Humour’s resonance: why it matters

Humour’s witticisms are not just essential in an era when many people find themselves alone or bullied. It is not just wise and useful: they have become a vital part of our cultural heritage. As a First Nations person, humour is part of who I am and what I have always stood for, says Martin Regg Cohn.

Natives are committed to humour as one of our chief tools of negotiation. Humour is a form of conversation, interspersed with jokes and cynicism. Humour conveys truth, political correctness and understanding. Humour, with its freedom and irony, is an essential to being a native.

It is essential to the survival of our people in dealing with bureaucracies and others, especially the strange mindset of farmers which sees us as a nuisance to be pestered away from their fields. Humour can really get you through these moments. Laughter goes along with, not against, mamikas: freedom, strength, wisdom and respect of authority in people’s culture.

First Nations are many things: people, stories, collections of languages, stories, systems, histories, religion, traditions, music, religion, environment, race and so much more.

Humour is our shared language with other peoples. It is our way of speaking, listening, converse with each other and, most importantly, simply being. We entertain ourselves and others while coping with daily events in our situations. We speak in stories, jokes, where one humorous moment can speak volumes. It is sad because there are so many native people who do not have access to humour that is true to our tradition. Humour is the language we use to express our true selves. A vehicle to express what we know we can’t say. We often do not receive the kind of humour we enjoy. Humour does not seem important to most of the white communities that we live with.

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