Geography confuses blissful Rez kids

By Hadija Gabunga

I’m amazed how little Canadians know about their own country, let alone the rest of the world. And I’m starting to think that this "sheltered" Rez life is a little too close for comfort.

What got me thinking about the bliss of ignorance is the current point system. It’s a system whereby students currently in Rez can acquire points over the year, which determines their chance of returning to Rez the next year. There are a lot of criteria that determine who gets points and for what services. One of these is what zone you live in (e.g., where your hometown is) and, logically, the further away you live from Calgary the more points you get. But most of the people in Rez who come from small towns don’t really know much about the rest of Canada, and coming to Calgary–the big city–is overwhelming enough.

You would think that living in a small town for, say, most of your childhood and your teen years would encourage much broader outlooks, especially after moving to a bigger city. Instead, the much sheltered Rez life keeps many from venturing outside Rez walls; they show little or no enthusiasm about discovering their new-found environment. It’s almost like the Rez community itself turns into that small town you travelled so far to get away from.

Living with people from different provinces and different parts of the world does broaden your view, but it’s almost an ironic reminder of how little people really know. I’m not forgetting the fact that Canada is a large land mass, but how many of you can match your Rez mates’ hometowns to their province? Ever heard of Yellowknife? Or Labrador City? In Rez you might know a few people from Vancouver, New Brunswick, Ontario or even Fort McMurray, but that’s all most people know. There’s no connection, just bitter Western Canada vs. the East. Everything else is just that, the ROC (rest of Canada).

It’s easy to pick at things, and living here in Rez means it doesn’t take long to realize people’s little quirks and the extent of their so-called intelligence. Call it ignorance or just a mere lack of interest, but no one cares all that much about what goes on outside their own province. The other mentality is that as "long as were ‘smarter’ than those Americans we’re OK."

Being an international student is an entirely different subject all together. I’m pretty sure that if I told anyone here that back in South Africa I lived in a mud hut and the extent of my wardrobe was a green grass skirt worn on all occasions–paying tribute to those National Geographic series on Africa–my story would be believable. It seems like all anyone outside of Canada needs is an accent to be preyed on and labelled "foreign." Particularly because most people seem to be geographically challenged–after all, Africa is just one big country in which South Africa is somewhere near Nigeria.

I understand it is a big world, but knowing your own home neighbours seems to be an unheard of concept and proves to be too much of a challenge. Come to think of it, I should thank whoever put those maps of Canada outside Residence Services–you are educating a lot of misguided people.

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