Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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Field Trip

(by Gabriel Potvin (aka.The Great Gaby-))

Facing different ethnicity within Quebec’s largest cities such as Montréal, Québec, Sherbrooke is a reality one must deal with fairly regularly. It is another story if you take that same reality and apply it to where I was born, the Gaspesian coast, since the minorities and the majority tend to not mix together. There are, in fact, two major distinct minorities in the Gaspesian coast: the Amerindians otherwise known as Natives and the English speaking community, which also represents the Natives in many cases. The question at hand is how do these minorities interact with the majority?

 

                I heard on the news that some Natives had some kind of black market about tobacco. I also knew about the warriors of 1990 in Oka and that the Natives were reclusive and lived on their reserve outside of the jurisdiction of Quebec’s laws.

Field trip

Geared with new knowledge from the ‘‘Intercultural studies’’ course (Ang 160), and with my load of stereotypes, I was ready to do some footwork during Reading Week. First step, I wanted the opinion of a true Native. I picked a reserve named Gesgapegiag. I then entered a little dépanneur and asked a fairly young man, probably in his early 30’s, if he minded answering a few questions. Here are parts of what I noted:

Gabriel: Parler vous français?

Native: Oui, mais l’anglais cé mieux

Gabriel: What is your name?

Nawa: Nawa.

(Break)

Gabriel: Do you know people outside the village?

Nawa: A couple, but only those that still need wood for winter. I know everyone in the village though.

Gabriel: How do you find the nearby villages (Carleton, Caplan and such)?

Nawa: I go to Carleton often. People are speeding a lot around here. That’s why we have this big sign close to here.

(Break)

Gabriel: Anyone sell tobacco around here?

Nawa: Yep, the dépanneur.

(Break)

Gabriel: What do you know about the warrior’s crisis in 1990 in Oka?

Nawa: They (Mohawks) caused some pile of trouble.

Gabriel: What did you do at that time?

Nawa: Nothing. We’re Micmacs by the way.

 

Analysis

            Upon entering the reserve, I noticed that most of the business signs were in English. Nawa confirmed afterward that English was the language most used within the reserve. It shows that the Native intend to sell their goods mainly to people that live on the reserve. This behaviour has an effect of cutting them from potential customers outside their village. By doing so, they are willingly or unwillingly secluding themselves from the nearby French communities (namely Carleton and Caplan). A common language builds trust and improves communication (Linguistic Minority Communities' Contribution To Economic Well-Being), so by using English only, this minority is doomed to preserve the reputation of being a reclusive people. It is also a fact that the majority speaks French in that region while in the reserve the percentage of Anglophones nearly reaches 90 percent (Minority Populations by First Official Language Spoken ).

Moreover, we can see how the stereotypes strain relations with people outside of this Micmac community. One stereotype would be that they are like the Mohawks. Nawa was quick to remind me of his roots on that subject. Nevertheless, many people (including myself) are subject to what is projected on the media and the truth is that we are scared by the image of the warrior.

Bandit mohawk bavant sur une auto écrasée de la Sûreté du Québec

 

 

 

 

 

Considering that they speak English almost exclusively on the reserve, the people in the surroundings communities just do not know what to think anymore as they are confused about the imagined/experienced other as portrayed through media images. This is why their interactions with the majority are poor. Another bad point for them is the fact that the news seems to portrait the Native as a new kind of growing mafia to say the least. The traffic of tobacco is a perfect example of that reality (Mohawks and Cigarette Trade). The majority simply generalize the Mohawk black market incident and apply this image to all Natives. Once again, it seems the media should take the blame for exposing only one side of the Native experience.

 

                I was curious about what my own community was thinking of the Micmacs. I went straight for the community hall and requested an audience with the current mayor, Claude Cyr. I asked him what he thought of the Micmacs and he gave me an Internet site (http://www.gesgapegiag.com/). I was shocked. This meant that the Micmacs community was online worldwide. This means without the shadow of a doubt that they are indeed trying to better their relations with the majority. This majority just need to visit their website to learn more about them although the site concern mainly the Natives of this community. Moreover, one must not forget that Nawa was clearly eager to go outside his reserve and meet new people. Therefore, this community is actually trying in some ways to interact with the majority.

 

                All in all, what really hurts the Micmacs is basically the ignorance of the majority. This ignorance leads to some very bad assumptions about them. The only logical answer the Micmacs have to these stereotypes is to band together and protect themselves just as the majority does (law 101 anyone). It would be interesting to further this little research by considering the ghetto that is created and how it affects the relations with the majority.

 

Bibliography

 

Internet

Linguistic Minority Communities' Contribution To Economic Well-Being:
Two Case Studieshttp://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/CJRS/bin/get.cgi?directory=Fall96/&filename=deben.html

 

Minority Populations by First Official Language Spoken

 http://www.hrma-agrh.gc.ca/ollo/reimplementation-r%C3%A9application/MP-PM200102_e.asp

 

Mohawks and Cigarette Trade

http://gurukul.ucc.american.edu/ted/MOHAWK.HTM

 

http://www.gesgapegiag.com/