A Good Day to Wear Orange

Last year on September 30, I met a client at a restaurant. I thought about wearing orange, but then I was afraid about making a political statement in a business context. He showed up in an orange sweater, and I felt stupid.

This year, here is a picture of my only orange piece of clothing that I just hung up outside of our house. Many things happened in the past twelve months.

I tend to be interested in off-beat topics. When something is a mainstream topic or cause, I feel less inclined to follow it. But sometimes life makes you sit up and pay attention. When a new wave of media coverage laps at your door regularly over a period of time, you may start to think: Perhaps I should read up on this a little. And so I did.

A ‘top ten books by native authors’ website suggested to me ‘Five Little Indians’ by Michelle Good, ‘Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing my People (and Yours)’ by Harold R. Johnson and ‘NDN Coping Mechanisms’ by Billy-Ray Belcourt. I also listened to a CBC podcast documentary series called ‘Kuper Island’, about a residential school located near Vancouver Island.

Here are some insights into what I have read and learned, and how it has challenged some of my previous assumptions:

This all happened fairly recently

One of the sentiments that non-Native people like myself harbour is: This is all long ago, why don’t ‘they’ get over it and move on? It is actually not. Not long ago. Some people in their fifties, like myself, had to attend residential school and suffered the consequences. Younger people have mothers, fathers, grandparents who were forced to go, and came back scarred.

What is ‘intergenerational trauma’?

I was already familiar with the idea that if you grow up with physical, sexual or verbal abuse, you are more likely to become an abuser yourself when you are an adult. I think this is well documented in research about child abuse. It was Michelle Good’s book ‘Five Little Indians’ that helped me understand how spending your formative years in the ‘care’ (or rather ‘not care’) of cruel, cold, vindictive individuals (i.e. abusers at a residential school) can make it hard for you to become a loving parent and a good husband/wife. You may have needed to burry your softer feelings so deeply that it could be very difficult to access them later.

The Native Voice vs. Native Voices

I recently came across an Instagram post that said, and I paraphrase: Native = At one with nature, peaceful, good and spiritual; Not Native = Cold-hearted, rational, militant, capitalist nature destroyers. I thought: Who is this person or organization who claims to be the ‘Native Voice’? If some organization claimed to be the ‘German Voice’ (I am German), I would find it highly questionable, if not ridiculous. Of course, there are many different opinions, and not just one way of thinking and being.

I think the diversity of native voices is under-represented in Canada. Very seldom do I come across reports of discussions within the Native community and differing points of view. Perhaps this is because the ‘Native Voice’ has just started to be given a space in mainstream media. Maybe down the road, when the ‘general public’ has become more accustomed to hearing about the impact that this or that decision has on a native community, will we be hearing more nuanced positions.

I think it would help to hear more nuanced positions and discussions within Native communities. More non-Native Canadians would become open to engaging with topics pertaining to indigenous well-being.  


I am still at ‘truth’. Just hearing and learning about what happened is something that not all non-Native Canadians have done. Our kids had a unit on residential schools in primary school, yes. But have we – you – really engaged with the topic? Do we – you – non-Natives really know anything about how Native people live on and off reserve?

I am impressed by indigenous people who have chosen a healing journey. Acknowledging past abuse and breaking from it to foster kind and caring elements in ourselves and bringing them into the world is difficult and takes courage. But it can be done. As Harold R. Johnson says in his book: “We can live any story that we want. We can live a drama – many people do – or we can live a romance, or a tragedy, or a comedy, or a mystery, or a fantasy, or a fable, or a fairytale. We can decide which story we want to be in and tell it to ourselves. The only limit on our ability to choose our own story is the story into which we are born. We have all been raised within a particular story. When we recognize it as story, it loses its power. This is especially true of victim stories. All of what we refer to as ‘society’ is the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.”


For us non-Natives it would probably be good to at least read the 94 Calls-to-Action that the Truth and Reconciliation commission established about ten years ago (many of which have yet to be implemented). Take a look at the link below and think about how you want to live your own life:


Happy September 30!


Ukrainians are not Nazis

Today, an inflammatory article made headlines, claiming that a majority of Ukrainians were Nazis and it was therefore justified to kill them.

Clearly, the Kremlin is struggling to manage the PR crisis after war crimes committed in Bucha were widely publicised this weekend.

Ukrainians are not Nazis. Ukraine does not need denazification. The reason why denazification was necessary in Germany after WWII is because Germany invaded other countries and killed millions of people.

Ukraine did not invade any country. Ukraine was minding its own business. As any country, Ukraine has the right to ponder whether they want to join this or that organization, whether they want to adopt this or that policy.

Russia invaded Ukraine. The Russian Armed Forces are killing Ukrainian military and citizens who have taken up arms to defend their country, as well as many civilians who have not taken up arms.

Who would believe this Kremlin rhetoric?

Fighting against Nazis has a strong emotional connotation for Russians. It has made up an important part of Russian self-perception for the past 70 years.


Are the 20-year-olds who were cast to the front lines buying the story about Ukraine? Are their commanders? Are the more experienced career-military men?

I am German and 55 years old. My parents were children during the war. It was an important part of my narrative growing up, and my perception of WWII was shaped by what my grandmothers told me as well as what I learned in high school.

Do my children share that same narrative? No. Do my cousin’s children, who are young adults and living in Germany share this narrative? No. Do my Russian friends’ children, who are young adults and living in Russia share this narrative? No.

Nowadays, different narratives dominate our lives, define what is important to us.

Our impact on climate change, new technology, black lives matter, becoming an influencer, whether to work for a big company or a start-up, LGBTQ rights, work-life balance, whether or not government should be able to mandate vaccinations, how to preserve mental health during COVID lockdowns, etc. etc.…

…these are things that occupy our hearts and minds.

The ‘you-are-a-Nazi-and-I-am-duty-bound-to-kill-you’ rhetoric is an old rhetoric. The rhetoric of 70-year-old men.

Let’s not jump to conclusions too fast. The fact that the Kremlin (probably) hired an intellectual to twist the nonsensical Nazis-narrative into a coherent article says something about the Kremlin. It is flailing.

It need not say anything about the Russian military in Ukraine and about ordinary Russians.

Being successful in war relies on one side feeling that the other side is bad, and therefore it’s ok to kill them. Clearly, many Russian soldiers who were sent to Ukraine did not feel this way. Ukrainians were able to defend themselves, in part because morale on the Russian side was low and Ukrainians clearly are on the good side.

What is happening now is that some forces are trying to turn the enemy into monsters. That is the purpose of the article that the Kremlin just published.

My Russian friends, it is not worth your while to read this long publication, written to bring back the outdated worldview of old men*.

My Ukrainian friends, I weep with your losses. I am horrified with the horrific things you are witnessing. But I implore you…

…in your mind, do not turn the enemy into monsters. They are not. Russians and Ukrainians, they are just people. Some commit atrocities, and they need to be found and brought to justice.

Let us not get riled up by inflammatory media. Let us remember our shared humanity. Most people don’t want to do bad things.

* Hello, sorry, I just wanted to say I don’t like the ‘old (white) men are bad’ rhetoric in general – how can you judge a whole huge group of people like that. But in the context of this article it fits, and we all know which old man we’re talking about here.