In the language of my people, Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation), the term commonly used to describe the white man is “wasicu”. A direct translation of the word means “fat taker”. My ancestors used it to describe the greedy, greedy and selfish behavior they witnessed among European settlers who invaded our homelands. For them, fat was the most nutrient and energy rich part of the buffalo that they consumed for their livelihood. In other words, they saw the settlers stealing the best of everything, or “taking the fat” for themselves at the expense of everyone and everything in between, from other human beings to Mother Earth.
For the Oceti Sakowin and other indigenous nations, greed was shameful. Those who behaved in this manner were rejected or cast out because, in their wisdom, the ancients knew that such individuals would sow scarcity, cause division, spread the contagion of cowardly insatiability, and endanger the existence of the whole community. community.
Today people tend to think of the colonial ‘wasicu’ mentality as a thing of the past. No. May I introduce Rodney and Ekaterina Baker to you?
The former head of a Canadian casino company and his wife, an actress, were recently accused under the Yukon Territory Civil Emergency Measures Act for chartering a private plane to the tiny community of Beaver Creek to receive COVID-19 vaccines for vulnerable Indigenous people there live.
Among those to be vaccinated were Elders from White River First Nation, who were selected because they are considered to be at an extremely high risk of dying from the coronavirus if infected. They also have virtually no access to adequate medical facilities, with only a small clinic there which is staffed with a nurse and receptionist. A mobile team had to come to administer the Moderna vaccine.
The couple lied to staff at the mobile clinic to get the shot, claiming they were local workers at a motel.
After taking precious medicines for themselves for Indigenous Elders, they fled to the airport, ready to return to their luxury life in Vancouver. But the ugliness of their actions does not end there. According to public health rules, Rodney and Ekaterina were to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in the Yukon. They did not, endangering the entire remote community of Beaver Creek, as well as Whitehorse, where they had checked into a hotel.
They also cannot feign ignorance. Ekaterina Baker’s Instagram is full of posts that talk about quarantining and staying home. The couple knew exactly what they were doing and what rules they were breaking.
They were fined C $ 575 (approximately $ 447) each. Since their scandalous little adventure, Rodney Baker has resigned from the management of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. In 2019, his compensation was C $ 10.6 million ($ 8.24 million at the current exchange rate). His severance pay was not disclosed. 575 Canadian dollars is mere pocket change for these people, and in my opinion such a small fine compared to Mr. Baker’s value does little to deter those who might be able to imitate his selfish contempt for life. others.
Unfortunately, we are likely to see more objectionable wasicu behavior during this pandemic. It was not the first instance and it will not be the last.
Last spring, another couple from Quebec traveled more than 5,000 km (3,107 miles) in the Yukon in an attempt to escape the virus while possibly being a carrier that could have infected many residents of the isolated territory. They were then escorted by the police.
Just days after the Baker Fracas, a registered nurse in Philadelphia, USA, who works for a vaccine supplier there, claimed to have seen the CEO of the company take “10 to 15 doses” of the Pfizer vaccine and leave the establishment.
The refusal to prioritize fair access is also a form of theft. New data reveals that black and Latin Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine at much lower rates than white Americans, even though they have higher infection and death rates.
The tide can turn, however. Thanks to public outrage, Baker’s fines were increased to C $ 2,300, and after people said the penalty was too small, the Yukon Minister of Community Services announced the couple’s tickets had been suspended. Now they must appear in court and face up to six months in prison. We will see if this more severe punishment materializes.
As an Indigenous woman living on a reservation in the United States, I am experiencing the devastation caused by COVID-19 firsthand. Indigenous communities are hit hard by the virus, at rates three to four times higher than whites. Every week we lose more elders, who carry our rare ancient languages and are libraries of cultural knowledge. My father died of COVID-19 just a few weeks ago. What these drug thieves are doing is not only morally wrong, but potentially fatal. With such selfishness comes a body count, and indigenous peoples pay the price.
Sometimes white people get angry when they are called “wasicu”, especially when they find out its true meaning. What they don’t realize is that being a “wasicu” doesn’t depend on your race or the color of your skin. Anyone can be a “wasicu” because it is a state of being. If the settlers do not want to be labeled “big takers,” all they need to do is change their behavior, establish consequences for others who do not, and challenge the current colonial capitalist systems which do not. depend on it. We all have the ability to define ourselves and become what we want. In this case, the survival of humanity depends on it.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.