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  • Writer's pictureCrystal Semaganis

The Shania Conundrum

Updated: Feb 25




I was only eighteen years old in 1989 when I walked into the Barry Hotel on 20th and Avenue B in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, looking for my cousin Georgina. Not too many people there, so I grabbed a beer and sat down and my waitress is blonde, energetic.


She comes up to me with my beer and announces "I am a Status Indian!"


Now I am green AF, and lacked a filter or any diplomacy back then, so I said "How the @#*& can that be, you're a white woman," and I took a sip. She whips out a Indian Status card and I took it from her and examined it, and it was the same as mine. She says her parents were white and I said "@(&#" and she admitted, "Ok, the guy I married is Indian."


And that is how I learned that prior to 1985, a non-Indigenous woman could marry a Status Indian and be dubbed by the Giant Colonial Magic Wand with fairy dust and be declared Indian (Indigenous) - with a government card called a "Certificate of Indian Status" to prove it. If this woman had kids that were already there before she met and married this Status Indian, they could also be booped by that Giant Colonial Magic Wand and be Status Indians, too. That Indian Status was given to them through marriage, for life.


It's bullshit.


This is what I call the Shania Conundrum. In the early 1990s I ran into this again on Bear Island, home of the Temagami First Nation in northern Ontario. I see a photo of a pretty young lady smiling, on the wall at the Elders' Building and I asked the Elders, "Who's that?"


"That's Jerry's girl, she wants to be famous," but they also say that she is a white girl and has been adopted. They are very supportive, this girl working at Deerhurst and connected to Bear Island. But they know she's white.


A few years later in 1995 or 1996, I am watching the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards on tv, and Tom Jackson is hosting. His hair is black then, and not long into the show, Shania comes out onto stage, singing. I stop and am like "Wait a minute, that's a white girl," and I am wondering how a white girl got herself onto an Indigenous awards show in front of a national audience. Don't they know? How did this even happen... and apparently I am not the only one who thought that because there was an uproar after that (even prior to the Internet the Moccassin Telegraph was fully capable of an uproar).


Shania Twain, AKA Eileen Edwards then, never appeared on an Indigenous Awards show or in the role as Indigenous since, because everyone KNEW she was a white girl. White girl with a status card, sure. I am certain many asked her who are you? And she probably replied with a story of connection to the Temagami First Nation (Bear Island) and how she is a registered Status Indian. But she's still a white girl.


In the coming years, I was in the Band Office one time when she called to renew her status card, and then again when the issue of Bill C-31 came out.


So there ARE thousands of white people and other non-Indigenous people who have not one drop in Indigenous blood/DNA in them, and yet - they are legal Status Indians. And they can pass that Indian Status on to their children and they don't have to be Indigenous by blood, either. Some of those children, like Eileen Edwards (Shania - stage name), were adopted by a Status Indian and made into Status Indians by colonial law.

But their bloodline IS white... non-Indigenous.


And since 1985, many of those non-Indigenous (White) Status Indians are still alive, still on reserve in some cases, holding reserve housing with their Status Cards and getting Medical Trans and all benefits like they were Status Indians - even though we all know they are not Indian.


Conversely, Enfranchisement took away the status of Status Indian women who married white men. Why? Because our colonial government is paternalistic, judgey, and rooted in assimilation. Those Status Indian women eventually got their stolen status back through Bill C-31, but the day THAT happened, the government should've taken back all the Indian Status Cards that went to white women who got it through marriage prior to 1985.


So there are plenty of white people (non-Indigenous) people out there who have Indian Status without any biological/DNA relationship to Indigenous People, and this is why you cannot accept a Certificate of Indian Status as singular proof of being Indigenous.


That's the fact, and holding a status card is not the Smoking Gun proof you think it is. Just ask ACTUAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, because we know.


That be fact.


That's your Shania Conundrum. Crystal

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