Aired May 6, 2020
GORDON KATIC: Quick note on language before we get going -- You’re going to hear us use the term “Indian” in reference to Indigneous people. This story we’re about to tell you is set in the ‘60s. And when we use that term, we use it because that was the political context. We’ll be quoting government documents, and talking about government departments that use the term “Indian.”
Woman’s Voice: People had so much anger. You know, why? We hadn’t done anything wrong
GORDON: I’m Gordon Katic.
POLLY: And I’m Polly Leger.
GORDON: This is Cited.
GORDON: How do we tell the people who we are? We say...
POLLY: Yeah, because they haven’t heard my dulcet tones before.
GORDON: No, they haven’t. Who are you exactly [laughs]?
POLLY: My name’s Polly. I’m a new producer on the show, and I- uh, yeah, thrilled to be here.
GORDON: Welcome, Polly, Welcome. I’m very excited for this story, which is sort of about a big Canadian event. And one of the things, before we talk about the event that you’re going to talk about, I want to say -- I think that what non-Canadians, like what Americans don’t know about Canadians, is that we’re the most embarrassing people in the world.
GORDON: If there’s ever an opportunity for us to create something totally cringe-worthy--
POLLY: Oh, we’re going to do it.
GORDON: We’ll do it.
POLLY: And we’ll love it. We will love it. Like the opening of the Skydome in Toronto, which is like our big stadium in Toronto … whew! Incredible.
Singing: Welcome to Skydome, the world’s largest retractable-ceiling, multipurpose, 8-acre, 30-storey-high-dome. Skydome….
GORDON: I mean how many songs can you write that are roof-based? I don’t know. BUt they managed to write a few.
POLLY: [Laughs] How many dances can you coreograph that are about a roof opening?
GORDON: And then, in the middle of it, the roof malfunctioned and it rained on them and they couldn’t close it. So the whole friggin point of, okay, we’ve got this fancy new technology -- The other thing, it’s always like about the future.
POLLY: Oh, we love the future.
GORDON: So we’ve got the Skydome. At Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, we’ve got the Sky Train, the Space Tower…
POLLY: Sky Train, “Something’s happenin’ here”.
GORDON: A geodesic dome…
POLLY: Geodesic domes have been a staple of Expos around the world
[80s space music] It’s all the way up on Space Tower, and a free-fall ride to the bottom…
GORDON: There’s also Calgary ‘88.
[Marching band horns]
GORDON: Oh yeah. Oh yeah yeah yeah. No, this is good [laughs]. So you’ve got this marching band, they’re wearing… because it’s clearly really cold, so they’re wearing like, full jumpsuit-type things with tassels coming off of it.
POLLY: [Reacting to video] -- oh my God… the sequins and fringe. Oh my God, the fringe! And there’s like an.. Inflatable dinosaur? -- Oh, because there’s dinosaurs in… okay. Now I get the reference. But there’s people in chicken dinosaur costumes, who are dancing? And they just came out of a huge egg?
GORDON: There’s a lasso... Okay, go up to like, 1:49, You’ve got Indigneous people on horseback.
POLLY: So people are wearing regalia.
ANNOUNCER: It’s Indians, stage coaches, horses, lassos, and the acrobatics that go with them
POLLY: Ew, unfortunate. Okay. How much in these openings, or in these big, rah-rah jingoistic events are you including Indignous people the way they want to be seen, or not? Are you including them as like a party favour through the lens that you want to see them? Does that make sense?
GORDON: Right. What’s the story of those Indigenous people that are there? Did they agree to this? Why did they agree to this? What say did they have in how they were portrayed?
POLLY: What do they want to say themselves? What did the larger apparatus keep them from saying, you know? And that is exactly what this documentary is about.
GORDON: Oh, what a coincidence, the thing we were talking about… [laughter]
MUSIC: CANADA SONG- BOBBY GRIMSBY
POLLY: This story starts with one of the biggest events Canada has ever hosted -- the 1967 World Fair. Basically, a fair, or Expo… it’s sort of a trade show. But they are a lot lot more than that. It’s a place where countries can show off how they want to be seen by the rest of the world.
GORDON: And this is especially true for Expo 67 in Montreal, Quebec.
POLLY: Because Expo ‘67 was a birthday party! It was the centrepiece of Canada’s 100th anniversary celebrations.
GORDON: It was a chance for Canada to shed its country bumpkin image. To really shine on the world stage. No longer would Canada be seen as a cold hinterland -- it wanted to be seen as exciting -- powerful -- progressive!
ARCHIVAL: The metropolis of the world!
POLLY: And no expense was spared -- it cost 280 million dollars -- that’s 2 billion dollars in Canadian currency today.
GORDON: That’s nearly double what the Olympics cost in Mexico City a year later
ARCHIVAL: Montreal, to the whole world, Canada says “Come to the fair!” Expo 67, the greatest trade exhibition in history, is open.
POLLY: People could not get enough! This song you’ve been hearing? It was the number one song in the country.
Even The Ed Sullivan Show even broadcast from the fairgrounds.
Announcer: The Ed Sullivan Show!
Ed Sullivan: Opening our Expo show, we have something for the youngsters . Australia’s talented recording combination, The Seekers!
GORDON: By the time it closed, 50 million people had visited Expo. Only 20 million people lived in Canada at the time.
POLLY: Expo was full of pavilions showcasing different countries, and different regions of Canada.
GORDON: But there was one pavilion that had a distinctly different feel to it.
Announcer 1: … The inverted pyramid of Canada. And on this side of it, the Wigwam, the stylized tipi of the Indians of Canada.
Announcer 2: A very open and breezy and airy pavilion it is, with the main structure being built in the form of a tipi
POLLY: The Indians of Canada Pavilion.
It was a 100-foot tall glass and steel tipi... And unlike the other pavilions, it wasn’t celebrating a country. It was questioning one. The Pavillion challenged Canada’s national creation myth.
GORDON: The story of the Pavillion is an unusual glimpse into how public history is made. Normally, you’d think that the state and their hand-picked historians just put these kinds of things together. But that’s not exactly what happened here. Canada let a different kind of historical expert take part: actual Indigenous people. But what happens when the state gives power to those its oppressed? And just how much are they really willing to give?
CBC ARCHIVAL: Montreal is generally known for its attractive women, but this year, the situation has become ridiculous. Aside from the local lovelies, there’s Expo, with its hostesses from Canada and 60 other nations...
POLLY: Expo was staffed by hostesses -- who, as you just heard -- were mostly beautiful young women. They acted as a kind of ambassadors slash tour guides.
Barabara Wilson: Hi, My name is Barbara Wilson, my Haida name is Ḵii'iljuus, and I’m one of 13 girls who worked at Expo ‘67, Indians of Canada pavilion
POLLY : Barbara’s in her 70s now. She showed me a picture from her 76th birthday, when she went surfing with her daughters. The only thing you can see peeking out of the hood of her wetsuit is this huge grin.
She still lives in Haida Gwaii, an island off of the west coast of British Columbia. That’s where she grew up.
Barbara: I quit school in grade 11, and I came to Vancouver and got a job.
POLLY: By the time Barbara’s in her early 20s, she’s working odd jobs in Vancouver while going back to college. She wants to be a science teacher. Then she hears about a summer gig.
Barbara: My Dad phoned and asked me if I wanted to go to Montreal. [laughs] I didn’t even know where Montreal was at that point, but I said yes, I thought my dad was going to send me. And he told me to go down to the Department of Indian affairs and apply for this job at Expo 67. I didn’t know what Expo 67 was.
GORDON: The Government was seeking women over 18 to work at the Pavilion -- and the job had nice perks. Dental, paid vacation. And the promise of cultural activities in the city. All you had to do was fill out an application, and submit your photo.
POLLY: It sounded like it could be fun. A summer in Montreal? Why not!
So Barbara applies. And she makes it-- beating out hundreds of other women.
As 1967 kicks off, Barbara travels to Montreal for training.
MUSIC: Marc Gelinas- Beinvenue a Montreal
POLLY: At 23, she’s one of the oldest hostesses selected.
Barbara: So it was January, it was cold and slushy. Very grey, dirty snow, which I wasn’t used to.
POLLY: Barbara and the 12 other young Indingeous women had to get extensive training. Because these women were going to be the face of the Pavilion.They had to be modern, beautiful, and, of course, non-threatening.
Barbara: We did French immersion for three months. We did history, modelling, makeup. We actually had to sit down and learn how to use forks, knives and spoons.
Polly: Wait, so they thought that this cohort of grown women needed to be taught how to use forks, knives and spoons?
Barbara: Of course. They didn’t know where we were going to go, what if we went to an official thing and didn’t know how to copy somebody or whatever, you know? [laughs] Yeah.
POLLY: Barbara and the other hostestesses had to do way more training than the women at other pavilions.
When you read between the lines, you can see that the government that hired Barbara didn’t think Indigenous women were cultured enough to interact with the public.
GORDON: But there’s another reason these women had to do so training -- The government wanted to be sure of the message that was being put out at the Indians of Canada Pavilion.
POLLY: The Department gave Barbara and the other hostesses a little booklet that outlined what they were supposed to tell the public. It was the story of Indigneous Canada-- or at least, a version of it.
Barbara: That little booklet that I conveniently left behind, we were supposed to learn that. I didn’t.
Polly: Why not?
Barbara: Because I felt that there was another history. I looked at the things, all the things we didn’t talk about… you know?
POLLY: That little booklet is an amazing document. Both for what it says, and for what it doesn’t. So I’m going to tell you the story of who wrote it, and who gave it to Barbara.
GORDON: First, a bit of context.
In Canada, the federal government controls much of what First Nations can and cannot do. They do this through The Department of Indian Affairs. Now, it’s not called that any more, it’s changed its name, but that’s what it was called then.
POLLY: In the mid-60s, the head of Indian Affairs is this guy Arthur Laing.
He definitely has “Father knows best” approach with Indigineous people. In a letter to a colleague, he wrote:
“The prime condition in the progress of the Indian people must be the development by themselves of a desire for the goals which we think they should want."
Barbara only met him once…. But she isn’t a fan.
Barbara: He was a slug. I have pictures of me standing beside him. And he had his hand on my back. And he was rubbing it up and down and I was trying to smile while we were having these pictures taken. That was my experience.
GORDON: Indian Affairs had long tried to assimilate Indigneous people.
But then came the 60s. The civil rights movement was active in the United States. And the British Empire was decolonizing. Times were changing. Canada had to do the same. So it gave some Indigneous groups basic civil rights. Like the right to vote, the right to hire a lawyer, and the right to practise cultural traditions that have long been banned.
POLLY: So Expo 67 comes around -- And the department is struggling to figure out what to do. There’s a flurry of internal memos about it. One warns that ignoring Indigenous voices would be, quote: “politically unthinkable.” So they get an idea: why don’t we create an Indians of Canada Pavilion?
It would showcase just how progressive Canada has become-- but they aren’t even sure Indigenous people will be interested.
Another memo says, quote: “Indians do not seem to have caught the pride of belonging to Canadian society, nor the enthusiasm for contributing to its national enrichment.”
So they come up with a plan, and it starts with this guy named Bob.
Robin Marjoribanks: Ah, my father, Robert Marjoribanks, was one of the people involved in the production, and he’s the guy who wrote the storyline in the end.
POLLY: This is Robin Marjoribanks, Bob’s son.
Robin: So the whole path, the whole narrative that you get from the time you go into the pavilion until you finally leave, was something that he helped put together.
POLLY: Bob is a white guy, a Scottish immigrant who grew up in Toronto. He’s working as a freelance journalist.
Polly: Did he know a lot of Indigenous people before he did this project, do you think?
Robin: I doubt that he did, I can't think how. He liked the outdoors and I'm sure he had an awareness, and I think that in the culture he grew up, he’d be aware of all kinds of bits and pieces of things. But I think that what he would have been aware of would always have have been processed through someone else’s interpretation, and through popular culture one way or the other.
POLLY: Most of what I learned about Bob, I found in his unpublished memoirs.
Indian Affairs asked him to figure out what should be in the Pavilion’s actual exhibit -- what it should say. And what the marketing plan should be. Here’s Robin, reading his Dad’s account of what he told Indian Affairs:
Robin: You need a storyline. And that has to be the story that's being told inside the pavilion. And the main emphasis was that the Pavilion should be an Indian statement, not a white man's notion of what will be romantic. And that it should be seen to be an Indian statement.
POLLY: That’s what Bob tells the department: Let Indigenous people speak for themselves.
And then the guy he’s speaking with turns back to Bob and asks:
Robin: Well, how about you write the storyline? And my dad is-- Well, no, I would just kind of getting the big picture for you here. I didn't have it in mind to you know, do this in addition. And he says, well no, what would it take for you to do the storyline? And so my dad said, here it would be my terms: I want to go and consult freely, as much as I think is necessary with different people in different communities all across the country and figure out -- it’s your pavilion, what to you want to say? What’s the message?
GORDON: This is one of the first times in Canada that anyone has asked to do this … to actually meet and speak with Indigenous communities before making an exhibit about them.It was not done in the 1960s. Not by historians, or even by journalists.
POLLY: I’m not sure why Bob insisted on involving Indigenous voices-- but regardless, he got his way.
POLLY: So Bob has a mission. Meet with Indigenous people across the country, and turn what they say into a storyline. Which will becomes that booklet that Barbara has.
He’s going on a cross-Canada trip to meet Indigenous communities-- which is a huge undertaking. So he needs a partner.
Andrew: Hey, my name is Andrew, Tonahokate Deslile. Tonahokate means shooting the rapids, writing the rough water if you want to use that term, which is what I did most of my life, right, rough waters!
POLLY: Andrew is a Mohawk Grand Chief, from Kahnawake-- a Nation right across the river from Montreal. He’s also the official head of the Indians of Canada Pavilion -- and he’s going to be Bob’s guide on this journey.
A few years before Andrew died, he sat down with grad student Romney Copeman, who lent me his tape. As the interview starts, Andrew makes his terms for speaking with Romney extremely clear.
Andrew: If I talk about my history, I don't want anybody interfering, and saying well this book said this, this book said that. It’s my history, I’m telling it. That’s the one I’m telling. Take it or leave it, you know what I’m saying?
POLLY: That ethos…. it could pretty much sum up the trip he and Bob were about to go on.
GORDON: In every place they visit, they ask the same question: “What do you want to tell the people of Canada, and the world, at Expo 67”
POLLY: Again, Here’s Bob’s son, Robin. He’s reading from his dad’s memoir:
Robin: I remember the meeting in Montreal when a young excited chief was cataloguing the white man’s sins. ‘They stole our land, they’re alienating our children. They’re destroying the environment’…. At this point, he turned towards me and explained apologetically.. ‘I don’t mean Bob.’ ”
GORDON: They’re unlikely allies-- this Mohawk Chief and a journalist who didn’t even know any Indigenous people. But Andy-- that’s what everyone calls Andrew -- Andy vouches for Bob. He brings him into places Bob’s never been before.
POLLY: And they become friends.
At the end of a typical day, everyone would go back to a hotel room and relax:
Robin: Basically break out a case of beer at the end of the day. pPeople would take the metal wastebasket and turn it upside down to use as a drum. And then each person in turn would sing something from their community, basically,, something in their own language.
MUSIC Kontiwennenhawi- Akwesasne Women Singers: The Four Messengers
One night, when it was Andy Delilse turn, someone called out “sing us a lullaby”. Andy began to drum and to sing, and as I turned to look at him, I was surprised to see the tears rolling down his cheeks. He wiped them away with the back of his hand, and said “It reminds me of my dad.”
When my turn came to sing, I offered for a heartfelt rendition of a Scottish song, a favorite in Glasgow pubs. “I belonged to Glasgow, dear old Glasgowtown”, which was warmly received by a slightly bewildered audience.
MUSIC: Andy Stewart- I belong to Glasgow
GORDON: What’s happening here may sound pretty straight-forward to you. But it’s actually pretty radical: the very simple thing of just listening. Today, that’s regular practice. When you make something about Indigenous people, you talk with them. It’s called consultation.
But the kind of consultation that Bob and Andy were doing, it’s the first of its kind.
POLLY: But there are limits…. Because when you filter Indigenous voices through somebody, a lot can get lost. I’m sure that’s happening in this podcast… But for Bob, it certainly seems to be the case.
POLLY: You have to remember, Bob and Andy were on a mission from the government. The same government had had a policy of cultural genocide for a hundred years.
I don’t have very detailed records from Bob and Andy’s trip, so I don’t know what people said, or what they were comfortable saying in those meetings.
Did they tell Bob about government policies of forced relocations? Starvation campaigns? Being used as medical experiments? Kids being taken away from their homes?
GORDON: These weren’t distant memories -- these things were happening to Indigneous communities in the 60s-- While Bob and Andy were on their trip.
One of the key parts in that policy of cultural genocide was residential schools. The government would take Indigenous kids from their families and force them to go to church-run schools. It was a state assimilation policy.
Barbara: I had been at residential school. And while I was there I was told that, you know, I was never going to amount to anything, and that I was going to be a clerk.
POLLY: Barbara spent her teens at residential school. That’s why she dropped out in grade 11. She remembers beatings. She remembers being separated from her brother.
Once, she had to scrub a staircase with a toothbrush. Over and over again. For a month. This was her punishment for wearing an outfit that her mother had sent her.
She says that the legacy is still something she grapples with, more than 60 years later.
Barbara: There were thousands of young people taken away from their parents, anywhere from age 3-4, up until they were 16. You know, think about that. How do you learn to be a good sister? How do you learn how to be eventually a mother? A father. All those phases of life that you should have experienced and learned from as a child, as a young teenager, we missed.
GORDON: Canada is only just starting to reckon with this history. There was a Truth and Reconciliation commission that wrapped up in 2015. It was led by Senator Gordon Sinclair.
Gordon Sinclair: Seven generations of children went through the residential schools and each of those children who were educated were told that their lives were not as good as the lives of the non-aboriginal people of this country.
GORDON: The residential school system was full of physical violence and abuse…
NEWS CLIP: The names of 2,800 names of children who died in Residential schools were released at an emotional ceremony…
NEWS CLIP 2: Survivors remember beatings. Rape. torture.
GORDON: One judge said the system was “ nothing more than institutionalized pedophilia”.
Gordon Sinclair: And this nation must never forget what it once did to its most vulnerable people.
GORDON: Here’s the thing though-- it wasn’t a secret. If you look at the historical record, you can find government reports documenting the horrible conditions. You can find them as early as 1907.
So if non-Indigenous Canadians were ignorant of residential schools, it’s because their ignorance was produced.
The media portrayed the schools as wholesome places, where kids were taught how to be like White Canadians.
[Sounds of children singing 12 days of Christmas]
GORDON: This 1962 CBC story follows kids at a B.C. Residential school. It’s Christmastime.
Nun: Don’t put your hands by your face. Let me see how many can put their hands on their desk niceley. That’s nice, it looks better that way, very much better. Is everyone ready to hear a nice story about Christmas?
Teacher: I’ll ask you all to think back on your lesson once again on telephone conversation manners. Can you tell me some of the points that you should remember when you are using the telephone?
GORDON: The media just wasn’t telling the sort of stories you’ve heard from Barbara.
ARCHIVAL INTERVIEW: “BECAUSE THEY ARE DIFFERENT”
Man 1 : I think there’s too much welfare.
Man 2: Too much freedom
GORDON: This is a 1964 documentary. The filmmakers are talking to white Canadians. They ask them, what do you think about Indigneous people?
Man 1: It’s just like unemployment insurance with some class of our white men. They just get too much money and it spoils them. It's about time they got out and started to work as men and women, and not sit around on street corners, as they do here.
GORDON: If the Indians of Canada Pavilion would talk about the country’s violent colonial history, then it would be the first time most Canadians would hear about it.
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GORDON: While Bob and Andy were figuring out the storyline, there were other matters to figure out too. Like, what would the pavilion look like?
POLLY: The government put together a council of nine Indigenous leaders. These men were supposed to bring some kind of Indigenous authority and insight to the project. But one council member later said the Department never had any intention of listening to what they had to say. They often gave the council few options. For example, the pavilion’s design -- that giant tipi-- the Department chose that without any real input from the council.
GORDON: So Polly, do you think the Indigenous advisory council had any real say?
POLLY: Well I wouldn’t say that. The council really did manage to push back on the process. They managed to shape it in their own way.
The Department chose the pavilion’s overall design but Indigneous artisans brought it to life. Mohawk steelworkers built it.. Kwakwaka’wakw carvers created a 75-foot totem pole outside the entrance. Denesuline artist Alex Janvier, and other Indigenous painters, covered the pavilion's outer buildings in murals. And Mohawk peacekeepers ran security around the grounds.
GORDON: So back to the storyline -- what kind of storyline did Bob come up with, after his trip?
POLLY: Well, with some help from Bob’s memoirs, and a journalist’s visit to the pavilion, here’s part of what the storyline sounded like:
Robin: At the base of the tower was a circular exhibit area depicting the storyline chapter by chapter, the wilderness, the coming of the Europeans, the wars and treaties, the reserves, relations with the government and the church.
CBC RADIO: In another section, that of course, white men got together and fought over the land, they fought for the land that did belong to the Indians and the Indians were of course, embroiled in the White Man’s wars. And here in the pavilion they tell us that many Indians feel that their fathers were betrayed, and we see on the walls here now…
Robin: the struggle to preserve the Indian identity and culture while adapting to modern civilization
CBC RADIO: The Indian child, when he first goes to school has to learn a new language, sometimes 2, and quite often he has been forbidden to speak his own Indian language. In the schools, he doesn’t learn anything about his history, his ancestors, or his traditions.
CBC RADIO: There’s one little inscription on the wall here, that says “The sun and the moon mark passing time in the Indian home. At school, minutes are important, and we jump to the bell”
Robin: As they were leaving the pavilion visitors found a realistic depiction of a campfire. This I remember.
Voices were saying goodbye in the many Indian languages. I remember that in particular. They were invited to sit before leaving.
The storyline then went:
“Sit now by the fire and rest my brother
We will talk of the days to come. You have followed our long trail for many years from the days of our fathers. Let us look into the fire for a vision of the days ahead.
Some of my people see in the dark coals a world where the Indian is a half remembered thing, and the ways of the old men are forgotten. But I see another vision.
I see an Indian tall and strong in the pride of his heritage. He stands with your son, a man among men. The voices you hear about you are bidding you farewell in the many tongues of my people.
The trail we walk is our own, and we bear our own burdens. That is our right.
When we reach the level ground, we will camp together, you and I.
Until that time, walk with us in your heart.
POLLY: This is now the history of more than 600 First Nations in Canada -- sponsored by the government, and to be shown to millions.
GORDON: But doesn’t this sound kind of 1960s kumbaya feeling?
POLLY: Right? The Pavilion didn’t go that far in describing the horrors facing Indigenous communities at the time-- or the government’s role in those horrors. But it went further than you might have expected, because for most Canadians it would have been the first time hearing about this history at all. Bob says the Indian Advisory Council -- the one set up by the Department-- it only asks for minor changes.
GORDON: But Bob still needs to take the storyline to the government for final approval. Here’s how he describes it in his memoir:
Robin: As a courtesy, I took a storyline to the Deputy Minister. I believe he was relieved to see that he was not being scalped.
POLLY: It’s shocking to hear Bob use such a racist, violent term -- this stereotype of Indigenous savagery--- he’s not as woke as he thinks he is.
But I guess what he means is that he’s surprised the department isn’t more upset by the critiques in the storyline. The government is actually expecting something much worse. But even still, the Deputy Minister isn’t fully sold.
Robin: He wasn't convinced about all this, quote, “love and friendship nonsense”. “ Is that all historically correct?” he asked. “Some of these fellows were pretty brutal. What if an anthropologist from the university Toronto visits the pavilion and says this was all bullshit.”
GORDON: So The government was worried that the pavilion wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny of their kind of experts. The credentialized white anthropologist, from a place like the University of Toronto. In other words: Indigenous people couldn’t be experts of their own story -- they’re just too biased. They’re not to be trusted.
POLLY: Then Bob responds:
Robin: We're not building an anthropologist pavilion, I told him, this is supposed to be an Indian pavilion, and this is what the Indians want to say.
POLLY: At the end of the day - the government approves the script.
GORDON: This would be the first time that Indigenous people have had this kind of presence at a world's fair. In the past they’d been displayed as objects or entertainers. The pavilion is marketed as Indigenous peoples sharing their own stories.
POLLY: But that message -- even while it sounded Kumbya -- was still threatening to the Department. Remember the head of Indian Affairs, Arthur Laing? Father Knows Best with the wandering hands? He tours the exhibit and he thinks it makes his department look so bad, that according to one department insider he quote, “just about shit”.
GORDON: After the break - the Indians of Canada Pavilion finally opens its doors.
POLLY: Next week, on Cited:
URBIBE: To the Indigenous in these communities in the mountains, we are made by corn. For them, it’s not a plant, it’s a God
QUIST: Positive transgenic DNA. Really bright, like as bright as my positive control. Which one was that? That was one from the government store. And that was a oh shit moment for me.
IGNACIO: You’re about to get yourself into a lot of trouble. These that results you're reporting are not true, this is all a lie.
QUIST: Politically, there is just no way in hell you're going to get funding from our agency.
POLLY: How an accidental discovery set off an international fight over genetically modified corn in Mexico.
[ARCHIVAL SOUND: HORNS]
POLLY: Finally… It’s April 27, 1967… and Bob’s work is done.
Archival 1: From place des nations at Expo 67, CBC Radio presents the official opening of the universal and international exhibition of 1967 at Montreal, Quebec Canada,
Archival 2: This, the great day, is a golden day of blue sky. It’s cool, but it’s brilliant. It’s just about 52 degrees, and it’s lovely…
POLLY: Expo is a wonderland -- there are pavilions showcasing the latest technology… an amusement park… non stop concerts!
ARCHIVAL: RUSSIAN EXHIBIT:
In a spectacular exhibit of our country, you’ll see something of our adventure in space.
POLLY: You could try out space travel at the Soviet Pavilion. The Brits were showing off miniskirts and rock and roll! It was exciting!
And Barbara and the other hostesses are standing by in their uniforms -- think 60s airline stewardess. They’re waiting for the first visitors to show up at the Indians of Canada Pavilion.
But when the public finally tours the exhibit... they’re pissed.
CBC RADIO: There might be a little bit of bitterness in the Indians of Canada Pavilion. For one thing the main exhibit in here is treaties, and it becomes quite pointed that Indians of Canada are quite concerned about the treaties
POLLY: The Globe and Mail quotes a woman who says: “This is horrible. I’m not going to stay here.” The Toronto Daily Star called it a quote, “painful embarrassment to the Canadian government and the Canadian Pavilion.” There are accusations of “taking digs at the white man.” Even the Queen was bothered. She goes on a tour with Andrew Deslile, and she tells him, “We have problems all over!”
GORDON: Do you think the pavilion actually embarrassed Canada?
POLLY: I mean it’s hard to say, but it certainly made people uncomfortable. Barbara, the hostess who works at the pavilion, she says it also made people upset.
Barbara: It was really tough. Really Tough. Because people had so much anger. You know? Why? We hadn't done anything wrong.
I remember walking up through that tunnel of dark bushes. And there was this American man hollering at this young woman, who happened to be American First Nations, from America. And he was just wailing at her verbally. And I went in and I stopped him, I said “Stop!”
I took her and I took her down, she was crying. I took her down into our lounge and I sat with her and made her cup of tea. And... I just, I couldn't even comprehend that, that there would be that much rage. What for? You know? All we were trying to do was tell our story.
GORDON: Despite the backlash -- maybe even because of it-- the pavilion was actually a huge draw. Three million people came through the doors that summer. It was one of the most visited sites at Expo 67.
POLLY: And as people crowded in, you’ll remember… Barbara had to stick to a script.
Barbara: There was so much that was left out.
You could point almost anywhere, the suppression of our laws, the suppression of our, our culture. Not being able to go out outside of the house after nine o'clock at night. Not being able to be out of the village. There were so many things. If you wanted, we could give you a course in Canadian-“Indian” history that would take you probably 12 years.
You know, there was a part of me that said, you'll do it in spite of it, you know. It's like, it's like having to, to swim or drown. I Don't know how I did it. [Pause] You know, just another form of abuse.
Polly: Of making people tell that approved story?
Barbara: Leaving us without our real story and feeding us, feeding us information that if we didn't have a brain we would have just spewed out.
POLLY: But if you toured the Indians of Canada Pavilion, you could still find the truth in there somewhere. It was just opaque…
Barbara: It's like having a gauze over the real picture, you know, you can see things, but you can't see them real clear. That's what it was like. And if you chose to be around and, and chose to spend time with us, you would see more than.. you would see past the gauze.
POLLY: If visitors really talked to Barbara and to the other hostesses, the truth would become a little more clear. A bit of the gauze would unravel. Because in these conversations, they’d inevitably veer off the approved script. And that’s when Barabra would push things. Barbara would tell visitors of her own Haida history. How generations of her family had gone through residential schools… How they had been stripped of their own stories, their own language.
GORDON: But why wasn’t the script, the script that Bob gave Barbara, why wasn’t it just more honest? More unflinching?
POLLY: I asked Bob’s son, Robin, that same question.
He says he doesn’t know… In the end, that’s what the Indian Advisory Council agreed on, by consensus. But maybe Barbara offers a partial answer.
I asked her if she thought the script was milquetoast. You know, spineless. And she says it wasn’t. Not for its time. Not for the situation.
Barbara: For the day it wasn’t milquetoast.
POLLY: But first, she told me, you have to understand something.
Barbara: When you think about First Nations law, and for the fact that in most places they were verbal. And you were taught way, way back deep time- laws are important because they teach us how to be decent human beings. That's our laws.
You follow them. Because if you don't, it means a difference between life and death. Okay? That's really important.
So, you come up against a system that has laws that are written. Because they're written, we believe that they have to be better than ours, because ours are not written. And we are taught that it's good to follow laws.
So, if somebody from authority, from Ottawa, comes along, and tells you that this is how it has to be. Yeah, that's how it has to be.
POLLY: But federal laws, like the ones from Ottawa, they have a very different intent than the laws Barabara’s talking about. So when you take a step back and see the devastation Canada’s laws have caused, you resist. But Baraba says people are cautious.
Barbara: So when people finally start waking up and going, “Oh my god, what's happened to us?” Do you think they're going to jump out of the plane right away?
You know, they're gonna put out some feelers and see what it feels like and see what the reaction is. It's like learning to walk. You know, you fall down a few times but you get up again and you keep working, working at it, and so it is with us.
GORDON : The Indians of Canada Pavilion wasn’t necessarily dishonest, but it was cautious. Because most Canadians just weren’t ready to look at their country honestly. And many didn’t believe what they were hearing. Because fundamentally, they thought Indigenous people couldnt be trusted. They couldn’t be experts in telling their own stories-- or Canada’s story.
The government, they never really wanted Indigenous people to be those experts. Because Indigenous peoples offered one story; the government wanted another. It wanted the story of a noble people, a people wrestling with their place in modernity.
POLLY: But as we’ve seen, the Indigenous men and women who worked at the pavilion found countless ways to resist.
Barbara and the other hostesses told stories that weren’t written into the script. The council pushed to have Indingeous artists fairly represented. And Bob insisted that the Department just TALK with Indigenous actual people.
The people at the pavilion subverted the noble savage narrative, and they told a story closer to the truth, even if it was still wrapped in gauze.
GORDON: The question of who gets to count as an expert is central to how we understand history. Especially in colonial states.
POLLY: At the end of my time with Barbara, she told me something that I heard from a lot of the hostesses I interviewed. That if she had told the story, it would have focused on something a lot different.
Barbara: Resilience would be the underlying factor for everything. Because you think about it, you know, starting in 1400s and here we are in the 2000s now, and we're still here.
MUSIC: Kontiwennenhawi- Akwesasne Women Singers: The Four Messengers
That's what it would be about for me. How we've come through all this and how we still have our old laws that we remember and that are heavily entrenched in making us who we are.
And that's the story. That's the story.
This episode of Cited was produced by Polly Leger with editing from Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.
David Tobiaz is our production manager and Dakota Koop is our graphic designer.
Music by: Mike Barber and Bear Fox and the Kontiwennenhawi- Akwesasne Women Singers. Our theme was composed by Mike Barber.
Cited’s executive producers are Sam Fenn and myself, Gordon Katic.
If you like what you heard, do us a favour: give us a rating or a review on iTunes,or wherever you found this podcast. And why don’t you send this episode to a friend who might like it?
If you’ve got feedback, we can be reached at email@example.com. You can also stay in touch with us on twitter, which is @citedpodcast, and on facebook.com/citedpodcast.
Our website is citedpodcast.com-- you can find a lot more stuff there. So give it a look.
Cited is partly funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. This episode was made possible with a grant to discuss contested historical commemoration. This project was advised by Professor Eagle Glassheim.
Thank you to all the hostesses who shared their time with us, including Barbara Wilson, Janice Antoine, Velma Robinson and Vina Starr
Romney Copeman and the Deslile Family.
As well as the Marjoribanks family, who shared their father’s memoir.
Thanks also to the Russ Moses Archive, and Russ’s son, John Moses.
To Doreen Manuel and the estate of George Manuel. His memoir has just been reprinted. It’s called “ A Fourth World: An Indian reality”
Thanks also to the York University Archives
To Jane Griffith and to Greg Spence.
And finally to Clinton L.G. Morin and L. Manuel Baechlin, who provided production help in Ottawa.
Cited is produced out of the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto -- on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.
As well as the Michael Smith Laboratory at the University of British Columbia -- which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
Tune in next Wednesday for our next episode.