Beverley Diamond

“Re” Thinking: Revitalization, Return, and Reconciliation in Contemporary Indigenous Expressive Culture.

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Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Daniel Lafond

TO THE ARTS, CITIZENS! : Social Mediation through the Arts

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Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah

Society Matters: why should we value the Humanities?

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James Bartleman

Residential Schools: Have we forgotten our responsibility?

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Weaver, Johnson and Chuenpagdee

How Do We Build Resilient Communities in the Face of Climate Change?

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Gérard Bouchard and Graham Fraser

Pluralist Societies: what's their future?

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David Adams Richards

Threatened Identity: what do we lose when we lose the sense of place?

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Chief Shawn Atleo

First Nations Education: Can we afford to miss out?

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Antonine Maillet

Giving voice: Who speaks for the forgotten?

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Andrew Weaver, climatologist

How can Canadians keep their cool in a warming world?

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climate change panel
Photo by Jared Morrison

Lisa Nakamura on Race, Labor, and Indigeneity

Jared Morrison, Experience Congress 2011

In a preview of her presentation Race, Labour, and Indigeneity: The Birth of the New Media in the American West, Dr. Lisa Nakamura explains that while the Hippies were copying the Indians in the ‘70s, the Indians were building computers:

“I don’t think people think of Native Americans as working in the electronics industry,” says Nakamura, “because the history of this is not very well known.”

“Hippies fetishized technology as a tool for independence from mass culture; they wanted to build their own buildings, make their own clothes. So Hippies quickly became obsessed with Indians, imitating Indian culture as a centrally holistic counterculture – the Indians were already opposed to mass broadcasting, mass production of food, mass anything. But of course the Hippies didn’t include any actual Indians in their movement.

“All of a sudden there are these Hippie communes springing up in the American midwest, escaping traditional American capital, all of them based on Native American culture with absolutely no Indians involved – because the Indians were struggling to survive on their own Reservations.

“Meanwhile Indians were being used as workers in electronics factories opening on those Reservations, taking advantage of low labour costs, taking advantage of subsidies from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This resulted from the strong presence of Labor unions in the U.S. in the ‘70s, as Industry began looking to outsource. The thinking was that the Indians could be weaned off of government social assistance.

“The electronics factories were coming in and saying, ‘If we can’t get these dumb unions to cooperate and work for less money, we’ll find someone who will. And the Indians will.’ So American Indians were used as workers on these reservations because they couldn’t leave; they couldn’t go to another factory for a better rate, they couldn’t unionize, even during a time when American Industry was terrified of unions. In fact, this marked the beginning of the end for unions because of outsourcing to off-shore labour.

“Eventually the militant Indians kicked the factories out, but one has to wonder, could there have been a Silicon Valley in New Mexico? We don’t know what might have happened had those industries stayed in the U.S., rather than being outsourced to Japan. America undoubtedly lost an opportunity for self-sufficiency there.”

Dr. Lisa Nakamura is Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research and Media Studies Program, Professor of Asian American Studies, and Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Photo by Jared Morrison.


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