Osha Condos, a new real estate venture by the group Altius, recently unveiled a promotional poster for their upscale condos in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The poster features an image of Indigenous people and colonial settlers meeting and shaking hands, above a photo of the condo's open-concept living room and kitchen.
This marketing strategy was the brainchild of the condo's promoter, Jacques Plante, who says that he came across the photo on Wikepedia while researching the area's history. He liked one of the theories about the Hochelaga's history, which states that the area's name is derived from Osha Aga, meaning "People of the Shaking Hands."
TL;DR Condo developers have been accused of cultural appropriation and innapropriate use of Indigenous culture because of a recent advertisement campaign. They have since pulled the campaign. Also, two women, Dakota Swiftwolf and Leilani Shaw, have recently launched a toolkit to help people be better allies to Indigenous people.
'Osha Aga" was supposedly uttered by the Indigenous people to Jacques Cartier and his men, because they shook hands when greeting the Indigenous tribe they encountered. In their original promotional materials, they also mention chief Billy Two Rivers, Mohawk activist and retired wrestler.
Many people are decrying this as a form of cultural appropriation (cultural appropriation is the act of taking an item or tradition from a historically marginalised people by a majorority group, for use outside of its traditional context).
Ross Montour, chief of the Mohawk council of Kanahwake, clearly states "this is wrong." He goes onto say that this is cultural appropriation, and that they are using Billy Two River's name and story without his permission to promote their project.
The promoters rejected this label, stating that the image and the idea behind it fit well with the project's ethos. However, they have since pulled the plug on the campaign. The billboard has since been vandalised.
However, many state that this goes beyond cultural appropriation, and the the "Osha-Aga" story does not accurately reflect history.
Alain Beulieu, history professor at UQAM, tells La Presse that Jacques Cartier knew about the Hochelaga name well before arriving, and it was probably an Iroquois who told him. He goes on to say that the idea that the chief and Cariter shook hands is a fairly recent invention, and it is not even clear that people shook hands at all in the 16th century.
Other experts have weighed in to judge that the theory of the hand-shaking is highly unlikely to be true.
The incident also represents the way that we as settlers have redefined history to fit our own narrative, and have ignored the facts at the expense of historical accuracy. Doctoral candidate at l'UQAM science of religion faculty Caroline Nepton-Hotte reminds us, in an interview with CBC, that the image is ironic.
She states that Indigenous people did not own property, instead choosing to forgoe a relationship with the land.
Whether or not you agree that this was cultural appropriation, there are some great resources out there to help you be a better ally to Indigenous people.
Two women from the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network were in the news this week for publishing a toolkit online that informs people on Indigenous issues and allyship.
Dakota Swiftwolfe and Leilani Shaw have broken down allyship into three simple steps:
Be critical of any motivations
Because of the high demand for the paper version of the toolkit, it has now also been published online.
Stay tuned for more news.