Amy Hull is of Mi’kmaq and Inuit descent, but has a complicated relationship with her identity because of a government decision to revoke her Indian status.
She’s in her third year at York University in Toronto, studying dance. She is vice-president of the university’s Aboriginal Students Association At York (ASAY), a member of the National Urban Inuit Youth Council, and Toronto’s Inuit Youth Council. She moved from Ottawa, but is learning to call Toronto home.
Amy is passionate. Her voice changes when speaking about certain things – a sort of cheery tone when she talks about the community work she’s doing, and a bit sarcastic when she talks about all the things she doesn’t agree with.
Amy came to Toronto for university and immediately noticed a difference between the urban Inuit community in her new home and the one back in Ottawa. The community in Toronto was more vibrant and kind, but, most importantly, new.
I came to Toronto and thought it was such a nice urban Inuit community. In Ottawa, the First Nations community was violent towards the Inuit Community, so when I got here, I was like … “Nice people.” I don’t have to constantly defend myself. And now I know people and I’m in, it feels really nice. There are a lot of Inuit in Toronto; we just aren’t very mobilized yet, but we’re getting there.
I interact a lot with the Indigenous community at York and there are a lot of self-identified Indigenous people, around 400 or something like that. At the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services (CASS), we probably get 30 to 40 people. And while the administration pretends to be supportive, like most campuses, it’s really a lip service. They’ll support our events on the surface, but when it comes down to it, they won’t show up and won’t make necessary administerial changes to improve Indigenous student’s experiences.
Before Aug. 31, Amy was a member of Qalipu First Nation, a Mi’kmaq Nation of Newfoundland. But she isn’t anymore.
Qalipu is the largest First Nation in Canada, with more than 104,000 people applying for membership since 2008. Due to the overwhelming number of applicants, the federal government and Qalipu First Nation developed a points system for membership, and have since rescinded the status of countless individuals.
My First Nation kicked me out and the government revoked my Indian status. I’m so angry. I feel like I’m free falling and there’s no net to catch me. No one has explained anything to anyone. I sent an email to [Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations] Carolyn Bennett’s office several months ago, and I got a generic response from an employee. You know what they gave me? It was basically a suicide hotline.
No matter how many times I ask questions, I’m given unsatisfying responses. I appealed the decision and it got me nowhere. My status was determined based on a points system; it was such a dehumanizing experience.
I wasn’t the only one stripped of status, it happened to over 10,000 people. That happened, it was a huge thing, and it’s still happening right now. I just lost my Indian status and I just lost everything that I ever had. It’s affecting people right now: people are losing their medications, some veterans now can’t get PTSD treatment.
The Indian Act was created to make us depend on it, and it worked. We’re dependent on it. So to pull that out from under people’s feet, and to have no nets to catch them, is unacceptable — and they’re calling it decolonization. That’s not decolonization, that’s genocide.
Amy faces a problem many urban Indigenous people can relate to in the present era of reconciliation. She is often asked to speak on behalf of other Indigenous people, but admits she can’t do that.
Being an urban Indigenous person, a lot of us are faced with being asked to do certain things we aren’t comfortable doing. For me, it’s hard when people ask me to do a welcoming, because I’m not from here, so I can’t do it.
I can do a smudge, I can say a little prayer, I can say thanks to the Creator, I can even say the official land acknowledgement. But I can’t welcome you to the land, because it’s not my land to welcome anyone to. I’m supposed to be welcomed here, I’m a settler here.
Being called to speak on behalf of Indigenous people is a lot of emotional labour.
Amy is passionate about everything that affects Indigenous people, in Canada and internationally. She has a penchant for advocating on behalf of global Indigenous communities.
Global Indigenous people, under the umbrella term “Indigenous,” need to care more about each other. If the definition of Indigenous is something along the lines of “originating in a particular place,” then why don’t we care about other displaced people?
I mean, there’s like Indigenous Land Defence Across Borders, but nobody knows about that, and it needs to be a thing.
This stems beyond Indigenous people in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. I want to change how we look at other Indigenous communities, like Palestine. It’s a colonized space, just like Canada – there’s a lot of death, a lot of children dying and we need to care about that.
Some of the responses in this piece have been edited for clarity and brevity.
This story is part of Not My Territory*, a HuffPost Canada series about urban Indigenous perspectives driven by the people who are part of the country’s fastest growing populations.
*Some Indigenous people live in cities that don’t overlap with their community’s traditional territory, and many feel burdened by being regularly called on to represent cultures and backgrounds that aren’t their own.
Not My Territory* gives urban Indigenous people a platform to speak for themselves.