The Daily GRRR! - Oct. 13, 2014 - Your “Ugh, Monday Morning” Edition

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Welcome back to SoundFM! You are now listening to The Daily GRRR! live on the airwaves at 100.3fm, CKMS in Waterloo, Ontario, and SoundFM.ca on the web. This is Kathryn and I’ll be your host on this Monday morning show for October 13, 2014.

As always, we are broadcasting from the heart of the Haldimand Tract, the occupied Grand River Territory of the Six Nations, which we continue to recognize as Haudenosaunee land.

The Daily GRRR! is a project of the Grand River Media Collective and is supported by the Community Radio Fund of Canada and CKMS.

We will begin today with headlines:
The Daily GRRR!
HEADLINES for Oct. 13, 2014
1. Bellingham, WA, votes today on changing Columbus Day to Coast Salish Day!
2. National Coming Out Day inspires both celebration and critique
3. Winnipeg family files HR complaint against school mom bullying their trans daughter
4. Montreal police tell women not to take taxis alone to prevent more sexual assaults
5. Pinkwashing reaches new level of hypocrisy with pink drill bits “for the cure”
6. Billions of gallons of oil industry wastewater illegally dumped in CA aquifers
7. Revered bison return to Cherokee Nation for the first time in 40 years
8. #MMIW: No investigation into disappearance of award-winning indigenous actress

1. Bellingham, WA, votes today on changing Columbus Day to Coast Salish Day!

As reported by West Coast Native News, the city council of Bellingham, Washington, is set to vote later today on a resolution to officially change Columbus Day, the second Monday of October, to Coast Salish Day. Roxanne Murphy, who drafted the resolution, has explained her grounds for doing so in the form of a question: “Why do we celebrate an individual [Columbus] when so many bad things happened because of what he did?”

As it is, there are several states in the US that don’t celebrate Columbus Day, which set a precedent for Bellingham to opt out as well. Additionally, research has shown that Coast Salish Tribes -- including the Nooksack Indian Tribe and the Lummi Nation -- have lived and worked in Bellingham and surrounding areas since time immemorial. This is the history that Murphy and others seek to commemorate now, instead of the Italian explorer whose misguided voyage inaugurated the colonization of this continent and all its subsequent horrors. According to the press release on this critical vote:

“Now is a time where we can start to help set historical records straight, and create a holiday that celebrates both the Nooksack Indian Tribe and the Lummi Nation. This proposal would also pair perfectly with Washington State House Bill 1495, which requires that Tribal history is taught in our school districts. The hope is that all future second Mondays in October will include an event to raise Tribal flags at Bellingham City Hall, speeches from Tribal leaders and Bellingham leaders, and possibly other traditions that the Tribes may wish to offer, which could foster improved cultural connections. Most fundamentally, the dream is that all future Coast Salish Days will remove any previous negativity from the former holiday and institute a day of celebration, culture, healing and respect.”

2. National Coming Out Day inspires both celebration and critique

Although it originated in the United States, October 11 is recognized in many other countries as well -- like Canada, Germany, Croatia Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom -- as National Coming Out Day. It was founded in October 1988 to celebrate individuals who publicly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. As commented by Preston Mitchum in an article on the subject for The Atlantic, “This October 11 will again be a day cheering authenticity and bravery. And it’s an event I have mixed feelings about.”

His well-reasoned musings on the subject continue as follows:

“On the one hand, it takes courage to publicly identify as LGBT. Who wouldn’t commend individuals who openly share their internal selves with the external world knowing they can receive backlash? But while I, too, applaud the authenticity inherent in the act of coming out, the experience is not for everyone. The danger in over-emphasizing coming out is that the act, at least in the short term, benefits the group sometimes more than the individual. ...When making a public declaration about one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, some LGBT individuals receive an immediate celebration for displaying courage and strength. On the other hand, some testimonies are not warmly received, as illustrated by the countless stories highlighting workplace discrimination, family rejection leading to homelessness, physical violence (particularly against black trans women and gender-nonconforming men), and unfair criminalization of black LGBT youth.

“I can appreciate the power of unapologetically owning your identity, but a coming out conversation without considerations of these phobias, including the antagonism that flows therefrom, and the lack of potential safety nets, is not a conversation worth having. Certainly no one should be forced to come out. Our personal journeys are just that: personal. The last thing a closeted LGBT individual needs, faced with a hostile social environment, is to feel like those individuals most accepting of his or her identity won’t support him or her unless that identity is publicly proclaimed. Whatever decision an LGBT individual makes about coming out, be there to support and encourage them—even if their decision does not align with popular political imperatives—on NCOD and everyday thereafter.”

3. Winnipeg family files HR complaint against school mom bullying their trans daughter

As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, the Burgos family and their daughter Isabella, who is in grade 3, have been the target of a bullying campaign by the mother of one of Isabella’s classmates. After appealing to Isabella’s school to no avail, her parents have now filed formal police and human rights complaints, citing the school district for its failure to act on the issue after it was raised to them.

"This is where we're shocked: Why did it get to this, to go to the police?" said Isabella’s mother, Izzy Burgos. She and her husband, Dale Burgos, filed the complaints after a month of incidents in which the woman, the mother of another student, allegedly confronted her, her daughter, her son and other parents. As Burgos explained, "[The woman has] been talking to everyone in the community and she says she feels bad, but I don't believe that because she's still doing it.”

Apparently, the original issue was which bathroom 8-year-old Isabella could use, but it's since turned into a campaign over the issue of transgender individuals, with the offending woman lobbying other parents with transgender prejudice outside of school. As Izzy Burgos explained, "My daughter is transgender. She's out and she's proud. It's hard. The community loves her. Her school loves her and the other students love her. [And then] one parent can do this, can make her want to hide? I don't think this woman is even aware of the damage she's doing.” Isabella laments losing her friendship with the woman’s daughter, a fellow classmate in grade 3 at her elementary school.

Although none of the other students have bullied her for her gender presentation, she has admitted that going to school is now getting harder because of the publicity around her case. "A lot of people have seen me on TV,” she said, “and they're asking me questions, like 'Why are you a girl now?' For an adult to subject a child to this kind of harassment is cruel and unconscionable, and the school district has finally begun taking action by setting up an education seminar with the Rainbow Resource centre, as well as enforcing a policy for the district’s numerous transgender students to be able to use a gender-neutral washroom in their schools. Unfortunately, in lights of comments made by the district superintendent, it appears that the district is only doing so to appease the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in advance of their decision, rather than out of true interest in the wellbeing of their students.

4. Montreal police tell women not to take taxis alone to prevent more sexual assaults

After a report was issued about a young woman being assaulted in a cab, by the driver, last weekend in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood of Montreal, four more women came forward to recount similar experiences. Although the police attest that they are looking for leads, what is problematic about their treatment of this phenomenon is how they have instructed the women of Montreal to attempt to prevent their own potential assaults.

According to the Montreal Gazette, the provincial police have said that women should try to not take taxis alone, and to “limit their alcohol consumption and stay in control.” In the words of the Montreal Blog, “If you see a problem with this, then congratulations, you are a sensible person.” And in case you don’t see the problems with this, let me clue you in. Beyond the ridiculous suggestion that women travel in perpetual twosomes or else altogether avoid taxis, which may be some women’s only transportation option due to accessibility concerns, this police “guidance” borders on pre-emptive victim-blaming. It puts the responsibility on women themselves to not be sexually assaulted in such circumstances, in the same poisonous vein as saying that a woman is “asking for it” by wearing a short skirt. As the Montreal Blog concluded, “Instead of giving almost useless advice, the [provincial police] should be ensuring the safety of taxi passengers and preventing any future sexual assaults.” To do so, they suggest the institution of background checks for cab drivers, which had apparently already been planned for by the province’s transport minister prior to the recent attacks. We’ll see if this prompts them to now follow through on their promise.

5. Pinkwashing reaches new level of hypocrisy with pink drill bits “for the cure”

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the foundation known for “painting everything pink” and hawking breast cancer research claims for capitalist gains in virtually all consumer markets, has just partnered with Baker Hughes, a major American drilling services company. Their new gimmick is to produce one thousand pink drill bits this month, which will be used for extracting further fossil fuels in all their toxic, carcinogenic glory, particularly through fracking for natural gas deposits. And yet, to quote Salon.com, “The oilfields giant, which also donated $100,000 to the [Susan G. Komen] foundation, boasts that it’s ‘doing our “bit” for the cure.’ Get it? It’s a pun. A horribly misguided, pinkwashing attempt at a pun.”

According to a deliciously sardonic press release issued by the social justice oriented, not-for-profit organization Breast Cancer Action, “Breast Cancer Action today thanked Susan G. Komen and Baker Hughes for partnering on the most ludicrous piece of pink sh*t they’ve seen all year – 1,000 shiny pink drill bits. BCAction hailed this partnership as the most egregious example of “pinkwashing” they’ve ever seen and heartily lauded Komen and Baker Hughes for doing their bit to increase women’s risk of breast cancer with their toxic fracking chemicals. BCAction commended Baker Hughes and Komen for their ingenious pinkwashing profit cycle, whereby Baker Hughes helps fuel breast cancer while Komen raises millions of dollars to try to cure it.”

6. Billions of gallons of oil industry wastewater illegally dumped in CA aquifers

As reported by DeSmogBlog.com, “After California state regulators shut down 11 fracking wastewater injection wells last July over concerns that the wastewater might have contaminated aquifers used for drinking water and farm irrigation, the EPA ordered a report within 60 days.

“It was revealed yesterday that the California State Water Resources Board has sent a letter to the EPA confirming that at least nine of those sites were in fact dumping wastewater contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants into aquifers protected by state law and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The letter...reveals that nearly 3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into central California aquifers and that half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.

“Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, says these chemicals could pose a serious risk to public health: ‘The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.’
The full extent of the contamination is not yet known. Regulators at the State Water Resources Board said that as many as 19 other injection wells could have been contaminating protected aquifers, and the Central Valley Water Board has so far only tested 8 of the nearly 100 nearby water wells.”

Although California seems like a world away from us here in southern Ontario, the relevance of this story lies not only in our shared continental environment but also in its demonstration of the dangers inherent to fracking for natural gas deposits wherever they naturally lie. Although one could argue that the pollution of freshwater aquifers is an avoidable danger, the unavoidable reality is that the wastewater from this fossil fuel extraction has to go somewhere and it’s going to pollute our ecosystems in one place or another -- if we permit these companies to continue on with business as usual.

7. #MMIW: No investigation into disappearance of award-winning indigenous actress

As reported by Indian Country Today Media Network, indigenous actress Misty Upham is missing and is unfortunately feared to have committed suicide, according to her father, Charles Upham. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, he described his daughter’s recent behaviour as “erratic” following a change in medication she was taking and said their last conversation left him terribly worried: “She told me and her mom that we didn’t have to worry about her anymore. I thought it sounded suicidal myself, so I called the police.”

And yet the police have not investigated Misty’s disappearance, even despite a history of suicide calls, including one made a week ago, on the last day she was seen on the Muckleshot Reservation where she lives with her parents. According to Indian Country Today Media Network, although Washington police have confirmed that she has been reported missing, her case apparently does not meet the criteria of “unexplainable, involuntary or suspicious” that would warrant a search. But although her father is hoping for the best, the public is being asked to help with any sightings or information they may have about Misty’s whereabouts. As with countless other cases of missing indigenous women, this call for support is being circulated widely, but not just through the usual social media channels. Media magazines, websites, tabloids, and other entertainment publications have been posting actively about Misty’s case, and yet even with her film career and celebrity networks -- as well as compelling evidence that her life may be at risk -- the authorities have refused to investigate her disappearance, as they have with many other missing indigenous women, far too many of whom have died as a result. But you can just bet that if Jennifer Aniston or Anna Kendrick -- co-stars in Misty’s upcoming film “Cake” -- had disappeared for a week and were feared to be in harm’s way, cops across the country would jump at the chance to investigate.

8. Revered bison return to Cherokee Nation for the first time in 40 years

As reported by NativeNewsOnline.net, after a four-decade-long absence from their traditional land, the Cherokee Nation is thrilled to welcome a herd of bison back onto their homelands in so-called Delaware County, Oklahoma. This joyous occasion comes after the Cherokee Nation spent nearly two years working with the InterTribal Buffalo Council to gain custody of some of the surplus bison that become available every year from herds cultivated in the country’s national parks.

The tribe held a welcoming blessing for the animals at their arrival. Cherokee people have a long, deep connection and history with bison as a source of food, tools and clothing and in traditional ceremonies. “For most of us, the American bison symbolizes our great country -- free, strong and resilient. Those are the traits we identify in ourselves as Indian people,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “That’s why the bison has always represented something deeply spiritual to our tribal ancestors and why it’s important for us to reintroduce bison within our homelands. Today, we are able to reconnect the Cherokee Nation with a prominent part of our history and our cultural roots.”

Midway Music: Fly by Lorenzo and Wab Kinew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAWqBgyoemQ

Article: “Ignoring Colonialism Doesn’t Make It Go Away” by Pamela Dungao for Velociriot
Article: “Decolonize the Holidays: An Alternative to Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving” by Rachael Stoeve for Yes! Magazine

Closing Song: Spring To Come by Digging Roots

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