My name is Zach Running Coyote. I’m a stage actor based in Rosebud, Alta., and I was verbally attacked and insulted in a McDonald's in nearby Red Deer, based solely on my race.
It was about 9:15 p.m. I had just sat down with my burger and fries, and on CTV News Channel, I saw a story about a farmer in Okotoks, Alta. who was charged after he shot a man on his property. Earlier in the day, the charges had been dropped.
A man, who looked to be in his 30s, and his girlfriend stood in front of the TV, and the man, who wore a black baseball cap and had a goatee, earring and a scowl, declared, "this is a victory for Canada. If someone comes onto my property now, I’ll f**king shoot ‘em dead."
I sat there thinking about how attitudes like this result in the deaths of so many of my people. I remembered Colten Boushie, who was the same age as me when he was shot and killed. I thought about how hard it is to do my work as an actor in Red Deer, even for a summer, when people like the guy in the ball cap drive by me every day and give me dirty looks meant to intimidate me. And in silence, I shook my head.
The man saw this and said, "you got a f**king problem?" He then went to order his food and I heard him say loudly enough for anyone to hear: "That f**king Indian know-it-all better mind his own business."
I stood up, walked over and said "if you want to call me a f**king Indian, say it to my face."
I repeated this three times as he said “you better f**k off" multiple times. He got his food and sneered as he left, so I followed and yelled, "thanks for your opinion!"
He drove up and called me a poor-a** squaw living off his tax dollars before speeding away while making war cries.
I went back into McDonald's and the manager said I was trying to start fights and needed to leave or he would call the police. I protested, but to no avail. I left. A racist was served his meal and I was punished for standing up to him.
There are good white people. We call them allies for a reason. We need them. Please be one. I don’t hate Canadians. I hate the system that allows this behaviour. That system is called Canada, and it wrote and upholds the Indian Act.
In the Cree language, we have a word, "kiyam," that means "let it be." But I won’t let it be. I’ll fight and be heard. But the individuals? I forgive them. I believe in a Creator that is in the business of forgiveness, so I must forgive.
I’m alive to say what others cannot. And I will not stop. I’m coming for you, Canada. We are here, we are alive, and you cannot shut out our voices.
Get The Observer’s latest stories on justice, faith and ethics by signing up for our e-newsletter. It only takes a few seconds to join and we’ll deliver award-winning content to your in-box.