Colonialism at Costco

By Kelly MacNaughton

ANCASTER – I recently had a horrifying incident occur to me on an outing to purchase phones for my husband and I at a Costco in Ancaster, Ontario.  The young man behind the counter was of an ethnicity that was obviously not Indigenous to this land, and when I informed him that I as a Native American indigenous person did not need an HST/GST number or business license to set up a business plan for my accounts and that he could use my Native Status number instead, he flat out denied that that was possible.

I have run into this younger generation of people who are totally misinformed concerning Native Status and how the system works concerning my people on many occasions, but I have rarely come across someone as openly hostile to Native people as this man was. I tried to explain to him that I found it extremely offensive for him to outright dismiss what I was telling him and tried to get him to understand by applying his reasoning to how wrong it would be for me to try and tell him how his heritage, and more particularly, his ethnicity works in his own homeland.

This man intentionally turned this situation into something it should never have been by calling me “racist” for applying his own reasoning to how he was treating me. Unfortunately, many of the youth of today’s workforce are unaware of the distinct status of the Haudenosaunee people and our contributions to the world in general and to Turtle Island in particular.

Today’s youth are misinformed or totally uninformed concerning the role our people have played in creating this country called Canada and the distinct status that we consequently enjoy as allies – not subjects – of the British Crown. The constitution of the Haudenosaunee was used as the template for the Constitution for the United States. We as Haudenosaunee People have made invaluable contributions to this land and protected it from being taken over by the French or Americans. This ignorance is the fault of the Canadian Government and the role their education system has played in the disenfranchisement of the Native Peoples of Turtle Island.

So how then is this my fault?

In the bigger picture, Canada has sought to eradicate my people because we hold stewardship to this land and this prevents them from the outright total rape and exploitation of our Mother Earth. Canada consistently implements policies without consultation with our people and violates the treaties we made with the British Crown. After residential schools and the forceful imposition of the Indian Act upon the Haudenosaunee in 1924 failed to destroy us, Canada is seeking to force an eventual municipalization of the Haudenosaunee that continues down the same road of genocidal policies that even the United Nation recognizes.

This man at the phone kiosk in Costco shouted out that I was “racist” and stated that he was a Canadian born here. He created a forum of racism by acting in this manner.  I turned his actions back on him when he adamantly refused to check into what I was telling him and that which I have known to work in the past.  He deliberately made it about “Canadian pride” by refusing to address his heritage and the colonial history that comes attached to his Canadian citizenship.  Any immigrant to these lands – whatever their color –  is tied to Canadian Colonialism because in reality there is no such thing as a “true Canadian” outside of the Native Peoples that have always been here.

The circus created by this man turned even nastier when he started calling other customers into the discussion that should have been solely between him and myself. He yelled out to several people and shouted “Hey Ma’am did you hear what this lady said… she said I don’t belong here because she’s Native!” The fact that he liberally took license with my words is not surprising when one considers his treatment of me to begin with.  I had said that there is no such thing as “just a Canadian,” because all Canadians have another heritage to which they belong to because their families don’t come from here.

He twisted everything I said and continued to call me racist and include other people in the lambasting he was orchestrating against me. I could hear “Sir, Ma’am. Did you hear this woman?”  And that’s when he starting yelling out that I was “disgusting” and “a racist” and his co-worker Travis also jumped into the fray. I turned to walk away, knowing that any further engagement could end in physical violence at the instigation of this man. He continued to shout that I was “disgusting,” and at this point I repeated back to him that he was disgusting for doing what he was doing.

What made this incident even worse was that a woman started to attack me as well, basing her accusations on the fact that she was a proud Canadian, and I saying that I couldn’t say that about myself, mimicking what the man at the kiosk was doing.

I heard many denigrating comments being thrown at me when I tried to explain that there is an ignorance of my culture that perpetuates oppression of the Haudenosaunee. I tried to make it clear that there is a huge lack of misunderstanding concerning Native history. I had it thrown back at me by the man behind the counter that my history didn’t matter and that I needed to leave because I also, did not matter.  Similar comments were being shouted at me by this time, all instigated by this man working at the phone kiosk, while he continued to shout that I was disgusting and kept trying to pull more people into his horror show.

I felt completely horrified to be victim of the type of racism thrown at me by the people in Costco. How is it possible that such an overwhelming number of people were ready to attack me because I was standing up for myself and not letting someone else’s’ intolerance make me ashamed of who I am?

I went to speak with the manager at Costco, Wayne Buffong, and was reassured he would look into the phones and that he would make sure that the issue with the men involved at the kiosk, who work under the umbrella of Costco, and not Costco directly, would be addressed.  Unfortunately the story does not end here.

I refused to let the actions of the men at the kiosk chase me out of Costco even though they had definitely ruined my day and my husband’s day. Upon checking out at the front, the man Travis was there talking to another employee about the incident and talking loud enough that I knew he was talking about me. There was a man standing in front of me so I didn’t see  Travis at first which in turn ensured that he didn’t see me. When the man moved I stood there and continued to listen while Travis went on about me, saying I was screaming and creating problems and how now he has to see the ‘big man’.

I looked at him and he glanced at me and realized I had heard him. He then refused to look at me and went to stand outside the doors to the managerial offices. All I could think about was what fantastic fabricators these individuals are.

These two men should not have jobs where they deal with the public. In no way at any time did they try deal with me in an accommodating manner. Their initial discussion with me was full of paternal condescension about how horrible Blackberry phones are, and how Rogers as a service provider is “shitty”. This all by itself was off putting, but I needed to buy new phones and was willing to pay pretty much any price to get better phones to work with for my business. Thanks to these individuals I fell victim to an intolerant attitude that spiraled out of control.

I was shaking when I went into the manager’s office. The manager was calming but I am still deeply upset. I couldn’t sleep because of what transpired. What if the situation had become violent? The way in which this man manipulated people was frightening, I had nightmares. I felt the only way to get this out of my head was to write about it, now maybe I can sleep.

Racism and Ignorance. Whenever their ugly heads are reared, trauma is bound to occur.

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