We can’t get anywhere until we flip the narrative

Since December of 2012, and the rise of Idle No More events, there have been numerous “teach-ins” throughout the country. Some of them focused on the theme of reconciliation, others provided necessary background to those unfamiliar with the causes of ‘indigenous discontent’, while others attempted to provide a possible vision for the future. Whether you agree with a focus on education versus a widespread series of actions, it is clear that much work is needed to overcome some very pervasive and damaging stereotypes.

This year alone, we have seen some very telling opinions being given a public platform, all of which depict indigenous peoples in a… less than flattering light.

o-MORRIS-MIRROR-RACIST-EDITORIAL-CARTOON-570In January, the Morris Mirror ran an editorial by the community paper’s editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte, that likened us to terrorists and decried our “corruption and laziness”. Not to be outdone, 80-something Nanaimo resident Don Olsen submitted a letter to the editor in March, titled “Educate First Nations to become modern citizens“, detailing our supposed total lack of achievements and inability to survive in a modern world. The Calgary Herald rounded out this vituperative triumvirate with another letter to the editor by Martin Miller of Okotoks called “Equal partners” which demands that we stop oppressing the brow-beaten taxpayer with our endless demands.

The Morris Mirror experienced significant backlash and despite its claims to “represent the views of the local community”, local residents were quick to voice their disgust with the views expressed. Some businesses withdrew their ads from the publication in response.


Karin Klassen, seasoned journalist and supporter of 60s Scoop policies.

The Nanaimo Daily also experienced negative publicity and lost ad revenue for its choice to publish Olsen’s letter. Unlike the Morris Mirror, the Nanaimo Daily offered a full-apology and withdrew the article. By then, a number of people had published rebuttals to the letter, including a very detailed one by Danica Denomme. In contrast, the Calgary Herald has not apologised or withdrawn Miller’s opinion piece.

In April, a BC NDP candidate resigned after some of her online comments about First Nations peoples came to light.

It didn’t stop there, of course. In July, a Calgary Herald journalist Karin Klassen wrote an article which in essence, defends the 60s Scoop and suggests that First Nations people are culturally unfit to parent. This opinion piece was not offered by a random citizen, but was delivered by a seasoned, paid journalist. In her article, she ignores all of the research on the subject in favour of a knee-jerk personal reaction supported by nothing more than her anecdotal experiences. At its very best, the article is an example of a gross lack of professionalism.

The fact that people are able to outright dismiss literally centuries of oppression as though this could have no possible impact on events today, never ceases to astound me. How is this even possible? Clearly the first step, as exemplified by Klassen, is to claim that good intentions negate oppression. Another tactic is to say, “those were different times”. This approach was taken by the son of a scientist behind nutritional experiments on First Nations children, who wrote to the media to justify the program.

A study of how Canadian English-language newspapers have portrayed Aboriginal peoples from 1869 to the present day.

A study of how Canadian English-language newspapers have portrayed Aboriginal peoples from 1869 to the present day.

When dealing with these kinds of opinions, one tends to have to weigh the pros and cons of ignoring them, or providing an often emotionally exhausting rebuttal. Native peoples and our allies are often faced with putting in extreme effort to refute and educate, but it can feel like we are making little progress.

The myth of progress

That feeling is unfortunately supported by extensive research. Anderson and Robertson’s “Seeing Red: A history of natives in Canadian newspapers” provides exhausting evidence of how little the narrative has changed in the media since 1869. In fact, Anderson and Robertson assert in their introduction that, “with respect to Aboriginal peoples, the colonial imaginary has thrived, even dominated, and continues to do so in mainstream English-language newspapers.” The imaginary to which they refer, is the way in which Canada has created an image of itself, based not so much on historical fact as on ideological interpretation. In doing so, Canada has necessarily had to rely upon an image of indigenous peoples which, as expressed recently by Turcotte, Olsen and Miller, portrays us as pretty much useless.

How is it that so little progress has been made to overcome this narrative in 144 years? Certainly the colonial myths which continue to dominate media discourse have existed for much longer than this. Yet one would hope that nearly a century and a half of technological and social development would see a corresponding shift in mainstream attitudes. Instead, we literally see the same arguments being made year after year after year.

Of course, the idea that Canadian society is evolving and progressing is an important part of the colonial imaginary. When Canadians consider the injustices faced by indigenous peoples, those injustices are nearly always located in the past. The irony of course is that every generation has located such injustice in the past, and only rarely in contemporary contexts. Were this actually true, no injustice could have possibly occurred ever, much less could be understood to continue today!

Canadians who do recognise historical injustice seem to understand it in this way:

  1. Bad things happened.
  2. Bad things stopped happening and equality was achieved.
  3. The low social and political status held by indigenous peoples is now wholly based on the choice to be corrupt, lazy, inefficient, and unsuited to the modern world.

In other words, there is no history of colonialism and systemic racism that informs the modern view of indigenous peoples, because that problem was solved at some point in the past. The real racism is in conflating legitimate dislike for indigenous peoples (based not on race or ethnicity but rather on the bad choices we make) with historic colonialism/racism which is over. In continuing to discuss colonialism and racism as a present-day concern, we are engaging in reverse-racism and oppressing blameless settlers.

cannot possibly be true

Some people feel that the real cause of racism is claims like those made in this comic.

Canada is hardly unique in this ahistorical approach. In the United States, slavery is also located in the distant past, and the belief that full equality was achieved at some nebulous but definite point is widely accepted (at least by Whites) as true. Thus anti-Black sentiment is based not on race but on true generalisations of all the bad choices Black people have made since they became equal. Even suggesting this view is untrue raises hackles.

Flip the narrative

The fact is, what we all learn about Canadian history is wrong. Every single one of us, native and non-native alike, have been fed a series of lies, half-truths and fantasies intended to create a cohesive national identity. What is most startling about this, is that a great many people are aware of the errors and omissions present in our system of education and in our public discourse, and yet somehow there has not yet been a national attempt to rectify this.

That is not to say no effort has been made. The inclusion of events into the mainstream consciousness that I only heard rumours about when I was in school, has been incredibly important. Acknowledging Japanese internment, the Chinese Head Tax, Residential Schools and a host of other less-than-inspiring events and policies has certainly taken us beyond the kind of starry-eyed propaganda served up for a long time in this country.

Nonetheless, integral to colonial narrative is belief in the superiority of European contributions and the absence of any truly important contribution from non-European peoples to Canadian society, except when narrowly defined within examples of successful integration and ‘up by their bootstraps’ stories. After all, if non-European and indigenous contributions were of any real value, wouldn’t we see them everywhere? Instead, all that is good and modern originated in Europe!

Not everyone states this as baldly as Mr. Olsen et al. but the sentiment is still widely shared. Which is incredibly sad, because Canada will not crumble and fall apart if we become more honest and aware of the history of these lands and the incredible diversity of contributions by peoples from all over the world.

The violence of national myths

A more accurate and less self-serving history, a more honest reality, is ours. It is our birthright, whether we have been in these lands for thousands of years, or arrived yesterday. We are all being denied a real identity, based on more than colonial myths intended to create a national identity out of thin air.

This is not an intelligent or useful way to approach history or construct a national identity.

This is not an intelligent or useful way to approach history or construct a national identity.

It is not only indigenous peoples who want to reclaim that birthright. There are millions of people living in this country who are trying to come to grips with their own personal histories, which more often than not, fail to accord with the official narrative. Unwed mothers who were pressured into giving up their babies for adoption, finding out that many of these babies were killed and buried instead. Black orphans who were horrifically abused by those who were supposed to protect them. Italians in Canada put into internment camps during WWII, and so very many more who have had to struggle to have their stories heard and believed.

These are all horrific stories, and they are only the tip of the iceberg, because most of us have heard only a fraction of them. The violence that national myths commit, is to delegitimise the very real pain that is the legacy of abuse and oppression. When these stories begin to surface, they are often treated as conspiracy theories. Even when incontrovertible proof is discovered, and the information becomes freely available, the overarching Canadian narrative obscures and confuses, splitting these events up into disparate and unconnected ‘unfortunate incidents’. Most Canadians will learn only a few of these stories, and will be unable to connect them to a wider history of colonialism. This means that nothing can change, as is made so clear in the book Seeing Red, and exemplified in articles like Klassen’s. How can we possibly learn from the past when this country is so invested in whitewashing it?

We all need to work on reclaiming our histories, but this cannot be an individual exercise, it absolutely must be a national one. We must share our histories and learn the histories of others, and our curriculum and media must reflect our evolving understandings.

Right now, indigenous peoples are trying very hard to share our histories. Whether this will create a new chapter in Anderson and Robertson’s research is going to depend on whether or not Canadians are finally willing to listen.


A shorter version of this article was published on Huffington Post Canada.

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Categories: 60s scoop, Decolonisation, First Nations, Injustice

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41 Responses to We can’t get anywhere until we flip the narrative

  1. This is a very fine post. Thank you. Unfortunately, things are the same here in the U.S., and apparently, from what I hear from friends and colleagues, in Australia. Denial is a powerful, destructive force.

  2. Frederick Peitzsche says:

    EDIT: PLAGARIZED IN COMPLETE FORM FROM: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/indian-time-doesnt-cut-it-for-innovative-chief-with-on-the-edge-humour/article1103739/

    Some of you probably have heard about Chief Clarence Louie but if you haven’t your in for a real treat. Chief Louie hits the nail on the head. He has been a great example of what needs to be done in this regard. Some non-native young people could use this message.

    Speaking to a large aboriginal conference and some of the attendees, including a few who hold high office, have straggled in.

    ‘I can’t stand people who are late, he says into the microphone. Indian Time doesn’t cut it. ‘
    Some giggle, but no one is quite sure how far he is going to go. Just sit back and listen:

    ‘My first rule for success is Show up on time.’
    ‘My No. 2 rule for success is follow Rule No. 1.’
    ‘If your life sucks, it’s because you suck.’
    ‘Quit your sniffling.’
    ‘Join the real world. Go to school, or get a job..’
    ‘Get off of welfare. Get off your butt.’

    He pauses, seeming to gauge whether he dare, then does.
    ‘People often say to me, How you doin’? Geez I’m working with Indians what do you think?’
    Now they are openly laughing … applauding. Clarence Louie is everything that was advertised and more.

    ‘Our ancestors worked for a living, he says. So should you.’

    He is, fortunately, aboriginal himself. If someone else stood up and said these things – the white columnist standing there with his mouth open, for example – you’d be seen as a racist. Instead, Chief Clarence Louie is seen, increasingly, as one of the most interesting and innovative native leaders in the country even though he avoids national politics.

    He has come here to Fort McMurray because the aboriginal community needs, desperately, to start talking about economic development and what all this multibillion-dollar oil madness might mean,for good and for bad.

    Clarence Louie is chief and CEO of the Osoyoos Band in British Columbia ‘s South Okanagan . He is 44 years old, though he looks like he would have been an infant when he began his remarkable 20-year-run as chief. He took a band that had been declared bankrupt and taken over by Indian Affairs and he has turned in into an inspiration.

    In 2000, the band set a goal of becoming self-sufficient in five years. They’re there.

    The Osoyoos, 432 strong, own, among other things, a vineyard, a winery, a golf course and a tourist resort, and they are partners in the Baldy Mountain ski development. They have more businesses per capita than any other first nation in Canada .

    There are not only enough jobs for everyone, there are so many jobs being created that there are now members of 13 other tribal communities working for the Osoyoos. The little band contributes $40-million a year to the area economy.

    Chief Louie is tough. He is as proud of the fact that his band fires its own people as well as hires them. He has his mottos posted throughout the Rez. He believes there is no such thing as consensus, that there will always be those who disagree. And, he says, he is milquetoast compared to his own mother when it comes to how today’s lazy aboriginal youth, almost exclusively male, should be dealt with.

    Rent a plane, she told him, and fly them all to Iraq . Dump ’em off and all the ones who make it back are keepers. Right on, Mom.
    The message he has brought here to the Chipewyan, Dene and Cree who live around the oil sands is equally direct: ‘Get involved, create jobs and meaningful jobs, not just window dressing for the oil companies.’

    ‘The biggest employer,’ he says, ‘shouldn’t be the band office.’

    He also says the time has come to get over it. ‘No more whining about 100-year-old failed experiments.’ ‘No foolishly looking to the Queen to protect rights.’

    Louie says aboriginals here and along the Mackenzie Valley should not look at any sharing in development as rocking-chair money but as investment opportunity to create sustainable businesses. He wants them to move beyond entry-level jobs to real jobs they earn all the way to the boardrooms. He wants to see business manners develop: showing up on time, working extra hours. The business lunch, he says, should be drive through, and then right back at it.

    ‘You’re going to lose your language and culture faster in poverty than you will in economic development’, he says to those who say he is ignoring tradition.

    Tough talk, at times shocking talk given the audience, but on this day in this community, they took it and, judging by the response, they loved it.

    Eighty per cent like what I have to say, Louie says, twenty per cent don’t. I always say to the 20 per cent, ‘Get over it.’ ‘Chances are you’re never going to see me again and I’m never going to see you again.’ ‘Get some counseling.’

    The first step, he says, is all about leadership. He prides himself on being a stay-home chief who looks after the potholes in his own backyard and wastes no time running around fighting 100-year-old battles.

    ‘The biggest challenge will be how you treat your own people.’

    ‘Blaming government? That time is over.’

    • At least have the decency to say where you plagarised your entire post from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/indian-time-doesnt-cut-it-for-innovative-chief-with-on-the-edge-humour/article1103739/

      I notice you do not even attempt to address a single point raised in the article you have ‘commented’ on. I will respond to your total lack of effort with the same.

      • Frederick Peitzsche says:

        Chief Louie said it all “get over it”
        He also says the time has come to get over it. ‘No more whining about 100-year-old failed experiments.’ ‘No foolishly looking to the Queen to protect rights.’
        The real message is start now to build your future.

        • Living in denial about what has happened and what continues to happen merely ensures you speak from a position of ignorance. Which is certainly your right. Just don’t expect applause.

          • Frederick Peitzsche says:

            No one is denying what is documented as having happened in the past.The key is to get beyond your past and build something tangible for the future.Perpetual crying over spilled milk doesen’t build anything for the future does it?

          • In fact, there is a great deal of denial of documented past injustices in the sense that they are presented as mistakes, ‘that was just how they did things then’, and ‘they had good intentions’. There is very little in the way of official recognition of how these things happened because of colonialism and racism. There is also a great deal of official interference with the research being done on these policies. Just look at the thousands upon thousands of documents the federal government is still withholding from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is not a nation eager to face its past.

            What is worse is the myth that somehow all these bad things stopped happening. There is a total disconnect in the official narrative between the past and the present, as though current injustices somehow do not flow directly from policies and actions taken for generations. Your entire response exemplifies the approach I described in the article:

            Bad things happened.
            Bad things stopped happening and equality was achieved.
            The low social and political status held by indigenous peoples is now wholly based on the choice to be corrupt, lazy, inefficient, and unsuited to the modern world.

            So I ask you this. At what exact point in Canadian history did the oppression of indigenous peoples end? When exactly did the Canadian approach to the “Indian problem” change?

          • Frederick Peitzsche says:

            For rights other than Aboriginal title, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that claimants must demonstrate that the right was integral to their distinctive indigenous societies and exercised at the time of first contact with Europeans. While these may be now exercised in a modern way, practices that arose from European influence are not protected. This paradox is often expressed in relation to commercial trade in furs or fish, which the courts have seen as the product of European contact rather than integral to Aboriginal societies prior to contact. Fishing for food, community or ceremonial purposes is, however, a protected Aboriginal right and may be exercised in a modern way with modern fishing equipment.
            In order to prove an Aboriginal title to traditional lands, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the important Delgamuukw case (1997) that such claims to title had to show exclusive occupation of the territory by a defined Aboriginal society as of the time the British Crown asserted sovereignty over that territory. In the same case, the Court ruled that the oral histories of the Aboriginal peoples were to be accepted as evidence proving historic use and occupation.
            No Aboriginal right, even though constitutionally protected, is absolute in Canadian law. Fishing rights, for example, are not exclusive in the sense that only indigenous peoples can exercise them and they are not immune to regulation by other governments. Aboriginal title, on the other hand, may give rise to an exclusive right to use and occupy lands, but that right may be interfered with for other societal purposes such as economic development or power generation. Infringement of aboriginal rights or title must be justified by non-Aboriginal governments on the basis of a legitimate government purpose and recognition of the constitutional protection of the rights being affected. There may also be a requirement for prior consultation with the Aboriginal peoples concerned and compensation in some circumstances

          • Frederick Peitzsche says:

            Which of the numbered treaties gave Indian Bands unlimited power to their chiefs to decide not only their own salaries but power to decide where and how any band monies are spent.There are many questions that must be answered before any resolution of the Indian problem can be settled.
            “TTAWA – Six months after a scathing independent audit of Attawapiskat First Nation found a lack of documentation for tens of millions of dollars in federal funding, the government still doesn’t know if any of the money should be paid back.

            The Department of Aboriginal Affairs confirms it is undertaking “additional work” relating to the Northern Ontario reserve’s finances, but can’t yet say if a more detailed audit will take place.

            “In light of the fact that 82 per cent of the transactions reviewed are missing, supporting documentation and additional work was required to rebuild the First Nation’s financial picture,” spokeswoman Claudia Fournier said in an email. “That work is ongoing and will help determine if a forensic audit is required.”

            Fournier added the ongoing work “will help to determine what/if funds are required to be re-paid.”

            At the height of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s liquids-only protest diet on Victoria Island, a copy of the Deloitte and Touche LLP audit was leaked to the CBC and then officially released by aboriginal affairs on Jan. 7.
            Related Stories

            Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence leaves hospital after ending hunger protest
            Theresa Spence Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence takes more hopeful tone
            One year later, film chronicles housing crisis on Attawapiskat reserve

            The audit, which tracked transactions, found there was little or no documentation for $104 million dollars spent by Attawapiskat and intended for services such as housing, sewage and education.

            “There is no evidence of due diligence in the use of public funds, including the use of funds for housing,” the auditors wrote. At the time, Spence’s supporters called the audit’s release “a distraction” from the true issues

          • I have actually read the audit, have you? Here are some of my comments about it: http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/asithappens_20130107_86749.mp3

            And here is the actual audit: http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1350243697995/1350243941069

          • daveM says:

            When we discuss the “indian” problem, could we consider that the problem has been created by the invaders and that the ‘Indians’ have actually been very accommodating to a group of people that has proceeded to continually devastate our values and environment..

            The Attawapiskat audit, I am sorry to say, was poorly done, poorly documented, poorly researched and does not represent the finances of Attawapiskat. Sometimes we have to understand that our government is ineffective in its role.

    • “Up by the bootstraps”, anyone?

      • Val Jobson says:

        That article strongly reminded me of Mr. Bounderby in “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens: the businessman who claimed to have pulled himself up from being born in a ditch and abandoned by his mother; it turned out he really came from a middle-class family and had a loving mother.

        Connie Kaldor has a phrase in one of her songs about people who are born on third base and think they hit a double.

  3. These problems come for assimilation, association, and handing your power over for THEIR acceptance.
    The saddest part in your story is that you have all the POWER, and either do not know, or do not know what to do with it!
    WAKE UP!!!!

  4. Robert Dudman says:

    It is funny that non-native people will quote this article from Chief Louie because of the words that are written. But few have if have sat with him and really listened to what he was to say about culture and the history of our people. He his attitude of “..get over it over…” or “…stop whining…” is merely said in manner that he speaks. His comments are usually follow-up by “getting help is not a weakness”. He speaks about getting over the things that are hurting you to succeed. It is tough love and some of need to hear that. He does not mud his comments with psychology babble. But he will help his people however he can – that is difference. Non-People who speak those words offer no help but just words,

    They don’t like the process that it takes to get some one out of the hell that may live. I have never heard Chief Louie ever say that our history or culture was not important. But non-native people don’t print that message. They just want to be validated by words they speak and keep saying it- “because my friend is Native and he agrees with me.” Sorry your so-called friend does not speak for the whole nation of indigenous people.

    But i guess if they only quote those certain comments than i shall to. Non-Native people get over it and stop your whining about our issues.

  5. Fantastic post. Yes, I think we do need to flip the narrative. The inequality perpetuated by the “my [white] ancestors had it tough, too [but kept their family ties, native language, voting rights, etc.]” crowd doesn’t help us get anywhere.

  6. daveM says:

    Few, if any, Canadian politicians have the desire to sincerely represent their constituents other than the white folks. Therein lays a huge difficulty, as I see it.

    This is an excellent article, it needs to be read by many Canadians, especially those that wish to develop a true Canadian sense of heritage and background.

    What is important to accept is… few of us white folk have any real working knowledge of indigenous people and their way of life, our judgements are flawed because of this.

    I wonder how many of our elected representatives in Ottawa have set foot in an indigenous community in the past two years. Would the answer be greater than ten.?

  7. Wayne Robbins says:

    A constant problem in any human society over the ages is the weight so many people have given and continue to give to anecdotal evidence compared to statistical evidence. Intelligent people should know better and usually do, especially when given access to the statistics and a bit of time to reflect. Unfortunately, there are other powerful “intelligent” people amongst us who use our weakness for the sensational story to advance their harmful agendas. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Stephen Harper.

    Another problem we face is the current explosion of the media, especially its visual variety. Letters to the editor and opinion pieces are one source of anecdotal poison; anonymous twitter-feeds streaming mid-screen on national television news shows are, I feel, now a much more dangerous source of this poison.

    What to do? Ignore this anecdotal “noise”, that’s what. Read the history of the 250 years since the Royal Proclamation which promised that the First Nations, the loyal “allies” of the Crown, would be maintained in the lands they lived in. Read of the First Nations being “molested” and “disturbed”. Read of the prolonged armed robbery and the countless acts of extortion and primitive biological warfare involving European diseases and alcohol that brought about the result that these loyal allies now no longer possess those “parts” of the Dominions and Territories they had not ceded or sold to the British Crown as of 1763. Read of the suppression of the Métis and the Inuit. Read and keep your anger constant. Read and know the truth – it is there not only in the history books, but even in such places as the web site of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Read and do whatever you can possibly do to further the statistical truth and clean away at least some of the anecdotal garbage strewn about.

    As my part in this effort, I am currently completing a book I am calling “For Greater Certainty – A Closer Look At Canada’s Indian Act”. This is not an attempt to justify or explain the Act. Nor is it an attempt to suggest changes to it. I believe only the people of Canada’s First Nations are qualified to do that.

    Two years ago I saw an interview of a First Nations Band member in which the interviewer asked, “What sort of changes would you want to see in the Indian Act”?

    The response was immediate. “First, I’d like to be able to understand it”.

    That exchange prompted me to find a copy of the Indian Act to see if I could understand it. I couldn’t. It is a document written and then modified by bureaucrats and lawyers over the years since 1876 obviously only for the benefit of bureaucrats and lawyers. It also uses in places terms which I believe are outdated, hopelessly vague and sometimes insulting. One would hope that a government law which controls the lives of a unique segment of population suffering from so many social problems would be easily accessible.

    Since then I’ve tried my best to re-imagine the Indian Act as a document to be understood, a document more up to date, less confusing and hopefully not insulting. Part of this attempt includes a change in the order of the presentation of the clauses of the Act so that it may make more sense to the average reader. Every word of the Act is still there, however.

    My hope, of course, is that this work might help to push back those who refuse to see the rampant and virtually official discrimination which continues in our country.

    Thank you for your continued extraordinarily intelligent blog.

    • janis says:

      excellent post and i concur with all that you said. might i suggest, along with your personal research, that you also read the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996[?]). great insight, and if folks would read it, they would see that we’ve been saying what we need / want for over 40 years. there’s nothing “new” under the sun. our stories haven’t changed. but i’m not sitting around waiting another 40 years. the change begins now, with education and awareness.

  8. Chris J. McLeod (Kithikesik) says:

    This is probably the best description of Canada or the taxpayer I believe I have ever read and the cartoon expresses the role Black people played in the development in the USA economy. Indians and their role in Canada’s economy is totally ignored too in two instances. The Fur Trade happened with the Indians and the Royal family owned Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) from 1670 to 1870 a period of 200 years. And then the little known and deliberately hidden fact of swindling Indian lands and resources in 1870, three years after the Constitution was approved and functioning in Canada and the removal of Indians from section 92 and transferred to section 91(24) which created the TRUST. The trust was created when this removal was to remove the voting rights of Indians without the Constitutional removal of the obligation of taxation as provided by section 53. However, there is a playing around with this national tax exemption of Indians in the Indian Act and it has been managed to restrict it to Reserve lands by some slight of hand arguing by lawyers hired by Indians. However, such a restriction applies to half of Indians or more because they have not received their promised lands to individual Indians as per the Treaties. But the Constitution does not refer to treaties, just to Indians and lands reserved for the Indians. The Supreme Court of Canada laid out the “connecting factors” to a reserve and part of the connecting factors has to do with the “nature of the property being taxed” and this is totally ignored by lawyers and the Indian ACt. SEction 125 of the Constitution defines the nature of government property or ‘public bodies performing a function of government in Canada’ and this property is tax exempt even when in commercial corporations owned by them. The Indian act defines this ‘section 125 property’ as “Indian Moneys” and it is ‘deemed to be situated on a reserve’ as per section 90 of the Indian Act but Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been deliberately ignoring these facts and Indian Bands are forced to go through hoops to earn tax exemption as per 125. So, in the “connecting factors test” this nature of Indian property being held by Indians is a section 125 property and the taxpayer is a section 53 tax exempt Indian as per section 53 which states only voting citizens are obligated to pay taxes. So, Indians, Indian Bands (First Nations), a union of two or more Indian Bands or the opting into the tribal council entity created by Canada affects the nature of the taxpayer and the nature of the property he holds is tax exempt and matches the connecting factors test of both Indians and Indian bands and tribal councils and union of Indians.

  9. Some First Nations like Clarence Louie’s and Wally Fox got to the trough earlier and often enough when there was lots of program money and had few members then and have invested to make it work for them now….now there just are not the program dollars that there were …and some First Nations are still dealing with the mythologies of treaties vs the realities of treaty implementation…its all well and good to say we need to flip the narrative if there was a dominant narrative….with the “settlements” even the “wronged” narrative is not readily available anymore…but there are many First Nations narratives across Canada from First Nations perspectives….and probably a couple from non-Aboriginal perspective along the same lines….that is key…through the assimilation/accommodation process there are many narratives and there isn’t going to be one unified narrative….as we see with AFN/IDNM/METIS/INUIT etc….we all have our own Narratives..Its mainly Anishinaabe narrative that I see in the public ….there could be a lot more diversity to show but it depends on who dominates the narrative in the media..and who is speaking for everyone……its non-Aboriginal modernity that was enforcing a single narrative…its the nation state that needs a single narrative and that the Indian Act serves…Its interesting to see Indigenous trying to promote grand narratives while not acknowledging their own grandizing narratives…I am a member of an Aboriginal community have worked at home and away and am in a position to influence policy and practice…and work on narratives in the classroom, community and public..hopefully indigenous intelligensia who attended ceremony this summer listened more than they talked….

    • I don’t think replacing one narrative with another single narrative is at all what we need.

      • nmr says:

        But I do think you need lots and lots of personal narratives to change the national media coverage. People need to talk about their own experiences and convey them to their own communities as well as the general population, even if some of these stories may be ‘shameful’ or painful. That disconnect- between the “official narrative’ and the actual lived experience must be made clear to all. Yes, I can understand that it may seem like a daunting task, but carefully articulated narratives can have enormous power to affect change- just look at what Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” did for the women’s movement.
        People will listen, but it takes time and you have to keep trying and be really smart and clever about your storytelling. I am fully confident that the First Nations people are up to this challenge and I look forward to hearing YOUR narrativeS!!

    • Frederick Peitzsche says:

      The Indian Act is part of our Charter and separates and is race based separating ‘Indians’ from the rest of us purely on race yet section 15 of the Charter states we are all equal thus the Indian Act has to go.

  10. Noelle says:

    Chief Louie is suggesting those that disapprove of his stance/speeches are to ‘get over it’. This statement oozes with ignorance. If the impacts and ongoing continual struggle of genocide was but a thing of the past then maybe there would be a chance for some to ‘get over’ whatever ‘it’ is. The unfortunate reality is the genocide and imposed colonialism is a very real and present ongoing traumatic series of events conintually threatening the wellbeing and existence of Indigenous people.

  11. miller says:

    Excellent article. I am going to go with Edward Said’s thesis from Culture and Imperialism on this one. The reason why the narratives about Indigenous people in Canada have stayed the same is that the belief in these colonial narratives are essential in continuing this country’s colonial ambitions. The extraction of resources from the lands of Indigenous people simply could not continue if their claim to the land was every recognized or they were ever not viewed as marginalized and requiring the patronization (both meanings work here) of the government.

    As for the statements from Chief Louie, well I have not read everyone’s comments and I don’t think it is my place to take a public stance regarding them, but I can say this: throughout history in every colonized nation, there has always been money to be made and power to be gained by being down with the colonist. Here in Canada I have witnessed the gambling away of natural resources in the aims of gaining increasing self-government by Chiefs and Grand Chiefs and of course we have all heard stories of where these resources have been sold simply for profit for the few. Further I have personally witnessed how those whom seem to be down the colonist the most, and talk lots about those “indians”, also sometimes hate the colonist the most.

  12. Pingback: We can’t get anywhere until we flip the narrative » Delusions of Development

  13. Lisa Groves says:

    As a non-native woman I am ashaded of “our” actions. The truth is that for the most part it seems that “we” are lazy when it comes to the truth. If “Joe-blow” says so, it must be true. The Government says ….. it was on T.V. …. it was in the newspaper….Unfortunately, for the native community (many of whom live in secluded areas of Canada), “you” are to humble, kind, and gentle to stand up and be heard until recently.
    When I lived in Red Lake, Ontario, there were about 6-10 natives who would hang-out on the lawn in front of the post office. When my sister-in-law came to visit, that was all she could focus on, not the 100’s who worked at the mine. It made me very sad because I know that other people and the media also focus on this.
    “It is our story and we’ll tell it however we like” This is the concept that both media and government seem to cling to in order to control all of us, while it runs amuck, doing as pleases while pitting us against each other to distract us from the real issues.
    Give “them” a status card as reminder that “they” don’t pay tax. NOT WHY “they” are not paying taxs….
    This has not changed since colonial times.
    I wish that I could apologize for “us” all, but some can not see past the nose on thier face.

  14. RonMamita says:

    Happy greetings,
    Thank you for sharing and thank you for being here!

    LOVE and Peace
    (The DIY Project)

  15. Sharon Jackson says:

    You do not need to approve this, but I thought you would like it. Probably you have already read it.

  16. James Tillotson says:

    To quote/paraphrase my late uncle, Willie Dunn, in “The Ballad of Crowfoot”:

    …The years have past, the years have flown.
    The nation since has swiftly grown,
    But yet for the Native it’s all the same,
    There’s still the hardship,
    There’s still the pain,
    There’s still the hardship,
    There’s still the strife,
    Its bitterness shines like a whetted knife.
    There’s still the hypocrisy.
    And still the hate,
    Was that in the treaties, is that our fate?
    We’re all unhappy pawns in the Government’s game. And it’s always the Natives who get the blame. It’s a problem which money can never lessen. And it’s (twenty hundred and thirteen:)
    Crowfoot, Crowfoot, why the tears? You’ve been a brave man for many years, Why the sadness? Why the sorrow? Maybe there will be a better tomorrow.

  17. Pingback: First Nations Won’t ‘Get Over’ Your Ignorance | Declaration of Indigenous Rights

  18. maaskwa says:

    I feel it is time that ‘Canadians’ start telling the real stories of the people, families and officials involved in the genocidal tide of the settlers, and i believe it is the responsibility of those who live today as the settlers or the descendants of settlers to dig out the truth, expose the dark corners of their relatives or fellow settlers and begin to apprehend the enormity of the crimes of the officials (the people) and merchants (the people) who were or are currently involved in sustaining this terrible colonial apartheid.
    We need to own up, wake up, talk and talk until we can exorcise the past and present deeds and secrets, inform our young of the truth, and then give, give and make reparations, then forgive until we can start to heal, and THEN, and only then can we call ourselves a nation fit to engage our first nations, nation to nation and realize that our best hope for the continuation of a good life for 7 generations and more lies in the hearts and actions of all of us together, within the council fires of our clan mothers, the dissolution of the old system, and a birth of a new federation implicitly and explicitly following the laws of creation…

    Very, very good words in your writing


    Niw hk m kanak

  19. elmediat says:

    As I despair at the negativity, resentment & racial stereotypes that have arisen in Canada in the recent years, I am not totally surprised. As a second & a half generation Canadian of Ukrainian and Polish background I know how Canadian society expects everyone to blend in while claiming a multicultural mosaic .

    Growing up in southern Ontario my mother would point out the people with “Anglski” names who were of Slavic background. Names like Glover, Smith and Bell for people who were first or second generation Canadian of central European descent. Our neighbour Mr. Smith had a much more pronounced Ukrainian accent than my parents. he had changed his name so that he could get a foreman position in one of the steel companies in Hamilton.

    If your name was a bit difficult to pronounce, had a few more letters and ended in a “chuk” or a “ski” you were foreign. Not European, or Slavic, or for example Polish, or Hungarian , just foreign and it did not matter how many generations you lived here. The rule was lose the funny name & we will pretend you have no accent & treat you equal to us. Especially since, you were the right colour & physical features.

    Canadians do not want to be reminded of this. Those who passed for the dominant culture and those who belonged to it . If they can not cope with that, how are they going to cope with their treatment of First Nations people.

    • Frederick Peitzsche says:

      The following is from the Globe and Mail,about a book everyone should read.Unfortunately most people just get their news from headlines and miss the substance.
      THE GLOBE AND MAIL Saturday Sept 14,2013

      Joseph Boyden tackles native torture, colonial amnesia and ongoing racism
      In The Orenda, he traces the stories of three characters surviving in the harsh Great Lakes region during the mid-17th century:
      “People assume that First Nations ran around in the forest in loincloths and had very little in terms of material wealth, and didn’t have complex religious or political or social structures. You look at the Huron (the Wendat people) or the Iroquois (the Haudenosaunee) and they’re incredibly complex agricultural societies that had the comforts of being able to make it through winter, and to develop their religion and their social structures. The Iroquois, obviously known as great warriors, also created the Great Law of Peace, which the American Constitution was basically birthed out of. I wanted to show that these places were already established when the first Europeans came over. There was no utopia – I definitely didn’t want to paint a picture of the noble savage. But certainly things were very complex and organized and structured.
      When you were researching this book, how did your own thinking about these First Nations change?
      knew right away that it would be too easy to paint the Jesuit, Christophe, as the bad guy. I really wanted to make sure that my characters felt real and complex. One of the biggest things I had to deal with was the ritual torture that the Huron and Iroquois practised on one another, to try to come to terms with that and figure that out. And then I realized, as I was writing, that the Spanish Inquisition was in full tilt at the time, so this is not just some kind of heathen sauvage thing. The two societies treated torture in absolutely different ways, though. The Christians in Europe tortured to belittle and to demean and to punish. The Huron and the Iroquois tortured each other to honour and possess the power of the enemy. Two very different world views emerged.

      People have remarked that this is the perfect book to follow the Idle No More movement. And sure, in a sense – this is a novel about First Nations. But beyond that connection, is The Orenda especially resonant in this moment?
      I’m happy that people have made that connection. Idle No More didn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of people who’ve been truly disenfranchised in their own homes. Any good historical novel is going to feel contemporary, thematically. You look at this novel, and think about immigration, who you allow in, who you don’t. The Huron allow in the ones who ultimately end up destroying them, because the Huron aren’t perfect either: They needed the trade, and how much greed was involved in that? Look environmentally – you wipe out all the furs and your economy is gone. It’s like the oil sands.
      I understand the Idle No More connection is one you’re happy to see made, but it still feels a bit hazy.
      I would never try to make that connection. I could, if I had the time and the energy, trace the route between where my novel ends and Idle No More begins – because it’s not over, it’s just quiet right now. First Nations youth are the fastest-growing population in our country, and they’re not going anywhere. If I could make one reader look at a contemporary First Nations person a little bit differently, that would thrill me. Once a reader said she gave her dad a copy of one of my books, and he was kind of a racist dude toward native people. And after he read that book, he was much less so – he began to see them as three-dimensional.
      There’s a point in the book where the sort of omniscient narrator, who introduces the novels’s sections, asks how one keeps going when one has lost everything. Then that narrator says, “Or perhaps the question is this: What role did I play in the troubles that surround me?” That felt almost like a moral imperative: You now must examine what role you played. Is that a central concern for you?
      I carefully put that there, because I don’t want to present First Nations as always being victimized. No one’s purely the victim. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. My wife was purely a victim when she was horribly raped and left for dead. But when it comes to big cultural movements, the Huron played a role in their demise, and they know that. The English and the French and Dutch all did, too. Just the acceptance of responsibility is really important. Certainly we got the short end of the stick. Disease, for instance: There were 30,000 Huron when the Jesuits arrived; within 10 years, there were 10,000. There is that, which is just brutal and unfair. But this idea of accepting responsibility for something not going the way it should have is something I think everyone should do.
      The book is a kind of democratization of trauma and loss, a long sequence of trading things back and forth – you do this to me and my family, so I’ll do this to you and yours. Can a story like this, told this way, spread that sense of sadness, of loss, further, so that readers can share that pain, too?

      Well, maybe not share it, but understand it a little bit better. How do you go on when you’ve lost everything? If we as contemporary readers look back and say, “We really screwed some of these people, didn’t we, when we first arrived?” That’s a lesson I didn’t want to bang people over the head with, but I want the reader to be able to empathize with the characters.
      Can that also become a moment of optimism for us as a broader society now? If we look at what we’ve lost, through our own fault, can we find a way to move on from that?
      That would be amazing. But when I read the newspaper comments sections online, I realize that the racism is far heavier in Canada than I ever wanted to imagine. I think the average thinking, caring, emotive person can learn a bit of a lesson from reliving our history even if it is in fiction, which can sometimes have a greater truth. Maybe somebody will read this and say, “Wow, maybe this kind of trauma doesn’t really go away. Maybe this trauma on such a mass scale does resonate through generations.”
      Do you think that a movement like Idle No More, despite all its successes, can actually propagate more racism?
      I don’t think people are made racist because of a political movement. I think people are forced to examine their beliefs and their motivations. Like my friend DJ NDN from A Tribe Called Red, he is fighting a good fight in Ottawa to get a football team called the Nepean Redskins to change their name because he is an Anishinabe man and he finds it horribly racist. You should see the racists that crawl out of the woodwork. These people are coming out just to scream at him. I think Idle No More forces us to examine our motivations, our belief systems, our systems of commentary. I don’t think it’s going to make racists – but it will draw them out. And maybe it’s time to draw out that kind of poison, so we can excise it.”
      The trouble is people are happy in their ignorance and prejudices ,they care more about their favorite hockey team or football team as well as the latest ‘idol’ from Hollywood.

      • Why, Frederick, are you so insistent on telling an oppressed people to get over their pain? What is your motivation? Do you go down of an afternoon to the orphanage and yell at the kids to stop being so lonely? To women’s shelters, to encourage them to stop “whining”? Do you see yourself as altruistic? Is this entertainment? Exactly what outcome do you imagine resulting from your (I’m sorry to say, ignorant) views being voiced? Or is it just a way of establishing your voice as dominant and ‘correct’, voicing opinions about which you know next to nothing? Do you believe that you can walk into a 200-year-old conversation, quickly suss out the territory, and solve everyone’s problems with a dismissive sentence or two? That seems kind of delusional. What training, education, background, or experience do you have that would justify such a belief? Are you an expert? Or does your expertise come from your European genes, automatically making you right in areas in which you have no skill or knowledge?

      • daveM says:

        Perhaps as humans we should embrace the good, perceive what is valuable, see similarities instead of differences. In a way, we are focusing a lot of energy in a destructive manner. How dumb we are to be continually analyzing these people and their past instead of embracing them as our kin and extending help as brothers and sisters. Why have we erected walls, what has that accomplished.? Who are we to be teaching others, would it not be preferable to be learning instead of telling? For how much longer are we prepared to suppress others for the sake of some oil and gold?

        Let’s learn from other nations what divisions amongst peoples can accomplish – we need only read today’s papers. Do we really want to continue our negative ways…?

    • daveM says:

      I relate to this… I recall my parents speaking these ideas. My introduction to stereotyping.

      Thanks for posting..

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