Thursday, 22 November 2012

Cooking it up Métis (do's & don'ts)

Published on Nov 15, 2012 by
This is a small view of the Show Cooking it up Métis presented by Compaigni V'ni Dansi [last Wednesday in Vancouver].

In checking up on what Yvonne Chartrand (Compaigni V'ni Dansi founder) & Métis celebrants across the regions are up to this month, I found a very interesting discussion on racialized language, and food.


original source: Twitter

“I’ve Never Heard of the Métis People”: The Politics of Naming, Racialization, and the Disregard for Aboriginal Canadians

by Crystal Fraser and Mike Commito

The controversial selection of a hamburger name by a Toronto restaurant had customers and critics raising their eyebrows this past August. Holy Chuck Burgers, located on Yonge Street, specializes in gourmet hamburgers, some of which sport clever titles like “Go Chuck Yourself” and “You Fat Pig.” Recently, the restaurant has come under criticism, not for its indulgent offerings, but because of the names of two of its items: “The Half Breed” and “The Dirty Drunken Half Breed.” It was not long before Twitterverse exploded, slamming Holy Chuck Burgers for its use of racially-charged, insensitive discourse that has had a longstanding history against Canada’s Indigenous peoples. While the criticism was well deserved, the apparent disconnect to Aboriginal issues is unfortunately part of a much larger and longer colonial mentality of indifference.

Like many racial designations in Canada, the term ‘half-breed’ is both complex and problematic. Historically, the designation was used to describe people of ‘mixed’ descent whose lineage originated from intimate relationships between non-Aboriginal newcomers and Aboriginal people. The racial designation of ‘half-breed’ was applied not only to Métis people, but also to other Aboriginals as a way to essentialize and deauthenticate all forms of indigenity. Today, by way of colonial discourse, the Métis are sometimes linked to the historic understanding of ‘half-breed.’ This was demonstrated when Holy Chuck Burgers’ racist food names were viewed as a direct attack on Métis people. But the equation of ‘half breed’ to Métis is intrinsically problematic, since many Indigenous peoples are of ‘mixed’ ancestry but not labelled as such. Nevertheless, Holy Chuck Burgers’ owner explained that the poor selection in burger names originated from the fact that the burger patties consist of a mixture of ground pork and beef. In “The Dirty Drunken Half Breed,” “dirty” refers to the chili that was poured all over the burger and “drunken” denotes the wine that was used in the cooking preparation. When considering Holy Chuck Burgers’ choice of language, it is difficult not to think about racial stereotypes about Aboriginal people that have been historically imposed and, to some extent, continue to be used.

Broadly, the Holy Chuck Burgers debacle is part of the larger context of ignorance and systemic racism towards Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. This was poignantly demonstrated when the restaurateur took to Twitter to plead ignorance of any negative connotations and showed a lack of knowledge of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. After learning about Holy Chuck’s latest menu items, Ryerson University Law Professor Dr. Pamela Palmater told the Toronto Star that she doubted the sincerity of the restaurant’s claim that it was clueless of the derogatory nature of the term. She also suggested it had failed to adequately investigate the term or include Aboriginal peoples in consumer focus groups. Palmater rightly contends that “racism against Indigenous people in Canada is so ingrained that some in society can’t even identify it when they see it.” Despite the widespread public outcry to remove the racist language from their menu, Holy Chuck Burgers continues to use term the “half-breed.” You can find that here.

read the full article here:  do!

I guess all the publicity worked, as the online menu no longer features the offensive item names: note that the initial complaints arose in August, and the above article was published (with live links as above) October 18, 2012. (View owner's apology here)

Lessons learned:

minimize racism:

try to pretend racism away: 

ignore or deny racism when it is pointed out to you:

don't = do not 

For indigenous people, "don't" means "do not." 

It also means, 
"cease and desist."


Four Operations of Language:

-Conceals Violence
-Blames & Pathologizes Victims
-Conceals Resistance
-Mitigates Offender's Responsibility

~quoted from/to read more:
Metis Responses: Violence & Oppression, big print, 32 pages [pdf]

Public shaming is often the next step, when someone doing the wrong thing does not respond to being made aware that their "joke" is in fact contemptuous harm.  Check out all the legion humour stories this year, if you need further examples.

In Vancouver, an animal grooming salon calls itself "Mestiso's Pet Spa," the caste designation used by the Spanish empire for people of mixed race, and common across the Americas. The company owners write,
Breeders Know Best
A family of dog breeders runs Mestisos, so it’s fitting that the spa takes it names from the Spanish word “mestizos,” meaning a person of mixed ancestry. Mestisos hosts breeder rescue weekends, during which they help neglected and abandoned dogs find good homes. A series of educational seminars on a wide variety of dog topics is also offered.  [source]

 When I came across the sign, I understood that I was being called a dog, a Mutt, within a very specific class-race understanding of the world. Reading the company info online, a sensitive understanding of the class/race issues becomes vivid.

  Personally, collectively, publically, with impunity: a shared joke between me and my world.

The Mestizo are a people of mixed Spanish and Mayan descent representing roughly 48% of the Belizean population. They originally arrived in Belize in 1847 to escape La Guerra de Castas (the Caste War), when over 70,000 Maya revolted against the 20,000 Spanish throughout Yucatan, annihilating over one-third of the population. The survivors, mostly Mestizo, fled over the border into British territory. Additionally, many refugees of the Caste War eventually reached western Belize by way of Peten, Guatemala, establishing communities in Benque Viejo del Carmen, San Ignacio, and San Jose Succotz.

The Mestizo are found everywhere in Belize but most make their homes in the northern districts of Corozal and Orange Walk. Having merged with the Maya in the north, this has resulted in the Yucatec Maya giving way to the Mestizo, allowing them to lose their language and several other cultural forms.

Since the 1980s, many thousands of refugee Mestizo from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have established communities near the capital city of Belmopan; while those living in the Stann Creek District have found employment in the citrus and banana industries. Descendants of the earlier settlers also inhabit the more northerly islands on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.

read more

+ google for more & more

more things to do: 

Uploaded by on Nov 15, 2011
Fiddlers perform at a talent show at the Bold Center on Nov. 12 [2011]. This is just one of the many events held as part of the first annual Métis Week.

Downloadable books:
Métis Cookbook and Guide to Healthy Living, Second Edition, 2008, 112 pgs [pdf]

What it is to be a Métis: The Stories and Recollections of the Elders of the Prince George Métis Elders Society, 2007, 294 pgs [pdf]

Further resources:

Learn about the Métis National Council Historical Online Database This page has been put together to give our audience historical and background information about the records and information contained in this database. You can download all the information contained on this page in a convenient PDF guide to print and read offline by clicking here (40MB download - be patient!). 

Virtual Museum:


More operations of language:
~give tongue to injury
~codify losses
~interrupt violations and abuse
~change the world

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