American Thoughts on Australia Day & Acknowledgement of Country

Yesterday/today (the 26th of January; time is a weird thing when you’re straddling the dateline) is Australia Day, also known as Invasian Day–it’s a day of celebration akin to the drunken antics of Americans on the fourth of July for European Australians, “settlers,” and a day of mourning for Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander communities who see it as a day of invasion and subsequent struggle to survive. So basically, the partying of the Fourth of July mixed in with Thanksgiving–after all, the European Australians did much the same to the Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders as Americans did to Native Americans.

White folks, we aren’t so great at respecting other cultures.

Survival Day is becoming a common reference instead of Australia Day, but it seems like a general preference is still to separate out BBQs and beer from remembering genocide. (Click image to enlarge.)

Survival Day is becoming a common reference instead of Australia Day, but it seems like a general preference is still to separate out BBQs and beer from remembering genocide. (Click image to enlarge.)

And the thing is, it’s not like the Indigenous Australians aren’t down with celebrating Australia–they are, after all, Australians, too. It’s just they’d really like it if perhaps the party could be held on not the same day that commemorates mass slaughter and attempts at cultural eradication that still go on today.

Anyhow, you should read this article over at Buzzfeed and watch the embedded video, below. But what I wanted to talk about was something that I saw people doing online: identifying the land they woke up in. This seems to be a variation on the Acknowledgement of Country that happens at a lot of official events, and it’s one where individuals, yesterday, were acknowledging the historic people of the land they live on:

This, I thought, was neat, and a way of showing respect to people who you yourself may not have harmed, but your ancestors did harm, by virtue of their participation in the forming of the place called Australia–or America.

I thought I’d compile my own list of the Native American lands I’ve lived on in my time floating across the United States; what I didn’t imagine was that it would take me several hours to track this information down. After all, I grew up attending Ohlone events in the San Francisco Bay Area, and doesn’t everyone know that the Duwamish were the historical peoples in the Greater Seattle area?

Except that the Ohlone, formerly the Costanoans, didn’t view themselves as a single “Indian tribe” but a loose group of about 50 distinct landholding tribes or bands who shared a similar language, religion, and culture but saw themselves as distinct. They, like many other Native peoples, were squished together into readily identified tribal groups by the United States government during its long period of sucking, and trying to find out the specifics of the folks who lived in a specific area rather than the region (so I coul answer the equivalent of “Philadelphia” instead of “the mid-Atlanic”) proved…frustrating. A lot of this is because by the time anyone in America had the idea that maybe they should record this information, the people were dying or dead; many of the last speakers of languages, the last of their group, tribe, people, were dying in the late 1800s to 1920s, and American society was set on eradication of tribal groups. The disappearance of this knowledge was just fine with most.

So it is with some struggle and uncertainty that I can say I have lived on the lands of the following people:
The Muwekema Ohlone (Alson, Seunen, Luecha, and Puichon)
The Numa, Washeshu and Newe People
The Kalapuyan Peoples (Chelamela and Tualatin)
The Multnomah People
The Duwamish Tribe (Skagit-Nisqually/Lushootseed)
The Iroquois League/Haudenosaunee (Mohawk Nation)

And this morning, I woke up on Lenni Lenape (Unami dialect) land.

I don’t really have anything quippy to say here in finish. I think that the way we–Americans and Australians–handle our commemoration of events is painfully white and alienating, that we casually erase history with no thought to the pain it causes people who call that history their own. I think that it’s a shame we have to repeatedly have conversations about whether or not it’s a problem to have sportsball teams named after racist slurs, that we set up parties on days of massacres, that we celebrate the slaughter of millions with mattress sales and BBQs, and that we can’t get it around our heads to treat the other folks we live with, folks of colour, with the respect we want for ourselves every day.

Knowing the names of the tribal lands I have lived on won’t change any of that, but at least it allows me to move a bit closer to an ideal of mindfulness and respect that I think we should all strive towards.

Thoughts on Gender and the Philly Geek Awards

I’m lounging in bed this morning, not so much hungover as sleep-deprived, and I’m trying to figure out how to put last night in to words. It’s a bit of a sorry state for a writer, but I have a good excuse: I was exposed to one of those things you always hear about but never think really exist, and then coming face-to-face with it rearranges your reality enough that you just have to stop.

What unicorn did I run in to? Philadelphia Geeks.

I mean, sure, I’d heard here and there that Philly had a vibrant geek community. There certainly seemed to be a lot of space for techies and co-work places and the like. And I’d seen some glimpses of the potential when I went to Mega-Bad Movie Night at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

But still. You know how it goes, right? You hear about great possibilities and then they don’t really live up to it. Or, worse – they’re misogynistic. And what with everything that recently happened with ReaderCon and Scalzi having to explain how not to be a creep, and the general continuing argument/debate over misogyny in geek/gaming communities (see, the internet, always), you can’t really blame a girl for being apprehensive – especially when a lot of the promotion for the geek scene comes from mostly a bunch of guys.

Well, they’re mostly a bunch of guys I owe a giant mea culpa and apology to. Tim, Eric and the rest of the Geekadelphia crew put together an amazing event: The Philadelphia Geek Awards. Last night was the second year of the awards, a black tie event held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and it does just what it sounds like: celebrates the local geeks.

Except it did so much more than that.

Geek of the Year Tristin Hightower. See the full gallery of pictures at this link.

Take a look at the nominees for hacker of the year. Stephanie Alarcon and Georgia Gutherie. Both women. The nominees for the Philly geek of the year? All women. And the rest of the nominees were healthily represented by not only women but Not Just White Dudes! (Which I admit I’m not going to focus on, but holy diversity! That was amazing – especially at the after party! In my PNW geek experience, you find the geeks by looking for the pasty group. At National Mechanics, you identified the geeks because they were dressed to the nines!)

Sure, you think – in categories where only women are nominated, clearly a woman will win. But look who took Local Annual Event of the Year: Women in Tech! To screams and ovations!

The scientist of the year, Dr. Youngmoo Kim, bragged about his wife having multiple degrees and just how sexy it was that she was smart. Female presenters got up and proudly declared they were scientists and engineers. It was actually rare to see an award on stage without a woman as a part of the team – and it was clear that the women weren’t tokens.

I know, I know. I’m gushing. But, geeky women – tell me, honestly. When’s the last time you were out at a bar and guys approached you asking what flavor of geek you were, and then wanted to talk about that? Sure, I got oogled – and I did a lot of oogling myself, because damn, Philly’s geeks (male and female) clean up nice! But I had conversations. I just want to emphasize this: I had conversations! In a bar! About Doctor Who and medicine and science and stem cells and MakerBots and Firefly and Joss Whedon and comic books and philosophy, all while drinking and dancing and – it was just a bar of geeks who wanted to be geeks!

If you don’t know how rare that is, you’re so lucky.

And I am so lucky to have seen that this kind of world can and does exist in Philadelphia. So thank you, Eric and Tim and Jill and everyone else involved in making last night happen, and for the many folks I talked to, drank with, and had an after-after party with, for making a bit more room for one more geeky girl.

Current Philly-Area Forecast

June 20th Forecast for Philly

100% Accurate. Honest.

Currently, the weather is Sad Cloud with Evil Sun. Later today, Evil Sun is anticipated to go Deadly, but will be cloudblocked, preventing most Instantaneous Death. Unfortunately, Death Sun will kill all the clouds tomorrow, and then work on killing all the humans.

Friday, relief is seen with Spider Thunderclouds. Unless you’re arachnophobic, in which case RUN OH MY GOD RUN THE SPIDERS ARE COMING FOR YOU!