“Loco Locass: Désolé pour le passé, à présent, qu’est-ce qu’on fait ?
Samian: Allume le calumet qu’on fume pour la grande paix“
Check out my introduction to the series here if you want to know what this is all about.
If you want to know what the lyrics say in English, check them out here and then pop them into Google Translate.
Samian is a hip hop artist who performs in French and Algonquin. This video is filmed on his reserve in Pikogan in Quebec. He’s of mixed Algonquin (mother) and Quebecois (father) ancestry which he reflects on in this song “Je fais partie de deux peuples donc je finirai comme l’un d’eux”
The following are some of the different thoughts I have when I listen to the song:
I live in a city which is on unceded Algonquin territory. I don’t just say that to sound informed…it is a fact which is even listed on the City of Ottawa’s website.
Ottawa comes from the word adawe in Algonquin which means to trade or barter….it is just a sign of how deeply rooted cultural genocide is that most people say the word Ottawa, a word that probably almost every Canadian will say sometime in their life…possibly with an undertone of contempt… as it is the name of Nation’s capital and the seat of the federal government.
Loco Locass is a sovereigntist Quebec hip hop group. As someone of Quebecois heritage, although raised Anglophone due the influence of a German American grandmother and self-hating Quebecois grandfather, I can’t really relate to the English version of Canadian history. Also Quebec television is just a lot better at making historical documentaries and dramas…or frankly anything (English Canada stop ripping off French Canadian shows like 19-2 YOU CAN’T DO THEM BETTER!).
I grew up surrounded by a sense that as French Canadians we were somehow “inferior”, “backward”, and “trashy”, speaking a crappy version of French which English kids surpassed by learning “Parisian” French in schools. Considering that teaching French and programs like French Immersion were aimed at bridging the Two Solitudes between English and French Canada, I can say with a lot of confidence that just getting people to learn French ISN’T doing that. Let’s face it most people just put their kids in French immersion to get them into schools in more middle class areas and so they can eventually work for the government, it’s seen as giving your kid a competitive edge in the job market…it’s not so that they can better understand French Canadians. I got to learn that “good” French too in school but it was weird being told by teachers that the French I was more familiar with, known as “joual“, spoken by my great-grandmother, was “bad”. How can you have a bad version of a language?
There’s a cool scene in one of my favourite films, Ararat, by Atom Egoyan, where an Armenian immigrant, played by Egoyan’s wife, Armenian Canadian actress Arsinée Khanjian, is having an argument with a French Canadian, played by Quebecois actress Marie-Josée Croze , and although the argument is in French, you can see how the Armenian has the upperhand because she is speaking “proper” French. It is an essential Canadian scene that is very appropriate for the film’s setting in Montreal, home to Canada’s largest Armenian diaspora….and many immigrants and refugees who speak “proper” French which can sometimes both connect and disconnect them from the Quebecois.
And then there is that whole English joke that our ancestors were prostitutes-Les Fils du Roi. I recently heard this from a North African immigrant living in Montreal. Although I sympathize with the extreme racism and Islamophobia she is facing living in Quebec, it is creepy when newcomer communities start picking up English Canadian slurs which are inherently misogynistic, dehumanizing and creepily eugenicist.
That said, the whole Fils du roi experiment was inherently colonial as it was about wanting to expand the French presence in Canada, giving more French men reason to stay in the colony and make sure these colonists were PURE French and not mixed with the Indigenous peoples….which we were totally doing…my mom’s family would often joke about our mixed origins, usually in summer time because of how dark my mom got when she tanned….that said, that isn’t something I claimed to avoid “settler guilt”. We are settlers and even if mixed my ancestors didn’t respect these origins enough to maintain ties. Totally not into Quebec’s mythology of Métissage….even if according to DNA studies about 50% of French Canadians have Indigenous ancestry and my family definitely falls into that, even just based on what I have learned from French Canadian genealogists. But that doesn’t make me NOT a settler…if anything it just makes me the product of a planned assimilation process by the Roman Catholic Church and agents of the French crown.
Most the the Fils de Roi were seriously poor and didn’t have many alternatives, because really who wanted to move to the colony of New France? Those who stayed were often those who didn’t have anything to go back to or who couldn’t afford to leave.
So ya, maybe some of my ancestors were sex workers. And so what? Seriously, so the-FRACK-what? I may be ashamed of my ancestors complicity in colonialism and genocide but I am NOT going to be ashamed of their class origins and what they may have done to survive. You honour your ancestors because they did what they had to do to survive so you could exist.
What I like about this song, even where it is filmed, is that is clearly expresses the need to just chill with Indigenous folks, and have some difficult conversations. Just getting to know each other as a sign of commitment to reconciliation and Nation to Nation relations on a personal level, and that’s the only way to make it a reality, and not just empty words and politics.
When you chill with people, it’s not a one off thing, it’s not an event, it’s not for show. You have a relationship and that’s ongoing, so you can no longer act “surprised” when it comes out just how messed up things are for Indigenous peoples here and how directly involved you are in causing this totally messed up stuff to happen, and how you need to stop doing this totally messed up stuff. (I am working on a list of “totally messed up stuff happening now” for my own education which I will link into this paragraph when I am done. Although I will like at Canada as a whole I am going to prioritize specific stuff that French Canadians, so my ancestors, were and currently are majorly complicit in).
But I guess what I like about the song and video is that it’s not some creepy “Let’s feel sorry for Algonquin peoples..” thing which I feel like you see a lot of when people discuss Indigenous communities in general. But that’s really not allyship….that kind of looks like pity or charity which is always mixed with contempt and can turn to angry if the people you pity are grateful for your pity. I find that you see this a lot whenever Indigenous folks get angry when they are demanding justice-we turn on them like they are ungrateful children who should just be happy we are doing them the favour of even acknowledging them because it’s not like we really have to. We are just being nice. It’s totally paternalistic.
This reminds me of a discussion I had with a Black community activist. We were talking about how some allies only show up when things are going bad, so like at demonstrations, but they are never around when we are celebrating. And if you are really an ally you need to be present at both times.
I just feel that this song and video kind of expresses that aspect of allyship. It’s a real relationship, it’s grounded in respect and justice….not pity.
This song helps me to reflect on my own origins and complicated connection to this land and how I can maybe try to do my part in setting right what I and my ancestors have been complicit in totally messing up.
That’s what I reflect on when I listen to it. So it is a great way to start off this playlist.
To find more song’s on the playlist visit here.