Canada’s Indigenous constantly battle. They battle the pandemic, poverty, racism, targeted police attacks, different levels of government oppression and their own reserve “leadership”.
Sadly Canadians receive one-sided political messaging from mainstream media. They are not privy to information at the grassroots level.
Canadians understand that there are elections on reserve. Canadians think that reserve governments function the same as they do comparable to municipalities, regional or national bodies. Canadians do not understand that Indigenous governance prior to contact was different. Leaders were raised or mentored from childhood. The most humble or kindest child was mentored by the community and prepared for leadership.
Newcomer settlers herded Indians onto reserves. Canada wrote and implemented the Indian Act and sent Indian agents as overseers to reserves. The pass system restricted movement. Controlling measures placed children in abusive residential schools breaking the family, clan and extended family units. Indians were caged and starved. Broken families completed the breakdown of a centuries old transparent and mentored system.
Indian Agents lorded over hereditary leaders, cherry or apple picking more amenable “leaders” in the community. It was at this point that leadership learned to get something from the oppressors, it was necessary to “go along”. Almost 130 years later, this messaging has not changed.
Non-indigenous Canadians do not understand that a population on reserve is fixed. The pool of voters remains the same. There is little to no movement to live off reserve and there have been court cases such as Corbiere that state off reserve band members must be allowed to vote. Therefore one large family or a set of large families can control the vote on reserve. Leadership then controls the council and the budgets, jobs, housing or renovation allocations, education funding and access to health or health dollars on reserve. People on reserve know this truth: if you are not family or worse if you have questioned leadership then you can be targeted for years.
What is it like to live without access to basic rights? What is it like to live without recourse? When people on reserve attempt to bring attention to their hardship, Indian Affairs lobs this back to the band as an internal or policy issue.
Indian Band councils under Indian Affairs elections can be challenged and there have been successful chiefs or councillors, seeking changes, who have managed to get elected. Indian Affairs will then step in impeding the chiefs or leaders who want to make change for the betterment of “all” their people. Indian Affairs prefers that chiefs and councils appear to Canadians as the leaders of their communities, not extensions of their departments.
Federal government control has continued its termination or assimilation agenda. Indian Affairs does host meetings or dialogues, carefully constructed to front that Indigenous First Nation voices are being heard. What Indian Affairs does not say is that they have selected the kind of voices they want at the table to hear their own careful messages parroted back in Indigenous voices. Currently, the Assembly of First Nations leads in parroting back Indian Affairs assimilatory policies or legislation.
“Go along” to stay alive. The harsh lesson of survival has impacted First Nations. The carefully mentored First Nation leaders taught selflessness and love for all their people, lands and waters have all but disappeared. In their place are hardened survivors who speak rhetoric while governing with tyrannical methods to remain in power. Opposition is not allowed.
There are constant reports on injustices on reserve happening. Basic needs, including access to a home or water are not being met. Relatives of council or council members receive the limited housing allocations or renovations year after year. This happens on reserve. Basic needs are not met. “Awareness of this hardship”, lead Canada to brilliantly bring human rights laws onto reserve. (applause)
Colonized view – this is wonderful, we now have alternative laws to utilize. Indigenous thinking view- this is dangerous because at its core, this move undermines the authority and autonomy of chiefs and councils (such as they are) in our communities.
Why does human rights legislation have to apply on reserve? Why to right the wrongs that are happening to the poor Indians. (This is stated from some pearl clutching Indian Affairs representative)
Why are these wrongs happening to the “poor” Indians? Well because Indian Affairs has allowed, promoted and sheltered actual Indian agents masquerading as “leaders” who are breaking their original caretaking roles for the people or lands. It is all to the good though. Indian affairs compromised councils are far better suited to assist in signing agreements for money without understanding that will eventually lead to termination of “special rights”.
Indian Affairs and the federal government created the problem. They interfered in the original governance systems that would see the original people working together, protecting their lands, languages, ceremonies, and retaining their commitment to steward all life.
Is it not far, far better for these Indians to progress and compete with each other? Is it not better to make spiritual spaces into property?
Is it not better to lose languages and speak with ten dollar whiteman words?
Is it not better to leave behind these powerful but obviously “evil” ceremonies and become casual Christians at church once a week instead of following a spiritual every moment relationship?
Is it not better to teach these Indians that money is God, that progress and ripping up the earth and waters for the corporate few is more important that trying to retain the delicate balance that keeps life going?
Indian Act councils have used band monies to force out councillors who are trying to uphold codes of conduct or transparency to the people. Indian Affairs does nothing. Councillors or regular band members who act as whistleblowers may get some Indigenous media coverage but the misuse of funds or misspending are known to Indian Affairs. Indian Affairs counts on this corruption. If Indian Act councils are too busy taking for themselves then treaty or inherent rights can be legislated away. If Indian Act councils are elected based on families voting in families, then inept councils keep their free ride going while losing for all their people.
This is and has been the end goal of every federal or provincial government. They are the land and resource thieves. It is better to have Indian “leadership” assisting the thefts so that the Indian problem finally dies its final death. We are to terminate or assimilate. Indian Affairs control of all facets of First Nation Indigenous life through their Indian agent councils and are pushing this agenda. Do you know what your council is doing?