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.”
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.
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.