About the header
The header image is picture I took. The mug in the picture was bought at the Decolonizing Conference in Toronto, Ontario. The beautiful artwork is by Sioux artist Maxine Noel (Sioux name Ioyan Mani), and the artwork is called “Not Forgotten”. Please check out the link for more of her stunning artwork.
About the subtitle: Maple syrup in my chai
As a South Asian I’ve always been a tea drinker. It may not have always been masala chai, but it’s been chai nonetheless. However, after marrying an Arab man my daily routine now includes multiple (delicious) cups of coffee. Masala chai has now become a part of my early morning weekend routine, the most soothing way to begin the weekend.
My sweetener of choice for my chai – maple syrup. The most Canadian of choices, right? And perhaps fitting for a South Asian Canadian? Chai and maple syrup appear to be the perfect blend of South Asian-ness and Canadian-ness, after all. But we need to remember that maple syrup is actually a part of the traditions of many Indigenous communities on the land we now call Canada. In writing about Colonialism, Maple Syrup, and Ways of Knowing Krista McCracken writes:
Maple syrup knowledge existed long before settlers arrived in the land we currently call Canada. Haudenosaunee traditional knowledge includes descriptions of piercing maple trees for ‘sweet water’ and many Anishinaabe communities have traditions of collecting sap during the “sugaring off” period.
McCracken points to the colonial appropriation of maple syrup as an example of the colonization of Indigenous lands and denigration of Indigenous knowledge – that a product that has been a part the traditions of many Indigenous communities now has come to symbolize the very nation which has been built on the destruction of those very communities while ignoring the real history of the use of maple products.
How can we talk about Indigenous knowledge in relation to maple syrup? In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples reported that Canada’s education systems privileged Western knowledge while Indigenous ways of knowing was frequently dismissed and viewed as inferior. This disconnect between academic knowledge and traditional land based knowledge is still felt in many post-secondary institutions today, with Indigenous scholars being pressured to work within colonial structures.
In other words, the Indigenous knowledge of maple syrup has been ignored in favour of a nationalistic story making maple syrup “Canadian.” Such nation-making stories parallel the general denigration of Indigenous knowledge in favour of colonial knowledge happening not just in Canada, but all over the world.
And so maple syrup, to me, isn’t about Canadian-ness or Canadian pride. Rather it is a reminder that I, as a South Asian settler of colour, live on stolen Indigenous land, and as proud as I am of my South Asian-ness, I can never forget that I am who I am, and can live the life I live, because I benefit from the theft of Indigenous land. Maple syrup in my chai reminds me, as someone who comes from a people who were once colonized by the British and who continue to live in a metacolonial state, to demonstrate solidarity with Indigenous peoples upon whose land I live and who continue to be colonized.