Student Voices: “Well, you’re not like them” | Work of Arts
Student Voices: “Well, you’re not like them” | Work of Arts

Student Voices: “Well, you’re not like them”

Stereotypes prevent progress, says Indigenous student blogger

In the midst of midterms, emotional breakdowns, and achievements that I should be proud of, there is a lot of confusion. As an Indigenous student, sometimes I wonder what it is I’m doing here. Deep down I know: I want to help people like me.

Between the stereotypes and misinterpretations of my culture, I get tired. I get so, so tired. Tired of having to educate people on why my people are the way they are. Tired of having to not be offended when people say, “Wow, you’re actually in school. Good for you, at least you’re not like…” then they stop there. To which I reply, “Not like what?” And of course I’ll hear people saying, “Oh you know, not like other native people.”

But actually, I am.

I am no different than the Indigenous man who sleeps in the alleys outside my apartment building, asking for change and a smoke every now and again. I’m no different from the young Indigenous girl stuck in a cycle of alcoholism and depression due to intergenerational trauma. I am the same. I am no better than them.

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Tarene Thomas (bottom right) with friends on campus

Just because I’m in this ivory tower doesn’t take away the fact that I too hold the same traumas and oppression they do. Just because I’m in this ivory tower doesn’t take away the fact that I, too, battle with the exact same things that drive them to do what they do. The only difference is, I got lucky. Somehow the stars conspired to bring me here, which ultimately leaves me wondering… Why?

Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing?

I guess right now my job is to try and make sense of what’s going on in the world of academia. What’s going on inside the walls of the ivory tower? A whole lot of western colonial ideas are thrown through the air and are bottled in students’ ideologies. In my opinion, that is complete nonsense.

I feel that my job as an Indigenous scholar is to paint this ivory tower RED. I want there to be a point where not just students and faculty members, but all Canadians don’t have to make nonsensical judgments based on stereotypes about my people.

I feel that my job as an Indigenous scholar is to paint this ivory tower RED.

You see a drunk Indigenous man passed on the street? You know why? An entire race of people don’t just walk away unscathed from attempted genocide. Yes. I said it. Attempted genocide. And if you don’t know the history of what happened in your own backyard, then what do you really know?

So before you tell me, “Good job, you’re not like the rest,” please understand there are unthinkable hardships Indigenous people face today because of colonialism, because of attempted genocide and attempted assimilation.

Before you tell me “You’re not like them,” do your research on intergenerational trauma and oppression.

If you call them down, you’re calling me down, too.

 

Indigenous scholarship will be further discussed at next week’s event, “Truth and Reconciliation, Good Relations, and Indigenizing the Academy”. Please consider joining us!

 

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.


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About Tarene Thomas

Tarene Thomas

Tarene is a Gitxan, Tahltan, Haisla, and Nehiyaw fourth year English major focused on Indigenous Literature. She is a poet, writer, shameless scribbler, facilitator and actor. Tarene works as an instructional assistant for the transition year program at the U of A, and also as an Indigenous peer mentor for the Faculty of Arts. Tarene is interested in dismantling the system, and writing as revolution.