First Nation peoples need to wake up now. There is an urgency happening in the climate and environment that calls out to all First Nation people. This is the time we need you to be Indian. This is the time you have to think with your heart and block out all the colonized thinking that goes on in your head.
Look at British Colombia. First Nations have been trying to protect the land and the old growth forests because they understand that the land relies on the trees as protectors to hold back the waters from overrunning the land. Enter the great progressive thinking Whiteman. Development means economic growth, some jobs and the perpetuation of corporate profits over people and the bottom line over humanity. As First Nations, where are we in this picture?
I know the majority of First Nations fall below the poverty line, either trying to make it on reserve or in the struggle to survive in urban settings. Our people know poverty, trauma and hopelessness. We are the people who live in addictions with trauma and despair daily trying to hold onto ancient traditions and teachings in a world that only values money.
We have been at a disadvantage since the first settlers landed on our eastern shores. If you follow current “Canadian” events, you understand that the Mi’kmaq are still fighting for their right to fish for a “moderate livelihood”. Who decided that the Mi’kmaq had a right to a “moderate livelihood”? Did the Creator who gifted the Mi’kmaq with access to the bountiful waters for food say to them at some point, this gift will be revoked by a visiting group of colonial usurpers? They will try to define what fish you are allowed to hunt or use for ceremonial or give away purposes by imposing their standards on your sustainable practices that have existed for centuries.
This is what is playing out on the eastern shores. Moving west, we have Quebec asserting that they are a nation even though they succumbed to British forces and refusing to acknowledge or work with First Nations who were there before they lost their colonial takeover attempt.
Moving west we have First Nations in the Robinson Huron treaty at a stalemate because Britain wrote that there would be increased annuities granted to the Indians as they shared in resource development of their territory. Canada has consistently thrown this argument back on the First Nations preferring to fight in courts so they do not have to live up to the International treaty promises made to the First peoples.
The Haudenosaunee also are fighting for promised land and resource equity made by the British to the Mohawk who did help Britain secure this land so that Canada could even exist. This is true for the Dakota towards Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well. Those First Nations who turned the war in Britain’s favor are being strung along by Canada without compensation for helping secure the land that Canadians now occupy with prejudice.
In the plains, many First Nations have to wake up and see that treaties were sacred covenants that laid out First Nation responsibilities and duties to maintain a spiritual honoring of the land and waters into perpetuity. Without understanding these collective duties, we cannot move forward speaking on our “individual” rights with entitled voices. We have “rights” AFTER, way after we have fulfilled our integral responsibilities to the land.
We are facing uncertainty and upheaval because we have forgotten our roles on this land. We were not placed here to open “sacred” cannabis stores. We were not placed here to take money from provincial governments to use their tainted jurisdictions in the court systems to fight to hurt the land with fracking and other unsustainable industries.
The Wet’suewet’en gained international recognition just before the COVID 19 pandemic swept the globe for distinguishing between hereditary leaders who fought for ancient traditions versus the Indian Act made leaders who are given federal budgets and who administer poverty perpetuating the traumatic existence of our people.
Why must we wake up now?
In our camps, in our villages, we were raised with traditional knowledge and ceremonial teachings that prepared our people for the future. All the collective people understood that they worked in unity to survive and to help protect land and water.
Then Canada moved our people onto reserves. Then Canada put Indian agents in charge of the Indians on this reserve. Then Canada came for our children. Once Canada had penned our people onto reserves and had taken our children into their institutions of torture, they began to break our clan and unified teachings. Our children in residential school learned to survive as individuals. If they sought to help each other, they would be divided and sent further from their homelands. The lesson is clear. Play the game, take the abuse, lose the language or die.
This lesson became reality with the finding of 215 unmarked graves outside Kamloops Indian Residential school. First Nations peoples have been purposefully broken. The people needed to be broken to disconnect them from the land and their true purposes. Residential schools and racist Indian Affairs policies completed the move from collective thinking to individual thinking.
Our people are lost. We are a great people, with a once noble calling, spiritually tied to the cosmos and gifted in speaking the languages of the land, waters, plants, animals and Creation. We are the people, so in touch with our spirituality, that we could pray and use the plants or gifts of the earth to heal illnesses or to prophesize the future.