There is no name on the frosted window of her office, no signage pointing to the office’s location on the Mount Royal University campus in Calgary. Panic buttons have been installed, and security guards do daily area checks.
This is the work life of linda manyguns since her office opened at the end of August.
manyguns is the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at the university. She is a Blackfoot woman, born on the Tsuut’ina Nation and registered at Siksika Nation in southern Alberta.
In July, manyguns announced she would be using only lower-case letters for her name, in addition to not using capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.
“I had anticipated having to argue my position. I was ready to do that. I had no idea that my life would be threatened,” manyguns said.
“To show solidarity with others who are facing the same issues as Aboriginal people, I wanted to purposely and publicly join that initiative,” manyguns said.
dr. linda manyguns joins the lowercase movement to reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and will not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition. read her full statement: <a href=”https://t.co/4CIjB5bRNp”>https://t.co/4CIjB5bRNp</a> <a href=”https://t.co/tPHDxfb3yq”>pic.twitter.com/tPHDxfb3yq</a>
It is something other academics and writers have done over the years, including author and activist bell hooks and poet e.e. cummings.
When manyguns did it, interview requests came in from various media outlets, both local and international, she said.
Then the responses came.
Level of attack ‘beyond anything reasonable’
There were emails, she said, filled with vile and horrid words, calling her every derogatory name in the book. There were more than 3,000 messages.
“I had no idea of the vulgar, vulgar nature of these. The people that feel that they have the right to carry on this way, they’re cowards.”
Michael Quinn, vice-provost and associate vice-president, academic, at Mount Royal, said he cried when he saw the messages.
“The level of personal attack is beyond anything reasonable. We expect and want to have dialogue. We don’t expect everyone to agree on ideas, but they need to happen in a civil dialogue. They need to happen with respect,” Quinn said.
manyguns is now working on a poster campaign dealing directly with colonization.
“Things that say, ‘If you think Aboriginal people get everything for free, you have a colonized mind,'” she said.
manyguns said other post-secondary institutions in the province are adopting the campaign as well.
She said she expects more pushback, or what she referred to as “response,” and called it a measure of success.
“You know, you have to expect it. Not by the institution itself, but the very job you’re taking on requires that you put yourself into that position or you’re not doing the job right.”
Calgary police say they are investigating the messages sent to manyguns through its hate crimes unit.