Dr. Cindy Blackstock remembers picking pine cones as a child in northern B.C. and hearing racial slurs hurled her way.
During games of ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ she always wanted to be a cowboy, “because you live longer in that game.”
The advocate and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has dedicated her working life toward building better protections for Indigenous children and their families through compensation for past discrimination.
Below is an excerpt from the Black Press Media’s Off The Page podcast, which can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or everywhere podcasts are heard.
Q: Do you remember (racist comments) being directed specifically at yourself?
Blackstock: Yes - they’d call at us other kids would repeat what their parents had said. Like you’re a dirty Indian and all the rest of it. And we would play Cowboys and Indians because that was the game. And everybody, including me, wanted to be a cowboy because you live longer in that game.
It was all around us and everything that you did, even opening up books. And you’d only see white kids with a nice dog. And then from what you would see on television, the really stereotypical and aggressive portrayal of then mostly Native Americans.
We have generations that had been so hurt by residential schools and had no support, and had a lot of judgment from the rest of Canadians about what they were doing.
Q: What was it that you wanted to push harder (for Indigenous youth)?
Blackstock: I think, first of all, the magnificence of these kids, and in many ways, they had bigger dreams for themselves too. And I just thought, ‘Why can’t this happen for them?’ … I was privileged a few years ago to go down and meet with members of Martin Luther King’s family, and some of the activists around him, and they said you have to be prepared to stand in the winds of discrimination.
For the rest of the interview, visit omny.fm/shows/off-the-page.
New episodes of Off The Page drop every Wednesday.