|Carving by Lillooet artist Wilfred Dyck in my Kitsilano home|
When my New Dublin, Ontario wife Rosemary and our two Mexican-born daughters moved from Mexico City to Vancouver in 1975 I was perplexed by Mexicans that did not speak Spanish. It was then that this ignorant Argentine figured out that Red Indians were not so, and Indigenous Peoples from Tierra del Fuego to BC all looked the same.
I could not get a job as a photographer (I became one soon after) so I applied and started washing cars for Tilden-Rent-A-Car. As soon as I was promoted to counter clerk I had to answer the phone, “In Canada it’s Tilden.”
The first instructions I received were, “Do not rent a car to anybody with the surname of George or John.” When I insisted as to the why the answer was an obscene, “Because they are f….. Indians.”
A few days passed and a man with long hair came to the counter and said, “My name is Moving Rock and I want to rent a station wagon.” I determined then and there that I was going to rent him his chosen vehicle. After a few days the station wagon was found somewhere in Arizona and I was almost fired.
In the mid-70s there was a CBC program on Saturday afternoons called Our Native Land. Somehow we were often invited to go to parties on Saturdays so I would tune in to CBC Radio to listen to surprisingly good Country and Western music I had never heard before.
My first photo job in the city was to take station ID photos for the new French CBC TV Station. One day I came back and told my Rosemary, “I did not know that it is pronounced “newfun-land with emphasis on land”. I started feeling Canadian that day.
In my long years (about 8) of taking stills for CBC variety shows I noticed that I never saw an Indigenous person working even as a stagehand. The only “Indian” was the token one, Pat Smith, in Beachcombers.
My knowledge of Indigenous culture was next to nonexistent. I had seen my first totem pole outside one of the main train stations in Buenos Aires. Jorge Luís Borges criticized (in writing) on how Canadians could have possibly sent something like that to represent Canadian culture. In 1968 shortly after I married Rosemary I took her to Chapultepec Park where she saw her first totem. She told me that there were none to be seen where she lived or where she studied at Queens.
About 12 years ago I met modern dancer Byron Chief-Moon. I
saw him with Karen Jamieson and I was instantly attracted to a dancer that
blended conventional Indigenous dance with modern dance while wearing a
grey suit. Not too long ago this pioneer (are there more like him anywhere?)
disappeared into the interior. He should be reached and he should teach others.
|Byron Chief-Moon & Karen Jamieson|
I have always had a fondness and respect for CBC (both radio and TV). I believe that the most intelligent program on CBC Radio is The Debaters (up there with Ideas). Until Randy Bachman retired from his Vinyl Tap this was the program where I found the popular music I wanted to listen to filled with intelligent background information on the performers.
My fave classical program is trombonist Tom Allen’s About time. On Canada Day his program was dedicated to Indigenous Music. It was when I heard Thomas Sleeper's music - a trombone concerto recorded by Timothy Conner. The piece is called Translucence. Sleeper is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Now after many listenings I have a new favourite CBC Radio program called Reclaimed with Jarrett Martineau. Unlike some people who work for CBC Radio, Martineau has a fine voice and good diction.
But it is the music he plays that draws me in. It is one surprise after another. Some singers (all Indigenous American or Indigenous Canadian) sound a bit like Lou Reed and some like Janis Joplin. But they are all definitely original.
Driving home from Burnaby today in the afternoon I heard a whole hour of Reclaimed.
Thank you CBC! Thank you Jarrett Martineau.