Jessica Yee: Non-Natives and the need to 'help'
"It’s no secret that many Native American reservations and Aboriginal territories seem like far off, remote, out of reach places to the general population and society. I suppose that when the mainstream news media does report about our communities it often suggests that these are all immensely impoverished, violence infested, alcohol and drug ravaged places that are surely in need of help and even rescue, at times. And I’m not saying that in some areas, this might actually be somewhat true. (Although I’m definitely not saying that every Native community is like that either – because that’s definitely not the truth and in several cases far from it).

I’m saying all of this because I’m trying to understand the phenomenon that has many non-Native people purposely going North, or going South, essentially going out of their way in general, it appears, to go and live in a Native community to “help” or to “help while working”. That is to say, there seems to be a shift in going to live in an Aboriginal territory, do your thing, and then leave. To clarify, I’m not talking about the cultural exchanges or instances where communities themselves are inviting people to contribute. This is where non-Aboriginal folks are seeking out positions or trying to create stuff that is far away from them, in the hopes of either “helping us” or “learning” , by trying to “show us the way” (and yes this kind of sounds all too familiar to the early days of colonization).

Case in point. I’m listening to CBC radio a few weeks back and there are two stories that really got me thinking about this whole phenomenon now. The first was called “Polar Prom”, about a high school in Igloolik, Nunavut that had their first prom this past summer to reward students for staying in school – headed up by three teachers from the South. It all sounds great, until they get to the part about how they are trying to tell kids to “stay in school” as opposed to going out hunting and fishing with their communities and Elders during the last month of school."

Get the Story:
Jessica Yee: Trying to understand the “help” phenomenon in Native communities (Racialicious 9/16)

Related Stories:
Jessica Yee: Being Native and pro-choice (6/22)