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Armed to the teeth

August 18, 2010

I’ll choose a blog title and then try to fit my writing into it. It’s mostly a matter of being fast. Sometimes I write as a matter of keeping up-to-date with news of interest to myself. News about Indigenous issues and sovereignty are important because it really illustrates how big governments treat marginalized people. And in turn may one day treat all of us.

Sometimes it fits real life. A friend of mine got hit by a cab. It wasn’t her fault, and if you bicycle in the city chances are you will be hit by a cab at least once. In my ten years bicycling I’ve been doored, sideswiped, and hit the n end of a SUV of someone who just didn’t realize how big their truck really was. I’ve never been seriously hurt, but it’s made me cautious.

It has also made me aware of how motorists view themselves. They are big you are little. It is always the bicyclist’s fault. If you are little you have to be proactive, aggressive, and ballsy. It’s not fair but nothing ever is.

So in today’s headlines the big flex their power and the little find themselves having to fight back.

Here’s a little primer on Aboriginal policy in Canada. You can read more at this link for The Canadian Library of Parliament.

Subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 granted Parliament legislative authority over “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.” In 1867, the first consolidated Indian Act reflected the governments preoccupation with land management, First Nations membership and local government, and the ultimate goal of assimilation… It (Indian Act) defines who is an Indian and regulates band membership and government, taxation, lands and resources and money management, among other matters.

Tied up in that document is identity. As much as many Indigenous people would like to get rid of it, it also defines them, gives them their rights, and it is constitutional. But when it is misused it can be detrimental. This would be in areas of greed and control, when the government dictates what they want in an area.

Here is a good case of that, from the Montreal Gazette, written by Monique Muise, Federal government’s band elections undemocratic: First Nations leaders

Muise writes,

Under Section 74 of the Indian Act, the federal minister of Indian Affairs has the power to force an election on a reserve if he feels it is “advisable for the good government of a band.” Such a step has only been taken three times in Canada. Community representatives in Barriere Lake claim that six to 10 mail-in ballots were received by government electoral officers, but that a win by acclamation was announced anyway.

This is an instance of bad decision-making. Even, the newly elected chief won’t accept his position. This process has nothing to do with sovereignty.

Up north in Moosonee, I had the chance to speak with Chief Randy Kapashesit of MoCreebec. We talked about other things than band elections, like the super awesome Cree Village Ecolodge that is paving the way for a new type of tourism.  

And then I found a great article from The Nation, The people of MoCreebec speak out.” The article illustrates the band’s struggle to have a fair election.

Travelling around Ontario’s First Nation communities I always come home and realize how little knowledge non-Aboriginal people have of their Indigenous neighbours, whether they are literally next door or next town over.

I often hear the same rhetoric of ” just assimilate like everyone else.” Very few people do the research and look at the policy that has held back FN people but at the same time tragically maintain our FN rights.

With the Canadian Roots Exchange the dialogue was opened up. Even if some people become annoyed at a perceived ignorance, ignorance is just a lack of  knowledge. Questions and criticisms should be responded to knowledgeably and openly. It’s the best form of dialogue.

The only way to beat the big guys at thier own game is to out smart them. Or like Ellison wrote, “you gotta live with your head in the lion’s mouth.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Denniston Ewan permalink
    October 6, 2010 9:22 pm

    Hey Jeff! Love this article! It’s funny how the Baby Boomers the generation of anti war, corrupt politics and consumerism ended up turning into exactly what they were against. I guess they believed that money,greed and comfort would make them happy and I guess it did for awhile since the economy has always been catered to their needs. Interestingly enough it’s funny how dramtic earth changes and problems with the global economy have made some if only a small percentage re-evaluate who they are and their place on planet earth.

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