In a time where intellect reigns, there is no room for myopic jabber

Europe, in perilous medieval times of famine and disease, had to find new resources to keep the bitch going. Thus, Columbus was to be the man to set adrift waves after waves of plunder, pillage, and rape of the of the peoples in the New World. Gord Hill’s 500 Years of Resistance attempts to record this half-millennial account and give us the other side’s perspective. The comic book’s premise is presumably to educate indigenous people, as well as descendants of white settlers in a condensed manner. However, the simplicity of the comic quickly turns into an incoherent rant which greatly undermines the book’s legitimacy and seriousness of darker parts of American history.

Needless to say, the atrocities committed by the Europeans – as the book points out more precisely, Christians – can never be excused. What was done to the Native people of the Americas should always leave a metallic taste in the mouths of the settler’s descendants. The idea behind this comic and the information given within it is very much needed. Today, most young people are preoccupied with Facebook statuses and celebrity Twitter accounts, while this book has the chance grab 20 minutes of their lives to teach them about the true bloody history of the post-Columbian Americas. Where the whole thing comes to a grinding halt is the illustrative method and overall narrative flow of the comic.

The illustrations and their respective contents are at times very confusing to follow frame to frame. It just breaks the concentration, and thus interest in the topic. One finds themself scrutinizing it even more after that. One way, for example, to improve it would have been several stories set in different times. Hill was clearly setting a tone and base for his own militant activism and message, currently present in the form of the Native Youth Movement. The NYM’s mission is to fight for their land, people, and culture and never quit because their enemies “will not stop until they feel [native peoples] are no longer a threat to their evil and devilish crackah ways.” Hill was also involved in the 500 Years of Indian Resistance campaign in San Francisco in October of 1992, and after that in the 1995 Ts’Peten Standoff at Gustafsen Lake in BC’s interior. Quite fittingly, these types of movements are the last and most elaborated parts touched upon by the book as it deals with the struggles of the Pacific Coastal peoples.

Technically speaking, the comic is split up into two parts illustrating “The Invasion” and then “The Resistance.” But what becomes obvious is that it is really “Us, the Pacific Coast; but before we get there, The Other Less Important Ones.” The first part is a basic, yet sobering, scratch on the surface of the imperialist genocidal spread of Christianity. It even strikes a shameful note at times, but the constant logistic fuck-ups of the illustrations make it very hard to get involved deeply. Because of that it comes off more as a racially-biased, incoherent tirade rather than an educational illustration of Christianity’s appalling success of evil.

As for the resistance portrayed in the comic, it is on a tit for tat basis. That is probably the fairest way to resolve injustices of the degree begot over the last 500 years. Violence and militancy are both clear messages here. Today, we live in more civil times and to gain legitimacy, the movements that Hill is involved in should not stress violence to resolve these damning issues.

Gord Hill puts great emphasis on solidarity among American indigenous peoples, saying  that they should cooperate in the resistance. This would strengthen their identity, and most importantly, their presence in the Americas. Everyone is included because they were all in the same boat when the Europeans invaded with muskets, cannons, horses, dogs and God’s “divine will.” However, he fails to elaborate with the same level of detail on events in the East and South than those on the Pacific Coast. Curiously absent are criminalities committed in the Amazon, for example, which should be numerous if the same assimilation methods were used by all European imperialist nations. This could have also made for a far more informative and legitimate comic that tackles all the issues, regardless of location.
It is hard to see how all the other nations can get behind this project if they are not represented in fair proportion.The Pacific Coast region is covered with peculiar detail, at an almost year-to-year basis. The back of the comic mentions that Hill has researched this topic for two years prior to publication, but according to the comic’s content, it seems that most of his specified research was done on the Pacific Coast. His methodology is not explained by either him or by former University of Colorado ethnic studies professor and Native American political activist, Ward Churchill, who also contributed to the preface. Information for the first part of the book can easily be found on Google and Wikipedia. Even that copy/pasted map depicting the origins of the European invasion.

Labelling this comic as a positive means of educating people would be negligent and rather boastful. It would be disturbing especially for kids when you tell and show them that colonists used to cut off indigenous peoples’ hands and noses. This would actually instill fear, anger and hate, and would be an awful way to promote social change and mutual respect. So a good question to ask is: given that whites have since established immovable roots in the Americas, what would Gord Hill suggest is a constructive way to generate long lasting mutual respect 500 years later? Unfortunately, Hill, who goes by Zig Zag on Facebook, could not be reached for comments. His point of view on this – apart from the one in the comic – would be very insightful.

The main lesson learned from this book is that if you want to raise attention to the struggle of your people, organize your messages so as to have a vital impact. Racist and leftfield jabber won’t help get any point across. Also, ease of reading does not excuse for lack of revision. The comic’s theme is a very important one that not only aboriginals should be aware of, but also the descendents of white settlers. Political awareness and action, nowadays, are a direct product of your rhetoric. If your premise is critical, your rhetoric is paramount.

//Sasha Lakic

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com