Thomas King’s “Borders”
Thomas King, in his story, portrays citizenship as an essential element in most countries. As the story flows, the mother and the narrator move to visit Laetitia, who was in America. At the border, every individual needs to identify the citizenship in which they originate. Before the mother and narrator go through the American-Canada border, the guards have to identify and recognize their citizenship. Also, the narrator portrays that a person’s origin is essential, and a person should not defy their roots. This is shown from the mothers insisting on her citizenship even though the narrator had a different opinion. Therefore, the author believes that a person’s place origin defines citizenship and no conflicts nor critiques can change it.
The narrator begins with the mother and he traveling to Salt Lake City while they were visiting Laetitia, who had earlier left the reserve and moved across to look for a job. During their trip, they came between the border of Canada and America. However, they were stopped by the guards’ at the border. The author says that the guards asked the mother if they were from Canada or the American side. The mother had a strong feeling towards her native culture and was proud of her culture and values in her native community. As the author shows the conversation between the guard and the mother, she keeps insisting on her Blackfoot citizenship. The guards ask, “Citizenship?” the mother replies, “Blackfoot,” the guard asks for clarification. “Ma’am?” the mother still answers, “Blackfoot.” The guard still not convinced with the named citizenship asks again, “Canadian?”, but the mother insists, “Blackfoot” (King n.p). The guards refused Blackfoot as citizenship and told her that if she did not clarify accepted citizenship, they were not let her cross the borders. However, the mother neither says if she is a Canadian nor an American.
By the end of the story, the mother used the power of the media to protect her indigenous identity. In this short story, the countries are not only divided by the borders. There exist different boundaries between young and old, present and past, non-native and native, immigrant and indigenous, sister and brother. He uses several conflicts between children and the mom, guards, and the mom to emphasize the love and pride of the Blackfoot native culture and how they fight back when they were facing and mistreating by indigenous peoples’ identity marginalization.
The first confit is about the different views of citizenship between the young generations of the indigenous peoples and the old generation of indigenous peoples. At the beginning of the story, Laetitia always says she is proud of her dad is an American, and as a half-American, she can go and come to America as she wants. In her mind, America is much better than her home country. Mom feels upset about Laetitia’s feelings about America. However, instead of forbidding her daughter to go to America, she chooses to let her go. On the way to send Laetitia to the American border, mom mentioned that although they left Canada for a while, they still can see the mountains of Canada. The mountains symbolized home and a sense of belonging. However, Laetitia says Salt Lake also has lots of mountains as a reply. Mom does not argue with Laetitia. She let Laetitia go to American and takes the narrator to go back home. At the border, the author wishes that his mother could have said that their citizenship is Canadian, to be allowed passage. As the narrator states,” It would have been easier if my mother had just said “Canadian” and been done with it…” (King n.d). He shows the pride the mother had to have Blackfoot citizenship, even though everyone was against it.
At the end of the story, Laetitia changes her idea of Blackfoot citizenship after seeing how her mom fights about her citizenship and against the unfair treatment of indigenous peoples. Her mom’s behavior made her feel the pride of her Blackfoot identity and realized the importance of loving her Blackfoot citizenship. In terms of the narrator, when he and his mother were stuck in America borders because the mother refused to declare her citizenship, the narrator shows how the boy tried to clear up things. “I told Stella that we were Blackfoot and Canadian, but she said that that didn’t count because I was a minor” (King n.p). Therefore, the mother was the only sauce of help but kept persisting that her identity is Blackfoot. As a boy of tender age, the narrator feels confused about his mother’s behavior and feels upset that he cannot see his sister in America.
Both sides of the border did not accept Blackfoot as genuine citizenship. The mother and son are stuck in the place between American boundaries and Canadian borders. The narrator and mom have to stay in the car and figure out the way to across neither American borders nor Canadian borders. Mom tells the narrator about the stars of the sky and says each star has their story. As the mother said, “Every one of those stars has a story” (King n.p); she meant that every individual has an origin and evolves from a specific group of people. From the statement, the stars symbolized the various ethnic group in the world, and each ethnic group has its history and story. Every history and story deserves to be heard and respected. Therefore, the people in the border should have listened to her story and considered her citizenship as one of the accepted nationalities because the Blackfoot may be a minority ethnic group. Still, they shape their culture value in their unique ways.
The second conflict is between mom and the guards. The guards refused the Blackfoot as citizenship and not allowed mom and the narrator across the borders. Mom keeps saying that her citizenship is Blackfoot and refuses American and Canadian as citizenship. When they arrived at Canada borders, the young lady’s attitude is more friendly than the American guard. However, mom and the narrator suffer a misunderstanding of Blackfoot. When the guard knows they are Blackfoot, she says, “I know,..and I’d be proud of being Blackfoot if I were Blackfoot. But you have to be American or Canadian.” (King n.p). The guard knows about Blackfoot but still insists on them being Canadian or American. Despite the resistance the mother got, she kept persisting on her Blackfoot citizenship.
In this story, boundaries have been used to divide lines that separate each other. Therefore, the story title does not discuss the boundary between the United States and Canada. Instead, it points to boundaries that divide different areas reserved between various countries’ land. When the native individuals’ multicultural boundaries, they have to leave behind their uniqueness, such as Blackfoot. If they are not American or Canadian, they will end up staying in the excluded land. The “borders,” therefore, demonstrate clearly how difficult the native individuals went through, leaving up the supreme of the Canadian way of life, which gives its residents the right to reservation their identity and legacy and also offers a sense of belonging and a home. Also, after the report had gotten to the media, the reporters still have the same idea of Blackfoot failing to be a nationality. The author states, “Every so often one of the reporters would come over and ask me questions about how it felt to be an Indian without a country” (King n.p). The statement reflects the mother’s comment about stars that every star has a story. Therefore, even though the reporters failed to believe in Blackfoot existence, they also had a story and an identity. At the end of the story, mom uses the power of the media against the unfair treatment of indigenous peoples’ identity. The media symbolized justice. They help mom and the narrator to cross the American borders, which is also a good ending and feedback of mom’s pride in the Blackfoot identity. Hence the narrator shows that a person’s origin defines their citizenship, even though there may be conflicting ideas of people’s identities.
Thomas King emphasizes the importance of citizenship and being proud of one’s origin. A person’s background may cause criticisms among other people, especially if not recognized. However, the origin defines the one’s being. The story narrates the ordeal of the narrator and his mother at the border of Canada and America. The mother persists on their Blackfoot citizenship, but the guards fail to allow them to go through them. She does not give up and even uses the media to help her find justice. The fight portrayed by the mother on her loyalty to her citizenship is commendable; hence the author emphasized the importance of one’s roots.
King, Thomas. Borders.