Before we get started, I wanted to do a brief land acknowledgement. We respectfully acknowledge that we are on the treaty and traditional territory of the Michi Saagiig Anishinaabeg. We offer our gratitude to the First Peoples for their care for, and teachings about, our earth and our relations.
May we honour those teachings.
If you’ve attended Trent University for any amount of time, you are familiar with these words. They are meant to set the tone of your experience at Trent, the school with the ‘most established Indigenous Studies program in Canada.’ Like Bill Shatner’s opening monologue from Star Trek, it is a colonizer’s mission statement, only our colonizer is guilt-ridden rather than adventurous.
Starfleet: “To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
Trent: “To meekly stay where someone has lived before!”
These words mean nothing to my school; their actions give up the lie. Despite the white guilt, an enormous hurdle, I know, my school persists in its neo-colonial, neo-liberal *deep inhale* BULLSHIT. Do you know about Mauna Kea, the sacred mountain-top where several Canadian universities, including Trent, are building a telescope? Well, now you do.
‘The Thirty Meter Telescope’ is as blatantly colonial as it is blatantly phallic. Construction has been impeded by Indigenous protests. Police are being sent to suppress the native people. Is this sounding familiar, Canadians? Thousands of kilometres or 30 metres, there’s just something exciting about a pipeline, especially when you have to wrestle with brown people in order to set it up.
Is this a joke, Trent? Are you going to cover your eyes while the legacy of colonialism runs rampant at your behest? Are you going to acknowledge the land you stole this time? That doesn’t make it better, you know: knowing what you’re doing is wrong, then continuing to do it, and then apologizing. Cowards! Cravens! Get fucked!
Can you imagine if this happened on a sacred European mountain? If Mount Olympus was selected for a telescope there would be a global outrage, thousands of protestors, riots in the Percy Jackson fandom. If Mount Sinai were threatened by a group of pushy, Canadian academics, you’d better believe there would be burning outrage, and not just from some judgy bush at the peak. So, what’s different here? Hmmm… hmmm… It’ll come to me!
So, I’m pissed, obviously. Do I know what to do? No. We Trent students could organize a protest, because the RCMP is less likely to be called on a bunch of affluent white kids. Yet there’s the rub: if you’re an affluent white kid, why protest? You could always just not protest, collect your 70 percent average and graduate, head back to Tweed to become a teacher or a cop – I know you. You could do that. You probably are going to do that. Good thing nobody wants to build a telescope in Tweed.
In closing, Trent is full of shit and so are you and so am I. When someone tries to tell you that Trent is the best undergraduate university, or implores that it could be worse, remember Mauna Kea. Remember your direct financial contribution to this school, to the people who preach reparation, then colonize in your name. When someone tries to tell you that Canada is a developed country with a civil society, remember Wet’suwet’en, and think hard on it. Think hard on the apartheid we find ourselves in.