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Darrell on Urban Natives

I really enjoyed listening to this episode on city Natives, partly because I hadn't yet heard the completed, edited episode yet but also because Natives living in the city is a pretty common theme in a lot of my writing: screenplays, theatre, comedy, etc.

Having lived on a reserve that was almost completely unpaved, moving to the city was an overwhelming and exciting change for me. It's kind of funny when I look back because the way I thought my life was going to be was pretty much based on what I saw in the movies and on TV. But as I soon discovered, TV is not real!... GASP!... I know shocker!

Because of television, I thought that once I moved from the reserve I was going to immediately be welcomed into the trendy crowd, go to all the hip underground parties and clubs, be snatched up by the biggest brokerage firm and become a millionaire stock broker and live in a penthouse apartment. I mean, it happened to Michael J. Fox in his movies all the time! How hard can it be?

The reality is, I moved to the city, got a job as a dishwasher, and spent most of my weekends, friendless, and watching sitcom re-runs. Not quite as glamorous as I had imagined. However, it wasn't quite the devastating start to city living for a young Native man as the Canadian media would have you believe it should be.

Most shows, books, or stories about Natives moving to the city usually end up pretty badly. Skid row, substance abuse, and prison are usually what is portrayed in the Aboriginal city experience. Unfortunately, this is what a lot of Canadians believe is the most common Aboriginal experience in Canada.

Over the years though I have met countless Native people that are incredibly successful both on reserve and off. There are Native people running corporations, restaurants, arts organizations, political bodies... the list goes on and on. The problem is many non- Native people do not recognize these people as Native because they do not fit into the stereotype of the down and out Indian on the street. They usually assume that these successful Aboriginals are from a different ethnic background or had never grown up on a reserve. That was certainly true of my experiences and continues to be a reality for me even today.

Hopefully, shows like today's episode of ReVision Quest can give mainstream audiences a more complete picture on the Urban Aboriginal experience in this country. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the show. Tune in next week for more ass-sumption kicking!

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