February 27, 2009

Free Pizza with a Side of BS! Aboriginal Recruitment and “Bold Eagle”

David Tymoshchuk
Rebel Youth,
Spring 2007

While taking a break from classes at my university, I decide to head into the Aboriginal Students Centre. It so happened that there was free pizza for everybody in the room, courtesy of the Canadian Armed Forces and its recently increased budget.

I grabbed a couple of slices – since it is not everyday that the army buys you pizza. The relationship between the army and First Nations never was lovey-dovey anyways. The Indian Summer of 1990- the Oka crisis, comes to mind. The Metis and the Red River Resistance, even further back in time, was also repressed by the army. So why the hell is the army here in the Aboriginal Students Centre buying us all pizza?

Now, since we were all eating and not about to go anywhere (aahh, so that’s why we got pizza) the army recruiter began:

“Blah, blah, blah, we are the good guys … fight forest fires … help sandbag in floods … blah, blah, blah.”

I was enjoying my pizza – Hawaiian. Hawaii – my mind drifts off to Hawaii and how the American Army set up shop when they grabbed that land with out asking.

“Blah, blah, blah… we put you in your place when you stand up… help smash struggles at First Nations land reclamations” (okay, that was in my mind only). A smirk crosses my face at the mental image of a recruiter saying that, in this room especially.

A power point presentation then began outlining the increased demand for soldier, the new programmes, and relaxing of recruitment standards. “For example,” said the recruitment officer, “you don’t have to be fit to join the army now, we’ll send you off to a special programme to make you fit before you start basic training.”

Boy, this country really is becoming obese, I thought, or maybe the army is calling us as a group fat. The thought of such a thing is repulsive, hell, it is racist underneath all that diplomatic crap. Then again, we were scarffing down pizza. I tried the pepperoni.

“We even have a programme tailored…” the officer then proceeded to explain “Bold Eagle” (why the hell does the military use the name Eagle in everything?). Bold Eagle is a summer course specifically designed for Aboriginal youth to enter and get a taste of the army life – and yuk! what a bad taste that is!

A sixteen year-old can join up with this programme and be shipped out to Wainwright, Alberta. There are even Elders hired in the program to provide support, we were told, by the oh so friendly army guy.

Elders?! Whoa! This is getting really strange and my attention is actually starting to focus. Yup, they bend backwards to recruit Aboriginals these days, I wonder why?

Well, there is that nasty war in Afghanistan right now with massive numbers of casualties, better save the white guys and recruit some real cannon-fodder, opps, I mean soldiers. That is what it felt like at that moment in the room. Need an education? Join the Army! Want to see the world? Join the Army! Want to be scarred for life or die? Join the army!

How many ways can this recruiting message be dressed up?

Bold Eagle is a first step on the slippery slope of entering the military. First you enter the program which lasts the summer, with no commitments to join – but there is an option to join. You belong to them when you sign.

You are paid to participate in Bold Eagle -- $3000. And on top of that, they pay for your transportation to Alberta, all meals, army gear, uniform, etc. But what after you leave the army, a noble and honorable profession? Johnny Cash had the right answer when he sang the Ballad of Ira Hayes, Tommy Prince comes to mind as well.

So what are we defending? Certainly not our good reputation. If you want to join Bold Eagle after reading this, you’ve been warned.

The pizza was like cardboard anyways.

David Tymoshchuk is a student activist at the University of Winnipeg and a member of the Aboriginal Student’s Association.

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