Canada, it’s time. We need to fix this in our generation.

Chief Spence on Victoria Island.

Chief Spence on Victoria Island.

Today is December 16, 2012 and Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike for six days.

Contrary to what some media outlets are reporting, she is not doing this only to protest Bill C-45 or even the deplorable treatment her community has received since declaring an emergency last year. She has vowed to continue her hunger strike until the prime minister, the Queen or a representative, agrees to sit down in good faith with First Nations leaders to rebuild what has become a fractured and abusive relationship. She is staying in a tipi on Victoria Island, which sits below Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Many native people across the country have been fasting to show their solidarity with Chief Spence, including Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. Just search the twitter hashtag #TheresaSpence to get a sense of how much support this woman has from our peoples.

Jingle dancers from Whitefish Bay, bring their medicine to Theresa Spence on Victoria Island.

Funds were raised to help 3 jingle dancers and song carriers from Whitefish Bay (where the jingle dance, a healing dance originated) get to Victoria Island to honour Chief Spence. About 30 women from various communities participated in this event.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has issued a statement asking for as many people as possible to converge on Ottawa to support Chief Spence, at to demand that action be taken now to deal with long ignored indigenous concerns. The Assembly of First Nations published an open letter to the Governor General and to Stephen Harper to meet with Chief Spence saying:

“The Government of Canada has not upheld nor fulfilled its responsibilities to First Nations, as committed to by the Crown including at the Crown-First Nations Gathering January 2012.  Canada has not upheld the Honour of the Crown in its dealings with First Nations, as evidenced in its inadequate and inequitable funding relationships with our Nations and its ongoing actions in bringing forward legislative and policy changes that will directly impact on the Inherent and Treaty Rights of First Nations. Treaties are international in nature and further indigenous rights are human rights, both collective and individual and must be honoured and respected.”

Protesters in Halifax on December 16th.

Protesters in Halifax on December 16th, photo by Bryson Syliboy.

The Idle No More movement has been busy, with actions occurring all across the country in support of Chief Spence and in support of her message that the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Crown needs serious mending, now.  Not all of these actions are being reported, so if you want to know what’s actually going on, it’s worth your while to follow the #idlenomore hashtag on twitter. People are protesting peacefully and legally blockading roads as well as staging ‘teach ins’.  Many more actions are being planned.

We are not going away. These issues are not going to go away. Canada, it’s time. We have to fix this relationship in our generation.

We all know that reading comments sections can be hazardous for your mental health, but there are some themes that continue to come up again and again any time native people are discussed in the media, and we need to address these beliefs.  I have been trying my best on this blog to refute the myths and stereotypes, but I don’t have all the free time in the world that I’d like, and so my ‘myth-busting list‘ remains unfinished.

Nonetheless, I am asking for the help of Canadians to combat these ugly lies. I make this plea, because these lies allow people like Stephen Harper to ignore a hunger strike. These lies allow people to throw up their hands in disgust and claim that native people are freeloading whiners who need to shut up and go away. These lies allow a nation to ignore its own history, to erase its own volition, to believe that someone else will fix this problem.

Protestors from Morley, Alberta, block the TransCanada Highway.

Protestors from Morley, Alberta, block the TransCanada Highway.

Politicians won’t be the ones to fix what’s wrong with Canada and its relationship with indigenous peoples. This is a job for regular people, dealing with one another as human beings, and right now indigenous people in this country are not being treated humanely.

So I’ve compiled a list of stereotypes and lies that I think need to stop being spread and passed around as truth. Where possible, I’ve linked information to help dispel these harmful myths. I’d like to call this list the “READ A BOOK!” list, because I know that a lot of us want to scream this when we read those hateful comments saying these things over, and over again.

Here are some of my Read A Book list of things Canadians absolutely need to stop believing about us:

Native people don’t pay taxes omg!

Actually, most of the over 1 million aboriginal people in this country do in fact pay taxes.  The tax exemption people apparently know so little about applies to only about 250,000 people in the whole country and is extremely narrow.

Native people get free houses blaaargh!

There are social housing units available on some reserves, but this is under a program that is also available to other low-income populations throughout Canada, and the number of people actually accessing these social housing units are vastly overrated in the minds of most Canadians.

 

We need Canadians to be Idle No More too.

We need Canadians to be Idle No More too.

Native people get free post-secondary education grrrr!

Only some Status Indians actually living on reserve are eligible for any sort of Federal funding for post-secondary studies.  Inuit only receive federal funding if they live outside Nunavut or the Northwest Territories for a full year. Non-status Indians, and Métis are not eligible and a great many Status Indian living on reserve who apply for this funding are turned down. As of 2006, only 3% of registered Status Indians had a post-secondary degree compared to 18% among the general Canadian population.

Native leaders are all corrupt and super rich and that’s why their people are poor aaaargh!

This is the most common accusation thrown around it seems, with little in the way of evidence to back it up. Even Stephen Harper let himself rely on this stereotype to point the finger of blame at Chief Spence back when Attawapiskat first declared its housing emergency. The logical fallacy invoked in this repeated accusation, treated as common knowledge is rarely questioned and is tossed out there even when the Federal Court finds no evidence of such. I have no idea what it is going to take to get so many Canadians to stop saying this as though it is established fact, when in fact it is only established prejudice. In a nation packed to the teeth with political corruption, it is staggering to witness the vitriol hurled at native communities when those communities are some of the most highly regulated and federally controlled places in Canada.  I’d love to go into this in more detail, and at some point I will, but let’s leave it at this: these claims lack evidence and need to stop being presented as established truth.

Native people are lazy, don’t work, cry about things long over and everything that happens to them is their own fault, RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWR!

Indigenous issues affect all Canadians. The relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples is unlike Canada's relationship with any other group of people, and needs to be better understood, and respected.

Indigenous issues affect all Canadians. The relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples is unlike Canada’s relationship with any other group of people, and needs to be better understood, and respected.

I’m not even going to try to find a source that can refute this blatantly racist belief. There’s just too much packed into it. Stop. Stop using anecdotes about some guy you knew once. Stop saying you lived by a reserve and you know it all. Stop saying that our concerns are not legitimate. Stop denying the colonial relationship that has never ended in this country. Stop pretending that colonialism is our fault.

Stop pretending you can’t do something to change things.

There are more ugly things being said about us, all of which will become more and more virulent as the days pass and this movement grows. If you need to confront more of these beliefs, the “Sh*t Canadians say to Aboriginal Women” video will quickly bring you up to speed on the kinds of things some Canadians are saying about us right now any time our issues are raised in the media.

Don’t let this continue, Canada. Together we need to make a change. That is what Chief Spence is asking for. That is what indigenous peoples are asking for.

Many Canadians have been asking, “what can I do to help?” This is something you can do. Understand the issues yourself, and help other Canadians understand them better too. Don’t let these beliefs remain “common knowledge” any longer. Challenge them, and challenge the politicians who rely on these stereotypes in order to justify ongoing colonialism. Support Idle No More. Demand that Stephen Harper meet with Chief Spence and other leaders. Demand change.

Make change.

Live change.

For all our sakes.

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Categories: 60s scoop, Alienation, Comprehensive Claims, Cultural appropriation, Decolonisation, First Nations, Idle No More, Injustice, Inuit, Métis, Representation of natives

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122 Responses to Canada, it’s time. We need to fix this in our generation.


  1. daveM says:

    This issue has nothing to do with whether or not Native people pay taxes….. This issue has everything to do with how we, as humans, treat each other.

    If there is a child that can not have a bath at night, we should all, I believe, care. Similarly a child should be entitled to a decent education. These should be fundamental rights in a rich country..

    What Canadians do not seem to have recognized is that the prejudices being executed towards First Nations peoples are also showing up in other areas of Canadian society. Respect and democracy and freedoms are being attacked by several levels of government.

    Our politicians must see this trend and are pleased enough to do nothing about it. All of the political parties are playing into the stripping of democracy and freedom from the people.

    Chief Spence, as brave as she is, is standing up for Canadians, for all Canadians, even the Canadians who are too complacent to observe their freedoms being eroded every week.

    • Dave – you are absolutely correct. Harper said he would make this country unrecognizable, and he and his bully-boys plus a few girls have done it. And they did it on the basis of previous wrongs, both domestic and foreign. The neoCons are only the sharper end of the ‘liberal’ white-settlerism that Aboriginal people and other ‘people of colour’ have experienced since forever. Of course this is not a ‘race’ issue, but a class one.

      • sikak iskwew says:

        it’s still a race issue regardless of the economic dynamics involved. for aboriginal women its a raced, gendered and class issue. dont make the mistake of thinking that just because capitalism is a factor in colonial oppression that racism is off the hook.

      • Annony Moose says:

        Edit: another person who has nothing to add to what should be a discussion, not just shouted declarations.

      • Leona says:

        I truley believe you are right also

    • Deborah MacLean says:

      I am not an indigenous person, but I fully support the efforts of Chief Spence and others to bring attention to these issues. We all bleed red, and good people are good people, irregardless of skin colour or culture. The myths about First Nations people are likely to be propagated by ignorant individuals who have most likely never met any … or bothered to learn any facts about Native history or culture.

      Our children are our future and every generation tries to improve the quality of life for the next. That means every adult, for all of the children. The government has a lot of catching up to do for their responsibilities regarding First Nations peoples, but most especially for the children. There must be change as soon as possible so that THIS generation will be the last that has to live with so many challenges to achieve even the most basic standard of living. This is the least that we can expect from our country. How else can we assist them to grow into adulthood with dignity and confidence?

      I agree with daveM. This is a human problem. It’s disgusting that any child in this rich nation of ours should have to live in Third World conditions. As adults, we should be appalled and furious that this is happening in Canada … and we should be sure that we especially remember when it comes time to put an ‘X’ on a ballot at election time. I will.

    • karine Walkey says:

      excellent comments

  2. Chris says:

    What an empowering and amazing post!! Keep up the fantastic job! My thoughts and heart are with Chief Theresa Spence and the rest of our Peoples during this important time.

  3. clayton gladstone says:

    Should b an inspiration to us all!

  4. phil says:

    thank you for writing this thought provoking article.

  5. Maria says:

    I will share this far and wide.

  6. Tanis says:

    Thank you Chelsea. From me and my family.

  7. shaneonabike says:

    It’s sad to me that it had to get to a point where Indigenous people in Canada have to fight by starving themselves. Honestly wake up Canada this is ridiculous. We can’t go around touting that we are some kind of peaceful nation, peace keepers, and all the rest if we are oppressing the individuals within the state we live.

    In my heart I feel the treatment of aboriginal folks disgusting and sad. I appreciate these posts honestly as it is helping me form better arguments (among the reading I’m trying to do as well). Thanks for all of this and please stay strong – I hope that the Harper wakes up and takes this more seriously then it has…

    In solidarity

  8. Mark Loft says:

    This is great, thanks for this. I find that in these kinds of discussions, 99% of the time people are angry because they do not understand (or are completely unaware) the treaties and how they relate to Canada. I have been sharing this most excellent link far and wide, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here for the purposes of education.

    http://behindthehedge.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/connecting-the-constitutional-dots-of-idlenomore-for-the-white-like-me-layperson/

  9. proud to be native says:

    Love reading your posts, they are so educational and inspiring indeed.

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  11. Karen McClain says:

    Excellent information and way to get it out! Miigwetch.
    If anyone is interested in how the Federal government has controlled the aboriginal population and any protest until now, read a copy of the book Native Education With A Different Purpose by Nisheducator. You will also find out why and how mainstream has been kept in ignorance of what could have been in terms of a balanced democratic responsive society. What has happened to the Aboriginal population has been happening to mainstream all along in an effort to silence and control. The difference is that We knew what was coming and when through the prophecies. We also have a clear understanding of what it is going to take to affect the needed change.

  12. Kim says:

    THANK YOU!!!

  13. Leida Englar says:

    I am fasting today in support of Chief Spence. As the day moves on my prayers are for her and my country. With shame I live in a country that believes that proper housing, water, food and schooling are a privilege for a few and not a RIGHT for ALL.

  14. For some reason Facebook says I can’t post this to my wall… any suggestions?

  15. Nicole says:

    I shared this post, high and low!!! I only wish there was a way I could make people click on the link and open their eyes. When I look at my son, as he innocently goes through his day, it breaks my heart when I think about the future his generation and the generations after him will be faced with. I stand in solidarity and will focus on teaching him his inherent rights and the respect mother nature deserves! Hiy hiy all my relations!

  16. Wab Kinew just wrote an excellent article helping to explain why Idle No More is “not just an Indian thing”. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/wab-kinew/idle-no-more-canada_b_2316098.html

  17. Bruce Murdoch says:

    Excellent expose and wonderful words about ‘Idle No More’. We need this now in this country. And for sure this is not “just” an Indian thing. All Canadians will suffer from Bill C-45, and the treatment of Native peoples has been ugly, patronizing and colonial. Half my family is Indian, but all my family supports the efforts of Chief Spence. My hope is that all Canadians of good heart will lend their support in the best ways they can to make this government clean up its act and deal for once in good faith with Indians and indeed all who live in this country..

  18. karen says:

    Here’s how I shared it on my FB page, feel free to cut and paste:

    If you think one of the following things (or nod or stay silent when someone else says it):

    - Native people don’t pay taxes
    - Native people get free houses
    - Native people get free post-secondary education
    - Native leaders are all corrupt and super rich and that’s why their people are poor.
    - Native people are lazy, don’t work, cry about things long over. Everything that happens to them is their own fault. (Get over it, move on …)
    - This is not my problem

    you might want to check your facts and your openness to default racist thinking.

    “Politicians won’t be the ones to fix what’s wrong with Canada and its relationship with indigenous peoples. This is a job for regular people, dealing with one another as human beings, and right now indigenous people in this country have not not are not being treated humanely.”

    http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/12/16/canada-its-time-we-need-to-fix-this-in-our-generation/

    • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

      karen,

      that is brilliant! Thank you!! I have already copied and pasted :)

      Daniel Nikpayuk

    • Donna says:

      to reply Karen,the majority of the people who believe those statements also can replace Native with:
      1.welfare recipient
      2.Black
      3.Single parent
      4.and if in the US..Hispanic,Mexican..etc.etc.
      5.and we must not forget drug addicts and alkies who receive welfare…because we all know they “follow their habit”cause they like it..not because they have a recognized disease
      In my way of thinking there needs to be a lot of education done and as most of the adults are already too firmly stuck in their beliefs wee need to really work with the kids…..There are gangs set up because of racism….they kill each other…here in Canada…”the home of the free”…Children killing children

      • The cycle of poverty cuts across ethnic and racial lines. Racism is another layer that can come into play making the situation even more difficult and polarised. I agree with you that the cycle of poverty is not something that is well understood, and this is another area we really need to work on in this country. To me, that’s what Occupy was often trying to say. That it’s not just ‘individual choice’ that has most people barely keeping their head above water, it’s something systemic as well. We cannot only focus on ‘individual choice’ and ignore these systemic issues. The same is true of issues that actually are unique to indigenous people.

      • karen says:

        I think you’re right, Donna. But I often think there are crossovers in every direction, and so I believe it is up to me and others to help change people’s misinformed lives one careful comment at a time.

        âpihtawikosisân, thank you so much for this post, and all of your thoughts. I am following you closely and stand with you and all who are looking to gather people together to affect change.

    • Kerri the Story Teller says:

      sensational way to reach people… thanks for the idea; have pasted and shared
      thanks

  19. Brittany says:

    Thank you, for the educational posting. While I am not naive enough (or racist) to believe any of the Read A Book list items (I have never thought those things), I am one of the naive outsiders, who is trying to understand.

    What I am wondering is this: In the event that the government does sit down, in good faith, what tangible result is Chief Theresa Spence seeking? What will she ask for?

    I understand that the relationship is broken – it’s clear that this isn’t working. I want to know how to move forward. Would it repair the relationship if aboriginal people had a seat at more important tables (government committees and the like), or if aboriginal people had exclusive control over their own communities, or if the government provided housing to every individual, or if the government built new schools in every community? Is there something, specific, that will make a difference to this severely damaged relationship?

    I ask with a genuine intention to understand. I agree, the current state is not ok. But where do we go from here?

    In solidarity.

    • I think what most of us want, is for the Canadian government to actually see as equals, as founding nations rather than as supplicants to colonial powers. We want to renew the kind of relationship embodied in the Two Row Wampum. We want Canada to admit it is still practicing colonialism against us. We want Canada to STOP.

      That would mean learning about indigenous socio-legal structures and allowing them to flourish once again, rather than insisting the only possible model is one developed in Europe.

      • Wally Moran says:

        It is not possible to entertain two legal structures in Canada. We do that, and the next thing will be the inclusion of sharia law, and then whatever other legal system someone comes up with.
        Further, in the interests of legality, why should one Canadian get one penalty while another Canadian gets tried under a completely different legal structure with an entirely different set of expectations and outcomes?
        You’re a lawyer – you should know better than to propose this. You want to end divisiveness, you have to stop dividing. A lot of your proposals support further divisiveness.

        • “It is not possible to entertain two legal structures in Canada”…is a laughable statement given that is precisely what Canada has. Two legal systems, one based on English common law, one based on French civil law. Perhaps you were unaware of this? There are also a number of tribunals based on Catholic and Jewish traditions which operate throughout Canada.

          I suspect that the issue is not that my proposals are divisive or unworkable, but rather than you do not actually understand them. Yet.

          • Wally Moran says:

            You are correct in that and I see that I should have been more precise. We do not attempt to use two different legal structures in the same jurisdiction. Furthermore, tribunals do not operate in conjunction with, for example, a court of law, or a small claims court, or a human rights tribunal.
            Native legal systems, operating in tandem with English, leave many non-native Canadians with the impression that natives are being coddled when what is required is to be punished for whatever issue is at hand.

          • There are no ‘native legal systems, operating in tandem with English’, and your ignorance of the law is apparent when you say ‘we do not attempt to use two different legal structures in the same jurisdiction.’ That is false. Quebec uses common-law courts in cooperation with the civil law.

  20. CP says:

    Thank you so much for this and for all your incredibly enlightening posts. I’m an Australian law student living in Ottawa for six months of study and knew absolutely nothing about indigenous Canadians when I arrived in September. You probably know that we have some pretty serious flaws in the legal and social situations of our indigenous peoples – no Constitutional recognition, 20-year life expectancy gap, huge fallout from residential schools, rampant and blatant racism, etc – and Canada, at least in the media we receive, is kind of shown as just a colder, friendlier, smarter version of the US: I’d literally never heard a thing about racism in Canada and so I sort of assumed the indigenous situation was pretty great here. Upon taking a course on Aboriginal legal issues at uOttawa (taught by the incredible Sarah Morales, who introduced us to your blog!), however, I was quite shocked to begin learning the true state of things. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a bit better here than at home.) And even more so when I discovered the hugely racist attitudes held by perhaps half of the university students I’ve encountered in the last four months – I can’t even bring myself to repeat some of the comments I’ve heard.

    It really comes down to what you wrote at the end of your “read a book” list (“Stop saying that our concerns are not legitimate. Stop denying the colonial relationship that has never ended in this country. Stop pretending that colonialism is our fault”) – it truly seems like so many of these people simply don’t understand, and quite possibly have never properly learned, how damaging the years from 1700-1980 were for the Aboriginal people of this country. That “they should get over it”/”integrating to a radically different way of life is easy” mentality again: it’s the product of pure and simple lack of proper information. In a nation that has at least managed to Constitutionally recognise the validity of its native cultures, WHY is this not a compulsory part of every high school curriculum? Education is surely the key to ridding the nation of such rabid misperceptions, so how has seemingly every single provincial Government gotten away with this? Not that we’re any better in Australia, but we haven’t even reached the stage of Constitutional recognition yet, so you’re probably many many years ahead of us.

    • Kevin says:

      In the last few decades, Alberta been consistently adding much more First Nations and Metis content to its curriculum (e.g. “Walking Together” http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/aswt/index.html), but it’s a slow and controversial battle. Many people are upset to be told that the country they love is racist or colonial. They also have (legitimate) concerns that “their” stories (Ukrainian Canadian history or Sikh Canadian history) get told. And we are constantly fighting to get ANY history included in the face of calls for more trades and technology and physical education and health and finance in the curriculum. I had a colleague in my office tell me to my face at our Christmas party that my history degree was useless. I told her without history you can’t understand why the world is the way it is today (e.g. Aboriginal issues). She is the kind of person that is holding us back, IMHO.

      PS I just started the
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idle_No_More
      page if anyone would like to help.

  21. Daniel Nikpayuk says:

    I am very much into the Idle No More Twitter Feed these days and I was hoping to share a single post. I recognise Twitter is its own media institution and should not have to compete here (because both it and this blog site as media have different strengths and weaknesses) but I am all about building Infrastructure for the educational cause:

    FirstNationsMedia ‏@1stNationsMedia
    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/wab-kinew/idle-no-more-canada_b_2316098.html … We’re making free websites for organizations supporting indigenous sovereignty and land claims! #IdleNoMore

    Thank you,

    Daniel Nikpayuk

  22. My thoughts are with Chief Spence and I truly hope her message to our so called Prime Minister is answered before something really tragic happens. I just watched the movie Hunger, which told the story of another group of people who died, while engaged in a hunger strike because of the treatment they were going through. Their deaths garnered more supporters for their cause in the end.

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  24. Becs says:

    Is disagreeing with the idea of Treaties and the Indian Act racist? I have been under the impression that the Treaties and Indian Act did more harm than good.

    What would happen if they were eliminated? Most are over 100 years old – do they still even represent the needs of the First Nations people?

    • The Treaties, and the Indian Act, are two different things entirely.

      The Indian Act was imposed by a racist government intent on assimilating and absorbing First Nations. It is not a good piece of legislation, and First Nations people are not opposed to getting rid of it. However, it is not acceptable to unilaterally amend it over and over again to give it even more rapid effect in terms of the extinguishment of indigenous rights (Harper’s strategy). Nor is it acceptable to trash the Indian Act and say, “Okay now you’re just all regular Canadians with no indigenous rights” (the Tom Flanagan approach).

      The Treaties have been interpreted by Canada in a way that benefits the colonial mindset…but many Treaties have existed throughout the world for hundreds of years and are fine things…when they are renewed between respectful equals. THAT is what we seek.

      • Rob Kroeker says:

        Thank you, I like that. Ever since MP Rob Clarke made clear his disdain for the Indian Act, I’ve wondered how various First Nations people look at the Indian Act. I hope some meaningful dialogue can happen between respectful equals, as well.

        • Here’s a great resource by the way, that breaks down the Indian Act into plain English: http://noraloreto.ca/the-indian-act-in-plain-english/

          I think it’s a good idea for people to understand just how the Indian Act works and how it micromanages so many aspects of First Nations life and governance. I think understanding this would help many people deal with the questions they have about First Nations governance. Getting rid of the Indian Act is certainly the goal of many people, native and non-native alike. Where we sometimes part ways is in terms of what happens next…do we simply become ‘Canadian’ and have all our rights extinguished forever as aboriginal peoples? Or do we attempt to redress this broken relationship and build it up together?

  25. Mary Shem says:

    Thanks for the posts. People wonder why Canada did not get a seat at the United Nations for a number of reasons. Our white brothers and sisters who visit international countries speak of how First Nations people are treated in our home country. Now the whole world will see what Harper and the Tories have done to this country….

  26. Daniel Nikpayuk says:

    As the lawyers actions of the Idle No More movement are directed toward the legal campaign, I am trying to push for a Justin Bieber campaign for the youth, to “raise its profile” so to speak as a first step to education.

    It is possible: There was a notable youth campaign who got a minute of air-time with Oprah a while back.

    It is strategic: Bieber recently had a photo-op with Harper, so why not with Chief Spence? By meeting with Harper he “legitimises” his authority in the eyes of many of his (Bieber’s) fans. Of all the people to legitimise Harper’s Government very few have such a large fan base.

    Finally, it’s good to approach education on many fronts. Some of our youth might want to contribute but know nothing about Law and Politics. It wouldn’t be a division of resources but a focusing on particular achievable goals.

    Daniel Nikpayuk

  27. Kaihe says:

    Tena koe, From the Maori people of New Zealand we are fully behind our native brothers and sisters our spirits are with you. We as Maori people go through the same negative stereo types from other New Zelanders and our government. We must support each other and put a stop to this.

  28. greg says:

    indigenous nations have always asserted that our rights are granted to us by a higher authority than colonial newcomers. yes to the two row wampum and to a restructuring (on the part of canada) of its relationship with us. how is it possible that europeans could come here and demand to be given respect as sovereign nations while at the same time trying to take ours away? every action that has fed into that was created by a racist, colonialist, hierarchical mentality that has no place in just human relations. colonials need to wake up and take responsibility for exorcising themselves, their government and their communities of these abusive archaic demons.

  29. jocelyn says:

    An excellent and enlightening post. May the force be with you, may the rallies continue, and may more and more non-natives open their eyes and hearts. Peace.

  30. s malette says:

    Can we produce a link to a letter with a clear statement about the whole situation that can be used, signed and sent by people to Harper? If such letter would exist, I would endorse it as many would. Thank you.

  31. Sarah says:

    Great article. Thank you for taking the time to write your thoughts in such an articulate way.

    One quick comment – I’m not sure about Metis but I am certain Inuit are eligible for post-secondary funding. While it might not always be readily available it is there. I am an Inuk who has been fortunate enough to have a significant portion of my post-secondary education funded by the feds.

    • Definitely not for Metis, but yes, Inuit are eligible for some funding. It works differently however…if you live outside the Northwest Territories and Nunavut for 12 consecutive months you can apply under the PSSP, the same program Status Indians access. Otherwise it’s through the territorial government, not the Feds. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100033682/1100100033683#elc

      It does need clarification in a longer article, but it’s never as simple as people think, and the numbers of First Nations and Inuit accessing these programs are a small fraction of those populations.

      • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

        As an Inuk born and raised in the south (Alberta) I was fortunate enough to receive funding for my post secondary but it was far from adequate.

        The exact institution I interacted with was Freehorse Family Wellness Society (FFWS) in Edmonton for my funding for the University of Alberta. FFWS has a handbook describing everything reasonably clearly (though not for a first-timer) here:

        http://www.freehorse.org/handbook.htm

        They gave me 40 months to complete my undergraduate degree. Each semester is 4 months x 2 semesters per year = 8 months per year. 40 / 8 = 5 years max to complete. Full course load per semester is 5 courses for Full time students with a minimum of 3 courses to be considered a Full time student. If taking 4 courses per semester each year I would still have 8 courses to take in year 5. If I took 5 courses each semester I could finish in 4 years.

        Each semester for textbooks I received 400$ and if books cost more (which they often did) I would have to pay the difference myself, bring them receipts and they would later reimburse me.

        Each month while attending I would receive 900$ living allowance as a single with no dependants.

        As with many Aboriginal people I unfortunately come from a broken family who met many of the sad statistics created for us by our colonial government.

        As I attended I had no social support whatsoever. Most students take for granted they still live with their parent(s) so they don’t have to worry about rent and other such things. Those who come from out of town often still have support if only from a distance.

        My rent living in Edmonton averaged about 600$/month and so that left 300$ for groceries and other bills. Nothing left for the stress relieving activities and convenience foods necessary for an often “stressed out from studying” student.

        If you’re taking 5 courses a semester a part time job is out of the question, and even if you’re only taking 4 courses per semester it is not practical. What’s more, as soon as May arrives (the end of the Winter semester) what stash of money does a student have to pay rent having no reasonable possibility to have saved anything over the past 8 months?

        Some might say “buck up” and all that but being a student isn’t easy. Especially if you were raised to see the idea of Education from an Indigenous worldview, it takes quite a bit of adjusting as well as having to learn 4 or 5 subjects at the same time.

        Inuit don’t have Treaties but if our Land Claims Agreements were actually honoured they way they’re suppose to be we’d have an Arctic University and we wouldn’t have to travel down south for an education. It is true I have been down here my whole life but for those who haven’t been it’s an even bigger adjustment. Is it practical to even go home during the off months like so many other students away from home? How much is an airplane ticket to Arctic communities? More than a ticket to China I can say that.

        As for further funding, it use to be one got potential funding to: At most 1 Undergraduate degree; 1 after-degree (either nursing or education); 1 Masters, and 1 PhD. It had to be in that exact order though. For example if I went straight to a Masters from my Undergrad, I was no longer eligible for the after-degree.

        I’m looking at the book now and the after-degree is no longer there (I’m assuming funding cuts).

        I could go on, but I hope these are enough details to help. Of the few First Nations people I discussed funding with while attending it sounded like it was just as or more complicated, though I can’t speak to the details.

        Daniel Nikpayuk

        • Bert. says:

          Edit: if you want to make Daniel’s comment about ‘white people’ then I think you aren’t trying to engage in the understanding needed for actual communication. If you’re willing to give it an honest attempt, you’ll be welcome back. If not, please refrain.

          • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

            I don’t know what Bert said but I should add—what I didn’t state originally but should have—is I recognise my breakdown is more anecdotal than anything; if I could give a better contextualized understanding of the bigger “distributional” picture of funding I would have, but that is not my strength unfortunately. Without any shame being involved, I do apologise for that. My attempt anyway was to give an individual story to hopefully get the ball rolling so to speak on discussion.

            Thank you,

            Daniel Nikpayuk

  32. Dotty says:

    Well said. Does anyone have a Change.org petition (or some other petition) that I can sign? Will be writing my MP.

  33. Leala says:

    Edit: take your racism elsewhere, thanks. One wonders why, as a non-native, you are living on reserve at all with such an attitude.

  34. Samantha says:

    Edit: your IP address is 74.198.150.221, and you are IP banned. What a disgusting display of racism.

  35. LBell says:

    Great piece. I get so tired of myth busting, I will just start directing people here.

    I just finished my PhD on ‘free’ education opportunities for NWT residents. Even for the few (should I say fewer and fewer) who qualify, any attempts gone incomplete (due to um, say life) become punitive. Meaning, those who need educational opportunities most are often barred from them. This is even before we get to issues of local racism…

  36. Thank you very much for this wonderful article. But most of all, thank you very much for using my photo in the article! It means so much that its being shared! I took the one of the protesters in Halifax, the Black and White one.

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  39. Editor says:

    I agree whole heartedly that the wasting of so many aboriginal lives due to horrendous living conditions, principally on reserves, should end as soon as possible. As a non-native, I wish fervently that our government will engage natives to come to a new deal. Having no faith in our government however, I suggest you engage Canadians directly as to what that a new deal might look like. It takes two parties to negotiate, and the outcome has to be sustainable. I’m pretty sure what non-native Canadians are willing to have in a deal and what native leaders are demanding leaves a wide gap. I’m guessing Canadians will be fair and patient, so long as the end game means everyone is treated equally, everywhere in Canada (reserve or otherwise), regardless of race. I’m also confident that indefinite and massively increased payments to preserve a better funded version of the status quo will not be acceptable. Maybe Ottawa will follow once native and non-native Canadians have developed a solution.

  40. cory says:

    My problem and the reason most canadians dont care about this show me one good news story involving native people anywhere. Just one all we here about is murder drugs and alcholics on the reserves around here so tell me why i should support the government helping to rectify your problems. I cant justify them spending more money to help you when from an innocent buystanders point of you you cant even help yourselves.

    • I can show you many positive stories. Like many however, it could be that you only notice the negative. A lot of people don’t want to hear ‘good feeling’ stories of success, whether the stories are about natives or not. There are stories about our amazing artists, people like Alex Janvier, Christi Belcourt, Aaron Paquette etc. There are stories about our musicians, our educators, entertainers, our children, and so forth. These stories are reported. I’m sorry you’ve missed them.

      What you are really talking about is the fact that most Canadians don’t actually hear much about us at all…when someone is big enough to make the news, it is generally a tragedy. That’s sad…but it’s also the way the media works.

      The fact is, Canada is rich because it exploits this land, and the resources on and under the land. When you consider that the vast bulk of this nation was never actually ‘given up forever’, then it should cause you to ask…why are native peoples not benefiting from their own resources? On top of this, Canadians are losing vast amounts of this wealth to foreign interests too. We are all losing.

      What we are asking is not that the roles be reversed. We’re not saying, “well now we want to do unto you what has been done to us”…and I think that a lot of Canadians do actually fear this. We believe that a better deal exists for all of us, native and non-native alike, and we want to be a part of building those solutions with you. But you cannot discounted hundreds of years of uninterrupted interference, socially and politically destructive policies aimed at assimilating us in order to claim that our problems are now all self-made and perpetuated. We ask you to learn why things have gotten so bad, and we ask you to listen to some of the solutions we propose to ameliorate the problems, and create a healthier society for all of us…because let’s be honest. I don’t think Canadians are happy with the system as it is either. I think most want improvements for themselves as well.

      Basing your opinion off the very little information Canadians as a whole receive about us and the history (and present) of colonisation in this country, is inadequate. We have to do better, and that will take effort and a desire to learn and truly communicate with one another. Thank you.

  41. Rob Kroeker says:

    Thanks for the great blog post! I live and work on a First Nation in western Canada that, unfortunately, perpetuates all of the stereotypes that you have listed in your article (except the last one). Due to a number of reasons (our isolation, the residential school system, the strong sense of community, low population) Issues of poverty, lack of real access to education and jobs, alcoholism, and a general sense of hopelessness pervade our community. In the summer time, when school is out, kids are not ‘excited’ for the holidays – they’re bored and want school to return =) I try to do my best to promote higher education, better work ethic, searching for off-reserve jobs, positive spirituality (healing and hope) – but sometimes I wonder if I am not just being colonial? Am I trying to assimilate our community into Canadian culture (jobs, education, mortgage, retirement, etc. etc)? Maybe my community offers much more to me than I offer to them? I honestly don’t know. I am, however, excited that the message is finally getting through to the national media (and hopefully Ottawa) that conditions on First Nations cannot remain the same. Poverty, drinking water, housing, low education funding, and other legitimate issues need to be addressed in a co-operative way between First Nations and the Government. I hope Mr. Harper takes a bold step in the right direction.

    • I have struggled with how I, as a teacher, approach education. I teach Inuit girls who are in youth protection, and who in many ways are forced into a sort of ‘residential school’ system as a result. I want indigenous education, I want it for these girls and for my own children…but our ways of educating our children have been so radically undermined, that it would be impossible for me, by myself, to bring it back in time to use it with my students. Not to mention the extremely important fact that I am Metis, not Inuit. Our cultures are very different.

      So I struggle with that…but as I push my students to strive for excellence within the Canadian system, I have come to realise that the task we have ahead of us is difficult, but not impossible. I try as best as I can to ensure we approach Canadian education from a critical perspective, and I alter the structure as much as possible, but we are still within ‘the Canadian system’. No denying that. This is not indigenous education. But we need our kids to succeed in the Canadian system too, or they will forever be marginalised. We need them to excel in the Canadian system AND to excel in their own systems. We need them to understand the benefit and limitations of the Canadian system so they are not left feeling inferior for wanting an indigenous system. We need them to rise out of the cycle of poverty so they can be healthy enough to build the capacity needed to bring indigenous education back with a vengeance.

      So I think that educators need to push their students to do well…in both systems, without sacrificing their culture, knowing that this puts a terrible burden on our children. If we know we are burdening them, then we know we have to be there to support them. If we wait for someone else to build capacity for us, we will lose everything. The time is now, and it will not be easy.

      • Rob Kroeker says:

        I really appreciate that. I’ve been looking at this as one system vs. another – and is one better than the other? – If we can teach kids how to succeed in both systems, that would be ideal. It’s twice as much work, and maybe this is why the government, and Canada in general, needs to be twice as involved as we understand the double burden we’re putting on First Nations kids. But, it sounds good, and gives me a much better perspective on how to approach my role. Thanks!

  42. Keep your sense of humour Chelsea – it’s a grim situation and defeating ignorance is an uphill battle – especially when you’re up against the willfully ignorant. Fortunately, there are many people that take the time to understand – and humour is an awesome weapon against ignorance – which is why RMR, Colbert, Jon Stewart, etc. are such popular icons.

  43. Rebecca L says:

    thank you so much for writing this blog. I’ve always had this in my heart, but having you put the facts together to back this (my feelings of “this is wrong”) up when dealing with un-educated people has been so helpful. Hiy hiy.

  44. tony b says:

    Edit: Nope. You’re here to rant and rave, not to have a discussion.

    • Kakiskentak says:

      Edit: I’m sorry, but your personal attacks against Chief Spence etc, are not going to get a platform here. However you feel about her, she is on the 12th day of a hunger strike…a hunger strike much longer than most of us have ever fasted in our lives. If you can’t send her any positive thoughts then please at least don’t try to spread negativity here.

  45. Trish Hurley says:

    Thank you for educating me about this. I will continue to become more informed, and will pray unceasingly for your success. I’ll also share this with my friends. Thank you.

  46. miss sylvie hince says:

    miss sylvie-lynn hince
    im not gonna pretend as though i truly understand all that ur fighting for chief one thing i do understand is bein stereotyped and livin with stigma and i do know that for me in a perfect world havin a chief like u in command i know the world would be a better place that i truly believe!the four fathers r with u let them give u the strenghth i love u my sister if i could b there with u i would b fasting along side of u cause i do believe this world needs more people who really care about the important things like the health of our planet for our grandchildrens grandchildren let me know if u want me to stand with u cause i will!!!! xxooooooxx:)

  47. I'm a native Canadian...cuz I was born here says:

    First of all – PEOPLE, we have to stop this division amongst ourselves if we ever want to make any real changes. The government knows that as long as we fight amongst ourselves they don’t have to do anything! We have more power UNITED than DIVIDED.

    Second – I’d like to know just how many of my fellow Canadians believe these “myths” about First Nations. I suspect it is – as it often is – a small percentage, who make a lot of noise. Do the rest of us just get lumped in with them? Hmmm, that’s interesting…

    To be frank, I DO believe Native people don’t pay taxes; get free houses; get free post-secondary education; that Native leaders are all corrupt, super-rich, and that’s why their people are poor; and that Native people are lazy, don’t work, cry about things long over, and everything that happens to them is their own fault. But so do people and leaders of every race, culture, and colour, including “white” people in Canada!!

    I am caucasian. I was born in Canada and have lived here all my life. I find it offensive that I get lumped in with the people from long ago (and not so long ago) who treated First Nations so badly. I didn’t do it, any of it, but I – and my children, their children, and so on – will be paying for it for a long, long time. Is that fair?? Talk about being persecuted for your heritage…

    Is any one person’s/culture’s/race’s problem more important than another’s? By demanding that your rights come before any other’s, you create division. When we can support basic human rights for and provide basic human needs of food, shelter, and clean water to ALL Canadians (for a start), and start to treat each other with the respect and compassion we ALL desire, then we can begin to build a country we can ALL be proud to live in.

    We are ALL one. Let’s start recognizing that fact and act accordingly, PLEASE.

    • Your post is confused. First you say…”who believes these things?” as though it’s clear to everyone these myths are foolish and untrue, and only believed by a loud-mouthed minority. Then you say you are a member of that loud-mouthed minority. Hmmm, that’s interesting.

      This ‘we’re all the same’ line you’re spouting is disingenuous. You want to ignore the history and the current systemic discrimination against aboriginal people, in order to pretend things are equal. You then go on to insinuate that somehow, if we don’t do this, you are being persecuted.

      You benefit directly from colonialism. That is your part in it. Until you understand this, there can be no equality, because you are supporting a system that denies indigenous peoples our rights. You claim to wish equality, but insist that the inequality that divides us be forgotten and ignored.

      Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.

  48. Kiskenten nina says:

    Freedom of expression should be also the freedom to express opposing opinions. By deleting them, it shows you know the truth is in the message, but you are hiding it. That is not education oriented.

    • I am not here to provide you with a platform to make personal attacks. Freedom of expression is not freedom to use my blog to air your grievances, to make your accusations without any evidence, to spread your negativity and bring people down with it. Feel free to find your own space to attack and belittle. Feel free to join the thousands of Canadians who enjoy doing exactly this, and who do get a platform on every comment section of every major Canadian newspaper online.

      Education requires people who are willing to work for it, who are willing to dialogue and provide constructive criticism. It is easy to point fingers and snarl. It is much more difficult to offer solutions and talk honestly.

      When you can do that, please come back.

  49. andyro says:

    I was just wondering why the comments sections in mainstream papers blogs were so predominantly negative and racists, and then a friend of mine explained that PR firms are actually paid to troll these sections to give a false impression of public opinion, it’s called astro-turfing. Maybe you were aware of this already? But the stakes for oil companies are very high wrt Northern Gateway, etc. And so I would not be surprised to learn that PR firms have people dedicated to propagating this kind of fake commentary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing – an article I recently read that seemed overflowing with this kind of negative sentiment is this touching piece by Naomi Klein: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/as-chief-spence-starves-canadians-awaken-from-idleness-and-remember-their-roots/article6700592/ – ya learn something new every day. Dreadful – but another reason not to take trolls too seriously :)

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  51. John says:

    I hope all Canadians reads this .

  52. Shawn says:

    Chief Spence has my support, I may not be Native, but I do have family members and friends that are, we’re all Canadian and we should support each other regardless of race, color, or heritage.

  53. BearClanwoman says:

    Here’s a piece of what’s on my mind: As my right to voice my concern on hunger strikes, a woman’s role is first and foremost nurturer in her family, then to others in her community. The men should replace Chief Theresa by now, for example, the men who are there ‘for support’, and show as protectors of women that they can fast for a few days at a time, taking turns.

    Otherwise, EVERYONE approves of her hunger strike and has approved of letting her die…martyrdom is not worth it IF 100% of Canadians do not approve her stance. If she knew her role within our Cree matriarchial history, Chief Theresa Spence would have made it clear to her people her intentions and why she was doing it and requested the men to take her place after a short time she began her hunger strike. That’s my thought on this issue. I hope while she is still physically able, she stand down and meet with the MPs who hold the ministries of what these two omnibus bills stand for. We all approve the IDLE NO MORE events against these two bills. A death as sacrifice is not our responsibility. Her family need her.

  54. Freshstart says:

    I grew up next to a reserve in Alberta, and my sister has been married to, and widowed by, a native man from this reserve. She has also lived on reserve a few times, so I have spent a fair amount of time there. Each time she lived on reserve, she lived in free housing, supplied by the band. From what I understand, each member of the family she married into is also living in housing supplied by the band. These houses are certainly not squalid by any measure. Does this change on a reserve to reserve basis? My nieces and nephews also received a large payout on their 18th birthdays, to the tune of thousands of dollars, and there are payouts on (I am not totally sure on the frequency of these, but know they do come regularly) a perhaps, quarterly basis? Any time I have heard reference to these payouts, it has been referred to as ‘oil money’. Again, is this something that is different on a reserve to reserve basis? I know people who ask their native friends here to buy cigarettes for them on reserve as they are much cheaper…same with fuel for their cars. I guess what I am saying, is the articles I have read conflict so greatly with what I have seen growing up, that I am having a hard time with knowing what is truth, and what is being exaggerated. In the town where I was raised, there was, and I am certain still is, many accounts of racism, but it has been flowing in both directions. I think, based on what I have seen, that both First Nations people, and non-first Nations people need to realize we are ALL the problem, and the stereotypes held by BOTH parties need to be thrown away, so we can start afresh together.

    • To break it down…here is an article on non-profit social housing on reserve: http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/08/07/the-free-housing-for-natives-myth/

      The condition of the houses varies greatly from reserve to reserve, and because housing does not keep up with need, getting into one of these units can take up to 10 years in some communities. You do not own the house, and Bands are supposed to be collecting rent on most of the units, though not all communities do the same job of getting that rent money in. 57% of homes on reserve are social housing units, but again, that’s going to vary. Some communities will have much more of a percentage and some will have much less.

      The pay-outs you are referring to are called ‘per capita’ payments. These can come from a few sources. For many communities, settling an outstanding claim (such as the illegal expropriation of lands, or environmental damage or building a railway through the reserve without permission etc) often results in monetary compensation (getting land back under the current system is almost impossible). It was pretty common for that money to be paid out on a ‘per capita’ basis to each Band member, and put into a trust for those Band members who weren’t 18 yet. It is now more common to put that money into a Trust with smaller per cap payment, and more investment in long term development strategies, but per caps do still happen.

      Other per cap payments can be made when a Band owned corporation generates revenue. Thing of it as though each Band member is a shareholder in the corporation, getting dividends at the end of the fiscal year. Obviously, the reserve with more resources will have higher per cap payments, and some communities (most) will have none at all.

      Tax exemptions are narrow and apply to: tax of real property and income made on reserve, sales taxes for goods being transported to reserve (sometimes in the form of point of sale exemptions, that varies from province to province also). So yes, certain goods are cheaper on reserve.

      However, the majority of the over 1 million native people in Canada do not receive per cap payments, or tax exemptions, or free education, or any of the other supposed benefits that many Canadians believe we get. What we do receive, are higher rates of diabetes, less access to education, less access to potable water, more suicides, and more grinding poverty than any other group in Canada.

      I agree that the relationship needs a serious overhaul, and I believe that relationship needs to be founded on two main principles: peaceful coexistence and non-interference. This cannot happen until there is mutual respect, as equals…and we are far from that point, unfortunately.

    • Rob says:

      I very much appreciate your words, Freshstart. Spending ample time on and around reserves in SK and AB, I can relate to your observations. I would agree though, that I have seen some reserves make much better financial management decisions then others. Not all reserves are set up to give every 18yr old $20000 (approx.), because that is how they decide to distribute resource revenues. Some reserves invest that money into infrastructure or investments, while others distribute the money over a longer period of time. But yes, their is one notorious reserve who used to do this (I don’t know if they still do, but I have a young friend who is turning 18 who is a band member from that reserve, so I will ask him).
      But, in my view, who am I to judge? The gov’t of Canada (British Throne) signed treaties so that my ancestors could come and farm in western Canada (as a side note – it’s not only First Nations people that made agreements with the gov’t of Canada. My ancestors made agreements, that were later broken by the government, simply because their circumstances had changed. But, even to this day, my people have certain rights and privileges that other Canadians did not benefit from – why? because we made a deal, and we got something out of it).
      Those treaties are going to last until the sun stops shining, and the grass stops growing, etc. etc. Not paying taxes (which is NOT universal among FN’s, and has many different stipulations), or the right to hunt year round, or ‘free housing’, or whatever – well, good for FN’s people for getting at least SOMETHING out of the treaties they signed! I would say, in retrospect, the treaty’s FAR out favour the gov’t of Canada then they do FN’s people – so perhaps we should stop complaining?
      With all that being said, when we look from the outside, and see the effects of all this ‘free’ stuff (poverty, alcoholism, etc etc), we are really witnessing the effects of a socialist state (or welfare state). Although some FN’s are free from this (due to excellent management of funds, and an embracing of capitalist endeavours), there is still a long way to go before some isolated reserves develop a large enough local economy, that their are realistically enough jobs for a community that are also within the community. Although the conclusion of this article is ridiculous and offensive (assimilation, integration, and relocation), the observations made up to the last paragraph are accurate: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/01/03/jonathan-kay-to-understand-how-we-got-to-attawapiskat-go-back-to-the-1905-james-bay-treaty/
      The point I’m trying to make is that yes, from the outside, things look bad (in some situations – perhaps unique to isolated reserves or perhaps SK/AB reserves? I really don’t know, but it IS there). BUT, as âpihtawikosisân concludes (and as my personal views have recently been altered because of your influence – thank you very much =): “This cannot happen until there is mutual respect, as equals…and we are far from that point, unfortunately.”

      • Freshstart says:

        I agree wholeheartedly there needs to be mutual respect, and certainly wish this was the case. As I have said, my nieces and nephews have First Nations blood, and they certainly have not had an easy time, on reserve or off. I am wondering, in your opinion, what the ultimate, best case outcome scenario would be? Would the First Nations like to be completely independent, as in responsible for all aspects of their respective societies, education, health care, etc, or a better blend than is currently existing, of being partially responsible financially, but not fully? I am meaning this as a honest question, not derogatory in any way. I don’t see a clear picture of what the answer is, and am wondering what your thoughts are?

        • Freshstart says:

          And the ‘your thoughts’ is a general term, just wondering what people think?

        • Rob Kroeker says:

          Even though I live and work in a FN’s context, I feel not qualified to speak to what FN’s ‘want’. From what I’ve observed in the current ‘status quo’, finances are sent to the band office (or Tribal Council) by the Federal Government through INAC (or ANAC?). From here, the Chief and Council will work with their band manager to distribute funds to Education, Water Treatment, Health, and all the various entities that the Band has already under their control. What is not available on-reserve (but promised in the Treaties), is paid for by the Band to whatever off-reserve entity is involved (ex- a Post-Secondary Institution, or perhaps some specialized medical, or dental, or eyeglasses, etc etc).
          I believe there is already a lot of independence for FN’s if you are comparing their governing structure to a local Municipality.
          The issues that aren’t being addressed are more practical. Here’s a real-life example. I work on a Cree First Nation in Northern SK. We are not affiliated with any Tribal council. Our resource revenues are limited. We have a fairly small population. The oil patch is not that far away (100km), and a few of our members work in ‘the patch’, but not many. The ones that do, have to get used to a lifestyle where they are gone from our community for 3wks, and then back for 4 days. These jobs are typically Hospitality based, and do not require ‘specialized training’. This is good, because our nearest Post-Secondary institution is 50km away (and this is just a satellite campus). The next nearest is 100km away. To be frank, both of these larger communities are not places where a lot of our members live, or want to live (various reasons, I don’t want to get into the details). The nearest real post-secondary institution is 350km away. Our community has such a strong sense of community, and is so used to our isolation, it becomes next to impossible – on a social level – to leave everything and everyone in order to get training in a foreign place, so we can go into a career that by it’s very nature, is anti-community.
          So, as a result, the largest numbers of our members choose to stay on-reserve. This has been the case for a long time. The local non-FN communities are also isolated, and there is a strong under current of racism that exists (probably both ways, but again, that’s another issue). Needless to say, there are not a lot of job opportunities available in these communities, and even less for FN’s members (again, for various reasons).
          I have learned from my time here that an entire culture has developed around this economic system where the only real, long-term, socially viable jobs are the ones offered through the Band Office (as listed above). As a result, certain realities have developed. For those who for various reasons are unable or unwilling to get a job in one of these 3 or 4 contexts, some common thought processes ensue: Why get a driver’s license if you’re on the rez most of the time? I’ll just drive without one. If I get caught, I’ll just find another vehicle and try to avoid the cops. Eventually, I could end up in jail.
          With few jobs, it becomes so incredibly boring here (especially during the summer), why not drink and do drugs and party? Why not see how much stealing we can get away with, both on and off reserve? I’m bored, I’m going to go break a window at the school. etc etc.
          Psychologically, some in my family are messed up (due to residential school issues, among other things), Maybe I’ve been abused. Maybe I should join a gang.
          The only money I can get is from part-time seasonal work. Therefore, most of the time the only money I see is on Family Allowance day and/or Welfare day and/or Distribution day. Then, because I’m always living in poverty, it becomes extremely difficult to break out of these cycles!
          So….with these attitudes being common place in my context, what is the answer? Where is there Hope?
          Please understand, that in this context, it is unique for FN’s. I used to live by a much more successful FN in southern Alberta. Yes, they have their own problems and issues, but they also do not face the same issues we are facing here now. In my opinion, in our context, Poverty, Isolation, Hopelessness, and all the related problems that come with it, are rampant here.
          Economically speaking, we should all just pack up and leave. But these few acres of land is all that’s left for our nation, how can we give that up? Who wants to leave their home? No one does.
          So, in this context, is self-government the ‘answer’ – well, maybe partly, but it’s not a solution in itself. And yes, the gov’t has a responsibility to deal with FN’s like ourselves, because we are largely in this situation due to the treaty, and the subsequent official policies forced upon all FN’s in the last 125+yrs.
          On an individual note – I will do everything I can to work with FN’s members here to provide services and training that will help increase their standard of living, or personal well-being. Whatever resources I have, I am going to share and invest them in my local community. In my case, I left my own strongly communal environment in order to get into an environment where I could do exactly what I’m doing. In my opinion, ‘to him whom much is given, much is expected’. In my opinion, the gov’t of Canada was ‘given’ ALOT, and in our unique, isolated, community, ALOT more is expected. What if the gov’t of Canada took the same attitude I did, and did everything they could to work with our local band to increase the standard of living here? What would happen if even 10 people took the bold step of leaving their economically and socially stable, probably urban lives, and came out here into ‘the wilderness’ and invested their time, talent, and money into the local economy?
          I guess what I’m saying is that things are bad around here, and we ALL need to do something – together. We can’t tell FN’s what to do, where to do it, and how to do it – but on the other hand, we can’t just keep the ‘status quo’ because it’s obviously not working for everyone involved. There are many who still cling onto ‘assimilation’ as the answer. I don’t believe it is. It’s more important to work from within, and keep positive and strong relationships, looking for answers together, then it is to find an externally imposed outside answer that ‘saves time and money’. No, we all have to come to the table – and yes, in my case, that’s in an individual effort (but i’m not alone). In Stephen Harper’s case, that means starting a string of meetings to identify solutions that work in individual contexts.
          I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone, or come across as arrogant or cocky. I was asked my personal opinion, so I shared it.

  55. Wally Moran says:

    Your comments are quite interesting and, I think in the main, valid. You’ve certainly not offended me, although I don’t agree with you in the entirety. I also think it valuable that you’ve noted the racism goes both ways. That needs to end.

    • Edit: I was in error that you were replying to myself rather than the poster above. The reply button to the poster above’s post is directly below said post, btw.

      Nonetheless, I’m not interested in correcting your many errors, and your personal message sent through the contact form reeks of arrogance:

      “However, your response shows me that you are not interested in a dialogue that doesn’t agree with your preconceptions.
      That makes you part of the problem in this country, and not part of any solution.
      If I’m wrong, I’m sure you will contact me to apologize and to reinstate my posting privilege.
      Right?”

      I am not here to provide you with a platform to make uniformed and incorrect statements about the law, about what you see as ‘both ways racism’ and so forth. Nor am I here to personally clarify these things for you so that you are no longer incorrect. My focus is to provide information on specific issues, when I have the time to do so, providing plenty of sources for you to delve into in greater detail. I refuse to allow certain people to badger me into addressing them directly and immediately. I do this work in my spare time, and each article takes upwards of 6 hours to put together. I respond to comments when I can, not because I am obligated to do so, or feel that not doing so ‘makes me a part of the problem’, but because when I can do a little extra, I do.

      I feel quite comfortable judging the tone of comments here, on my personal blog. Where people are respectful and non-confrontational (either aggressively or passive aggressively) then they are free to post, regardless of the content. My priority is to provide a safe space to have discussions, and when I find posts which are truculent, dishonest, or confrontational, this makes this space less safe, and the posters in question are banned.

      As you are.

  56. Steve Crown says:

    if you do not allow negative comments you are taking away the right of an individual, something that you want, and not leaving any room for dialogue. Why not be fair and let all concerned voice their opinion? You are left with tainted racism.

    • You folks whining about being denied a voice, need to seriously get over it. You have zero ‘right’ to space on my personal blog, and to think otherwise is nothing short of delusional.

      People who are not banned from commenting here are willing to engage respectfully, even when their positions are in stark opposition to my own. People who are banned from commenting here are those who are belligerent, threatening, outright racist and those who make apparently through their posts that they have no intention of engaging, only hectoring. I believe people who come here to comment have a right to do so in a safe environment, free from the racists and small minded trolls who fill the comment sections of every single mainstream news-service out there. THAT is the only right I’m going to recognise here.

      Go forth, find your niche, if you feel that you’re being wronged here.

      I certainly won’t cry for you.

      • Céline says:

        A Hay Sister ! Keep up the good work ! The sea of hatred that is swelling out there on the comments pages of major news articles is filling me with dismay.

    • andyro says:

      @ Steve, WRT “find your niche”: Might I recommend: http://www.ezralevant.com/ – but wait – I see comments are not allowed there at all. Hmph? I wonder why?

  57. Céline says:

    Why do I have a feeling that Shagunash is happy to hear the people crying in the streets that the system is broken, and why do I fear that calling for a meeting which opens up the treaty rights is exactly what he’s hoping for. Why do I shiver to think that he will postpone this meeting as long as possible until the general public is enraged at the road blockades and the categorical declarations of the First nations people that they will bring the economy of Canada to its knees, when racist comments will be flying and the opposition parties have been silenced for lack of parliamentary debate ?
    Isn’t this the worst time for the treaty relationship to be reviewed, with the very worst politicians in power ? Isn’t this the same government that last year opened a round table, listened to all the chiefs, and then walked away and did exactly as their consumerist hearts desired ? Why do I suppose that Shagunash is happy to see that the chiefs are not united under the system of the AFN and that this division will make him look good ? All of this will play directly into his hands to open the treaty relationship and smash it once and for all. Then will he be free to launch all of his consumerist “economic” projects free of any legal retribution.
    The people of truth have never needed the protection of the Creator more than at this time. We are facing a time when the burden of the exploded human population is weighing heavily on all the earth’s systems, and when people understand less and less their relationship to the land. Children do not know where milk comes from let alone what a cow is. Children have little opportunity to play outdoors anymore and all are being raised under the tantalizing rays of the television and her two powerful cousins the internet and the video game. Never mind, the frogs have all disappeared from the stream anyway… And there is little snow left to speak of.
    The people have never needed unity more than at the present time. Any division causes further damage to our Mother and all her systems. How can we arrive at unity peacefully ? Justice is the cornerstone of unity. I pray that Shagunash will be just and truthful, free of deceit and greed. Will this happen in our generation ??? Prayers are needed ! Fast and furious !

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  59. HB says:

    Edit: what a sad person you must be, to spend so much time pretending to sound knowledgeable, while spewing so much ignorance.

    • No, you absolute creeper, I am not going to meet up with you or discuss anything at all with you. Ever. Don’t bother sending me another message through the Contact page. I will simply delete it without reading it.

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  61. Melissa says:

    As a California Native American what can we do here to help or assist in anyway… So sad we were here first..

  62. Cj says:

    I think it’s absolutely astounding that these issues even exist. It’s not very often that a conquered nation is neither destroyed, nor forced to assimilate. What’s more, the conquering nation even continues to pay reparations. They may perhaps not be as abundant as could be desired, but they are reparations nonetheless. First Nations still practice their cultures as well, albeit in a severely reduced capacity.

    I don’t deny a lot of what you’re saying, but I think it’s particularly unfair to compare Aboriginal post-secondary graduates to non-Aboriginal post-graduates as an argument for First Nations peoples not benefitting from the strict criteria required to receive federal funding. Other avenues may be pursued in the forms of grants and bursaries, just like other Canadians. The Aboriginal graduation rate should theoretically be slightly higher than its counterpart because of this extra advantage, slim as it may be.

    And before people start complaining about my bias, I’m Neskantaga First Nations, and a post-secondary graduate. I just think it’s important to play devil’s advocate from time to time. That might help alleviate the stereotype that all we do is cry…which is being done a lot in this post.

    • I’m sorry that you consider yourself conquered. That is certainly not historical or legal fact. Not even the Crown claims that we are conquered peoples. As for being forced to assimilate, that has indeed been a policy for many generations. What do you think Residential Schools were about? I’m not speaking of a hidden agenda here. The stated policy of Residential Schools, of enfranchisement, of the 60s scoop and so on was to assimilate Indigenous peoples so that they no longer exist as Indigenous, only Canadian.

      You don’t deny what is in the post, but characterise it as crying. Ah. Well, the truth can hurt, but speaking about it is hardly ‘crying’.

      I do not understand your sentence about ‘strict criteria to receive federal funding’. The myth addressed in the post was that Indigenous peoples get free education across the board, at all levels, when in fact a very small portion of a minority of Indigenous people are eligible at all for this funding, much less manage to receive it. Given the atrocious high school graduation rates, no amount of bursaries OR federal funding can boost post-secondary rates. First Nations schools are severely underfunded, no matter what metric you use to define this, and that absolutely has an impact.

      There is no need to play ‘devil’s advocate’ when Canadian society is eager to step up to the plate and argue these mainstream points all the live long day. Perhaps instead, you could own your opinions and not pass them off as some sort of debate exercise.

      • Cj says:

        Good call, I forgot it was just myth debunking. I guess I explored that venue a bit too far.

        I never said they weren’t my opinions; keep in mind that neither of us are all-knowing, nor should we act as such.

  63. Bob says:

    There are some pretty bad stereotypes out there, that for sure. However…

    ******DISCLAIMER: OFFENSIVE COMMENTS BELOW*****

    Sorry to say, but I still fail to see why aboriginal groups are treated differently from any other Canadian citizen (and yes that goes both way – oppression and support). Honestly, I do not acknowledge any claim they think they have to this land (nor do I consider people of European decent to have any claim). History has been ruled by groups of people conquering different lands.
    Maybe if you had better technology and weapons then you would still be in charge of this land… but you didn’t, and thats ok.

    I always hear about how aboriginals feel as though their identity is being stolen. Please explain how. How can I robe you of your culture and tradition simply by not practicing it? If my parents moved to China, for example, I wouldn’t accuse the Chinese of trying to rob me of my European culture because they don’t have tea and biscuits (or whatever, take your pick). Yes I know in that example I moved to another country, but the only difference is that there is this attitude that because natives were here first, they shouldn’t have to adapt to the way the country is now. We’ll tough shit for you because that’s what virtually every human being has had to do in all of history: adapt to an ever-changing world, not try to hold on to archaic and impractical lifestyles.

    “I as a proud ancestor of cavemen, I feel disgusted, as the Canadian government has denied me my right to reside in a cave and practice smashing things with my large wooden club. I have no desire to live in this “house” you speak of, and it is despicable that you would even suggest that I should adapt to the world around me. I am Thur. My children will smash things with clubs and live in caves, as well their children’s children. For that is my culture and heritage, and I must protect it.”

    (feel free to make as many caveman jokes about me as you like at this time, as I’m sure that is what most are thinking right now).

    Would you ever see Native English with their own laws separate from those followed by its other citizens? If I were of Scottish heritage, would I demand reparations from the Queen of England for what happened to my great, great, great… great grandpa? Of course not.

    Furthermore, I don’t give a fuck about your culture (just your human rights). Your culture and traditional values are your own. Personally, they could remove every bit of European tradition from this country and I wouldn’t give a fuck. Stop acting like you culture matters to anybody but you.

    Simple fact and truth is that we all live in the same country so why would the rules be any different for someone with a different genetic makeup? I fully support the recovery of any impoverished people, but don’t think that your race makes you any different.

    In closing, I refuse to acknowledge any group of people that thinks they should be treated differently because of their race. As racist as my comments may sound (actually its more “culturist” – yes I know thats probably not a word) I strongly feel that everyone should be treated 100% no matter what genes you have or who your parents were.

  64. Bob says:

    Sorry, I have to reiterate a point:

    The main “take-home” message I was going for (although articulated horrendously), was that I just fail to see why any group of people facing any issue(s) should be treated/supported differently, soley on the basis of their genetic makeup/ancestry.

    I by no means am advocating the message that “we should just leave ALL First Nations people to fend for themselves”

    Nor am I saying “they need to ditch their “caveman” culture and get with the times”

    *although yes, in so many ways, I sort of did say those things… I’m trying to strike a grey area in between, but stay with me…

    Rather, I just mean that those First Nations people who do rely on government support/services/etc. should receive the same support it reserves for its other citizens (same health care coverage, same taxes, laws, etc). With regards to their culture: practice it, but in the same respect that every other cultural group does (e.g. in your homes, not forcing it into the public via guilt).

    Unfortunately, you will not necessarily be able to practice all of your culture and traditions any more. This is an unfortunately by-product of living in the year 2014.

    For example (***not directed to any particular group****): it may be your cultural/traditional practice to beat women. I’m sorry my friend, I don’t care if that’s the most important aspect of your culture to you, you don’t get to practice it in this country. End of story.

    It may be your cultural tradition to fish the oceans limitlessly and own hundreds of hectares of land to hunt on. Sadly, it is the year 2014 and we have over 7 billion mouths to feed and shelter. You can’t keep all that real-estate for your cultural practices, nor fish limitlessly with the current condition the ocean is in – it may sound harsh, but these are just the facts of the world we live in. We have to be practical about how we use our resources.

    Same goes for every other culture. I don’t mind walking around town and admiring various art and sculptures inspired by Chinese, Japanese, Indian, English, French, Spanish, African, etc. It’s a free cultural enterprise out here in Canada, where numbers dictate how much of a cultural influence there is in an area (i.e. popularity). I am a minority in my city and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest (there are plenty of streets I drive through were the store signs are in Chinese or Punjabi and I don’t care – that’s their store, their business, they can do what they like with it). I just take issue with groups which think that their culture needs special treatment from the government.

    Last example:

    What if a soup kitchen/homeless shelter only served homeless of Hawaiian decent?

    That is all. Thank you, and sorry to those I have most certainly offended.

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