Rudy Kelly                          Aboriginal writer         

About writing and stories of Aboriginal people on the North Coast of British Columbia

Welcome to Rudy Kelly, Aboriginal Writer, my home for my blog and my projects, including my first novel, ALL NATIVE. To start, I will present excerpts of my novel and write about the process of writing it and, of writing, in general. I'm quite opinionated, so, occasionally, there will be an opinion piece! I hope you enjoy it.

Updated: Jun 8

The following is the first of two articles on racism, this being on my personal experiences growing up with it.


With the horrific killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis and protests in the U.S. and around the world, the issue of racism, particularly white on black and other minorities is dominating the headlines. I haven’t talked much about my experiences with racism, even in my columns during my days as a reporter. I figure that now is a good time as any.

Being an Aboriginal in Canada, racism is something that I think about almost every day. It may come to me as a memory of an experience I had, or I might see or hear of someone I know experiencing it. Sometimes, it will come to mind just because of the repercussions of past atrocities, the trickle-down effects of residential schools that have rooted themselves in me.


I dreaded lice checks in school because it was always us dirty Indians that had them and some teachers took pleasure in announcing who needed to pick up a prescription for lice treatment in front of the whole class. I remember being in line at school and overhearing one of the white girls whisper to a friend to stay clear of me because “Rudy always has lice.”

I was picked on as a kid, but it wasn’t as severe for me as it was for others because I had the implied protection of tough, older brothers. And, having been toughened up by those brothers, I handled myself well enough that most bullies in my age and weight class didn’t bother me. There were times, though, when I was harassed by pairs or groups of white guys a few years older than me. Not being one to just take shit, I often talked back to them and that, occasionally, resulted in a shot to the head.

A lot of how someone experiences racism has to do with the pecking order. Certain things allowed me to gain a foothold in the white world. To start, I did well in school. I recall my first year in junior high, when a teacher would announce who had the top test or assignment results, I was always in the mix. When I got the top mark, all the non-Aboriginal Brainiac’s that had come from different elementary schools, couldn’t hide their surprise. I felt like Taylor when he first spoke in Planet of the Apes.

Before too long, as I became more outgoing and gained more white friends, they started to think of me as one of them – but that didn’t mean they weren’t racist. For some of them, I was just one of the good ones. I recall one night when I was in a car with three white friends and we were wondering what to do. One of them said, “let’s go downtown and beat up some Indians.” There was an awkward moment, and then the guy said, “not talking about you, man. You’re not like the others.” I suppose that moment was my first as an “apple.”

As I continued on through high school, I gained more white friends and some of my Aboriginal friends faded away, largely due to them dropping out of school. The trend continued with my going to college for journalism, which was so rare that I was the first Aboriginal person to graduate from the Mount Royal program.

As I became more of a “professional,” I faced less racism. I am always wary of it, though, because I know it is never too far below the surface. Several years ago, I was at a conference down south. After having dinner at a local pub, I was walking along when I heard some guys in a truck going by, yell “get off the street, Indian!” A second later, a beer bottle whizzed by my face and shattered against the wall of the building beside me. They laughed as they sped away. I got off the street alright, and went straight back to my hotel.

I usually feel some unease whenever I travel on my own and I’m always a little nervous walking into an establishment where, as Eddie Murphy’s character said in the movie, 48 Hours, when he walked into a country bar, “there aren’t a lot of the brothers here.”

When I’m home, in Prince Rupert, I feel very safe. That’s partly because Rupert has a large Aboriginal population and, for the most part, there is respect for Aboriginal people and culture, and acknowledgement of the wrongs that have been committed against Aboriginal people and the reconciliation that is needed. Being well known locally and fairly well-liked also makes home feel safe.

Another reason that I am relatively safe from racism in Rupert is the same one given by that guy in that car those many years ago: you’re not like the others.

The others. I see them all the time. They’re on the streets. They’re struggling to survive. They’re being sneered at and looked down on. No one knows their stories or why they are there. Some people don’t care and would like to see them swept under a giant rug.

I may not be in the place “those people” are but I was there. And, sometimes, I am there, whenever I visit family members or friends who live in poverty or battle addictions, or who struggle to cope with the trauma and hardships that resulted from residential schools and systemic racism. To me, they are not the others; they are a part of me, and I’ll always have one foot in that world.

For those who have never seen that world, I mean really seen it, you should visit it some time. Go to where they are and pull up a chair. Listen. Stop being a stranger to them. That’s the only way that racism withers and dies in anyone; when they take a moment, to meet and, more importantly, understand and know the others.


NEXT: The police, then and now, and how can we change it?

In my final photo essay of locations in ALL NATIVE, the novel, I present the two main fish plant locations in the book, as they are now, as well as a spot that was a popular hang-out then and perhaps still is.


BC PACKERS

The original BC Packers, which had a shed and cold storage building, with a separate lunchroom building and house for the manager, is gone, but a new fish plant stands in its place, owned by Canfisco. The big, deep water dock was able to accommodate dragger boats.


NELSON BROS.

If you turn a right before the current store in Port Edward and go down the road to the tracks, you'll see the site of the former Nelson Bros. Cannery, which was the biggest employer in the community in the 60s. There were three village canneries further along, just outside of Port Ed.


THE GENERAL STORE

The old Port Ed General Store, which was just at the bottom of the hill going to the cannery. The Nelson Bros. payroll office was upstairs. This photo was taken in May and, as you can see, that old wooden bench was still out front!


RUSHBROOK CLIFF


Accessible via Overlook Street, this spot provided a fabulous view and privacy for wayward teens and young men to hang out at.

The forest leading to the cliff area.












In another installment of photos of locations and sights in ALL NATIVE, the novel, I bring you significant buildings, that the boys spent a lot of time in and that played big parts in the story. All photos were taken by me.


Before there was a middle school, there was ...

BOOTH MEMORIAL HIGH

Located on Hays Cove Circle just before the bridge, "Booth" was the school I enjoyed the most, although, of course, King Edward Elementary is right up there. This is where Nate and BJ meet; where Nate achieves his first step in his master plan, and BJ becomes an unlikely student council candidate and has an awkward experience with a girl.

The top photo is the view of the school that I saw a lot of, as I crossed the field to get there from the area I lived in.

The bottom photo is what is left of the original school (it was torn down and a new elementary school, named Lax Kxeen, was built). This original building, which housed classrooms and the library, is now the school district's maintenance and tech building. Back then, many students used these side exits to go hang out in the toolies by "the pipeline."


PRINCE RUPERT SECONDARY SCHOOL

It is now a Middle School but this was the senior high for as long as I can remember. The old PRSS is located on Ninth West near the golf course and Hays Creek, and a minute's walk away from the Civic Centre. This is where Nate shoots for Rainmakers glory and one of the two big games in the book takes place. It also hosted the All Native Tournament for two years after the original Civic Centre burned down.


JIM CICCONE CIVIC CENTRE

Known simply as the "the Civic Centre," it was given Jim Ciccone's name after his tragic death, which was fitting considering that he was a long-time great Rupert basketball player and community booster. This is where the magic happens; the All Native, every February, where thousands of people flock to, to watch great basketball, buy First Nations art, eat delicious traditional foods, and renew old acquaintances. The facility opened in 1972 and the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre, beside it, was added 10 years later.


RUSSELL GAMBLE GYMNASIUM

The main gym, named after one of the All Native's original founders, Russell Gamble. This is where the biggest games have been played for 48 years. This is a photo I took a couple of years ago. If you look closely enough at the crowd in the upper left corner, you'll see 'Makers coach, Mel Bishop, watching, as he does every year. And, not far down from him is George Sampson, long time Friendship House Intermediates team coach and ANT volunteer for the Elders Group!

Products

Product

All Native

The debut novel for Aboriginal author Rudy Kelly.

Contact

1640 - 7th Avenue East

Prince Rupert, BC

V8J2K3

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