home is not really tied to one place for me, because we moved so much. I guess home for me is a comforting memory of the past — being on the rez at Granny and Grampa’s.”

Though Chris spent his childhood on the move, he returned home to visit his grandparents in the summer. While trapping with his grandfather, Chris heard Nlaka’pamux stories, including stories about coyote.  Chris carries on this tradition, telling his grandfather’s stories at cultural events, and teaching digital storytelling, painting, stencil graffiti and filmmaking to Aboriginal youth in B.C.

In January 2009, Chris launched the Urban Coyote TeeVee blog as part of a project that involves developing a new piece of digital art or film every day for a year.

As the blog’s title suggests, Urban Coyote TeeVee delivers a contemporary urban Aboriginal viewpoint to its audience, fusing Nlaka’pamux culture with historical and urban imagery, using a digital online medium.

These digital art and film postings give his audience insight into Chris’ dynamic and adaptable artistry, reflecting his experimentation with film and imagery as well as his thoughts and feelings on the day he created each image or film clip.

The blog reflects its creator’s sense of humour, anger and versatility, ranging from a humorous critique of B.C. premier, Gordon Campbell, to reflections on the impact of violence in society, to poetry combined with archival images.

One of the most compelling of Chris’ blog images is a postcard-sized digital piece combining two black and white archival photos of an Aboriginal child named Thomas Moore. The digital image juxtaposes Thomas before and after his entrance into the Regina Indian Industrial School in the late 1800s. In the “before” picture, he has long hair and is dressed in traditional Plains clothing, and in the “after” picture, he is wearing a high-collared military-style suit. These before-and-after photos were no doubt staged to demonstrate the “civilizing” effect of residential schools on their subjects.

Over the two images of Thomas, Chris layers his own words: “…the ones in power….ask childlike questions about my race about why my people seem so lost so timid revealing something so sad about themselves …they just want to empathize and feel it for half an hour not even to understand it but to hold it for a little while to study it and they will go back and write a grant about it to get some money to study it further and perpetuate the dumb.”

The blog has resulted in another powerful digital creation: Jesus Coyote, a heretical, humorous character, whom Chris uses to “Aboriginalize” Christianity, while at the same time defusing the power of the church and school system.  “Jesus Coyote is a trickster — the ultimate trickster.  He is holy, but he’s also a rapscallion. Who’s to say Jesus wasn’t a bit of a trickster? He turned water into wine. He walked on water!  Jesus Coyote’s always got something up his sleeve. He is an ordinary guy with a little too much power. But he is not going to moralize.”

Much of the subject matter in Chris’ blog is also present in his films, which can be viewed at the Urban Coyote Television web site, including three short films that Chris created last year as part of a collaborative project at the Smithsonian Institute and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Chris has been invited to send films to the ImagiNative Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto.  One of these films, called ‘at the heart of it all,’ focuses on the Canadian government’s apology to First Nations.

Chris has a book of poetry forthcoming in the fall of 2009, published by Kegedonce Press and he has just finished recording a spoken word CD called 31 Confessions.  His digital art will be featured in an exhibition this winter at the Arnica Courthouse Gallery in Kamloops.

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