Bee in the Bonnet: Before You Sign Anything, Call Me!

By B.H. Bates

“Why do ‘you’ Natives have to put up all of those huge, ugly signs that block our beautiful views?” That was the comment I received from a person, who thought that the billboards along the by-ways and highways of beautiful British Columbia, were an unnecessary eyesore. “Huff!”

The first thing I tried to explain to him was that, I personally, had nothing to do with the roadside advertisements. Speaking of … on a personal note, why do non-native people look at me and ask me why other Natives do ‘this or that?’ It’s almost as if they think that (just because I’m a Native), I’m somehow in control or that I have a direct line to the ‘Big Tepee?’ It’s either that, or they think I must have mystical powers, enabling me to read the minds of other Natives – who knows? I’ve never walked up to an Asian person and asked: “Hey, Chan, do you know Chon?” But I’ve been approached and asked: “You’re Native, right, you must know Johnny?” Go figure … Eh?

But I regress – back to the subject: AS ADVERTISED. Why would we (us Injuns), do such an outrageously, obscene thing? Why would we post-it-notes (billboards), when we’re the first people to stand up and fight for anything to do with the environment? Yet we put up those vulgar signs that hide mother nature’s vistas. It’s all our fault … or is it?

Have you looked at who’s advertising on those monstrosities? It sure in the hell ain’t ‘Injun Joe’s Medicine Show and Taxidermy.’ I wonder if the people who complain about these ‘signs of the times’ have ever bothered to phone the hotels, casinos, wineries, restaurants and car dealerships to say: “I’m not buying it!”

Probably not, in fact the opposite is true – the signs work. They render a useful service; billboards promote businesses, awareness of public issues and provide a reliable source of revenue for the local Reservations. I’ve also noticed that these same people, who voice (declare, convey, express, make known, advertise) their displeasure of these billboards are some of the same folks who bitch (state, impart, communicate, advertise), that we damned Natives shouldn’t be so damned dependant on government hand outs! “Huff!”

I wonder if poor ol’ Jimmy Pattison (British Columbia’s very own billionaire), has to put up with folks walking up to him and saying: “Hey, buster, what the hell is with all those grotesque billboards?” And the reason I’m name dropping – is because if you look at the bottom of most of those offensive billboards you’ll see his company’s name boldly advertised in big letters. And is ol’ Jim-bo (as I like to call him), worried about blocking the views of beautiful BC? Probably not … he’s a frigin’ bizz-illionaire, what does he care of your opinion? Your angry Email has about as much affect on him, as a fart has in a wind storm. Besides, if anyone knows, he knows: advertising pays!

Here are some other people who think that advertising is a good thing; Calvin Klein – he put half naked teens on billboards around the World. And did he get into trouble for it? You bet your ass he did, and what did he do about it? He did it again, and again, and then laughed all the way to the bank … he, he, ha, ha, ho, ho! Good ol’ Calvie-boy (as I like to call him), knows that ‘Sex sells!’

Speaking of sex … how about the moral majority? They’re all for advertising propagation (sex): “Go forth and multiply.” But, as soon as an accident happens and some poor teenager has to pay … they throw up a billboard that reads: “THE RIGHT TO LIFE!” In my opinion, that’s like giving a hungry teenager a big juicy apple, then tell them how good it tastes, then command: “Thou shall not eat it!”

May I suggest to all of those people who think that billboards should be ‘outlawed.’ Get on the phone and call your local Mayor, the Premier … hell, call the Prime Minister and demand that they put a stop to those highway eye-sores! And while you’re at it – tell them to stop putting up those hideous political banners, that you see on every lawn, around election time. And why stop there: Buses and bus stops, how about those huge yellow ‘M’s at McDonald’s and all of those stupid roadside atrocities that welcome you and announce the name of the city about to enter … “Huff!”

The next time you see myself or any other Native person walking down the street, please, don’t stop us and accuse us of: ‘Indecent Public Exposure!’