Poems

You’re better than that

A poem by Christina Ogilvie, Squamish Nation, Vancouver

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Densely built concrete houses with no trees inbetween.
The DTES Vancouver, ‘DownTown East Side’, our home; 
infamously and condescendingly referred to as the ‘Native Ghetto’.
This label is pinned to you, they think they have you figured out,
uneducated, lazy, impoverished with no talent to show.

Residential school syndrome, institutional racism, colonialism and culture loss 
leave our impressionable Aboriginal youth confused and lost for an identity.
As a result our youth identify with the term ‘Native Ghetto’ and behave 
in a manner that’s stereotypically so because they feel there is nothing else they can be.

As a result our Aboriginal youth, so beautiful, talented, and intelligent 
will then engage in drugging, drinking, violence and crime and passing up opportunity.
The psychological colonialism of this term ‘Native ghetto’ continues the job 
of the residential school system by removing our cultural identity.

As a result our culture is removed through our own violence and addiction, show them 
you are better than that; show them you are not just a hopeless ‘Indian’ in the ‘Native Ghetto’.
Educate yourself, live sober, fight for your rights, rise together, let’s make our ancestors proud 
and give them what they fought for; be the Aboriginal leaders of tomorrow.

Become the Aboriginal leaders in medicine, law, literature, or any area you wish, 
there are no limits, there is no place you cannot go.
Our ancestors survived all attempts of genocide, show them we won’t stop standing, 
won’t stop fighting, continue our ancestors’ strength and show society you are better than that, 
show you aren’t just a hopeless Indian in the ‘Native Ghetto’.

Christina is an Aboriginal poet from Vancouver, Canada. Thank you Christina for sharing your poem!

Homework

  • Which topics in her poem mirror issues in Australian Aboriginal culture?
  • What is the "Residential School syndrome"?
  • Do you think an Aboriginal youth from Canada could relate to an Aboriginal youth from Australia?
  • How could we prevent 'Native Ghettos' developing?

Read another one?

References

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Image credit: Caroline Hoos, sxc.hu, id #887315.

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, You’re better than that, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/arts/poems/youre-better-than-that>, retrieved 24 June 2019

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