The identity still remain a major divisive factor.
The Western society has entered a period where race is no longer a political consideration. This holds true only with television debates. In reality purity of bloodlines and racial identity still remain a major divisive factor. Club Native is a 2008 documentary film which addresses the issue of Aboriginal identity. The present- day reality of the pain, trauma, and confusion suffered by many of the First Nations is presented in a candid way. The sole right of any human being is the “Right to Live”. People struggle for this very basic right as part of the unspoken rules of the society. The divisive legacy of more than hundred years of discriminative and sexist government policies are revealed in a subtle but strong way.The filmmaker, Tracey Deer uses her own hometown, Kahnawake to probe into the roots of Aboriginal identity. She gracefully reveals the exclusionary attitudes that divide people into different sections across Canada. From the highly discriminatory Indian Act to the controversial Bill C31, Deer unearths the roots of the problem. With a touching case study, she raises a difficult question faced by many ethnicities not only in Canada but across the world: “What roles do bloodline and culture play in determining identity?” The storyline is very simple. On the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake, situated in the outskirts of Montreal, there are two unspoken rules. “Don’t marry a white person and don’t have a child with one” . People are imposed with such rules by an inconsistent council of elders in Mohawk who hold all membership rights. The consequences of not following these rules can be the terrible loss of membership rights for the entire family and even harder for those who sustain them. In this honest documentary, Tracey highlights the story of four women whose lives have been affected by these rules. The pain of these four women and their yearning towards belongingness is portrayed on a personal level.The Canadian Indian Act (1876) which states, one’s status (i.e. registration as Indian, under the terms of the Act) is determined by one’s parentage. The three categories of Aboriginal people is First Nations, Metis and Inuit. A First Nations woman who marries a man who is not a First Nation will lose all her entitlements and so did her children. On the contrary, if a woman married a First Nations man, she gained “status” under the terms of the Act despite the race and ethnicity. The 1985 C-31 Amendment meant women officially keep up their native status when they marry non-natives. Although both of these legislatively and legally define indigenous descent, the more difficult question here is, what does it feel to be an Indian? The four woman offer four different answers. The first woman, who is an Olympic Athlete who is proud to be a Mohawk says she is cent percent human. The second woman, who studies performance arts is half Mohawk and half black but is proud of herself. The third woman is 91% Mohawk, mockingly. The last woman is blond, born to a Canadian guy and a Mohawk mother. She is apparently tired of this status and percentage issues as the government documents indicate she is only 30% Mohawk. For each of the four unnamed woman in the film, the acceptance as a Mohawk is often at odds with the reality of daily life.What is with the “status” and “percentages” and does it really matter? Well, it does matter in Kahnawake. A woman who lived her entire life in Kahnawake is not eligible to be buried in the reserve cemetery because her bloodline percentage is less white. Intermarriages can completely destroy the Mohawk community as felt by the elders. Falling in love is difficult under any circumstance, but when falling for a non-native can result in loss of rights and status it is much more complex. Two women fall in love with men who are white, and they experience extraordinary emotional difficulty about following their hearts, even as they remain strongly committed to the values of their culture. But they struggle to gain acceptance and legal status in the society. Meanwhile, the daughter of a black American military man and a Mohawk Canadian mother, is working her way through the process of applying to gain full membership in the Mohawk nation.Scattered with these four stories are interviews with other residents of the reserve, both male and female, on identity, marriage, ethnicity and political issues of the community. The viewpoints expressed are completely different and indeed very easy to understand both sides of the issue, until a young woman confronts because for her marrying the man she loves would mean losing not only her native status but her right to live in the community. The community where she was born and brought up and which is priceless to her. It is awful stuff to deal with and filmmaker Tracey Deer does it delicately and with zero fear of expression. From the 1985 Indian Act to the Oka Crisis of 1990, that took place on the Kahnawake Reserve borders, this film does not duck out from bringing limelight on debatable issues. Ultimately it is a humanitarian and light- hearted exploration of what it means to be a native Canadian or a woman or fall in love.The four woman are portrayed as intelligent, decisive, candid characters who do not hold back from expressing their struggle. It is also heard from the other residents of the Kahnawake community that the membership rights range from totally excluding to complete acceptance. Every ethnic community faces the concerns of marrying out of the ethnicity, but the dire consequences that follow in the “Club Native” case make it even more contentious for the First Nations people. The central theme of the documentary is indigenous identity. What is indigenous identity? Who has it? Indigenous identity is an extremely controversial topic. There is very little or sometimes no agreement on what is it and who holds it. Once that is sorted there comes the next one. What is being talked about here? Is it race, ethnicity, caste, cultural identity or some other? There opens a huge box of possibilities and none can be addressed appropriately.Cultural identity is the focus of this film. Culture is one’s identity and it should not be denied at any cost. Not knowing where they belong or not fitting into the culture is what indigenous people face every day. Falling in love or being born to non- native parents or being less white by blood are baseless reasons to deny cultural identity. It is completely natural to develop feelings for a non-native person. That should never be the cause of exclusion from the society. A lot of people have to deal with physical abuse, mental torture and sexual harassment. What needs to be understood is that people can be identified by race or nativity, education, gender or religion but everyone is still human. The feeling of exclusion and not being to live in a community is heartbreaking. Even after repeated efforts, there is no ray of hope. It is high time that these barriers are cut off from their roots. This will pave way for a merrier and progressive bunch of folk. It is time to step up and undo all the harm done.The audience for Club Native is most likely to be high school students in Indigenous Study courses, it could also be a possible resource for courses like sociology and family studies since the issues of culture are brought up. This film is light-hearted, fun to watch yet leaves a great message for the audience.