Rallying cries are loudening across Canada for two First Nation Indigenous deaths that have stirred talks of racism, policing and the role of local, regional or national Indigenous leadership. Discussions are made more difficult because of the effects of colonial institutions.
Trudeau and his department of Indian Affairs respond with platitudes and special phrasing such as “we must do better”. Recurrent rhetoric that is repackaged with each successive colonial federal government is no longer acceptable. COVID 19 has reduced social movement and news items so racism usually buried by mainstream media reporting, is now the leading news story.
Difficulties continually arise when dealing with First Nation Indigenous issues. Six hundred plus nations each hold territories, languages and governance systems that form the threshold for more complex discussions, evaluations and solutions.
There is not one general problem but there are other factors for consideration. First Nation Indigenous peoples are not citizens of Canada. First Nations are the first people of this land who partnered with European nations to allow Canada to exist.
Canada in return was to respect original governance systems and worldviews by allowing First Nations to continue their ways of living. There is no reconciliation if First Nation Indigenous peoples are not even allowed to live.
Canadians are given rosy announcements about funding for First Nations without understanding that the onus is on Canada and Canadians to uphold treaty and land sharing relationships that built “their” country. Is this delivery working to educate Canadians? No. Do Canadians understand that First Nations Indigenous receive underfunding that keeps them in poverty so the rest of Canada can continue to live with benefits?
Mainstream media releases are guilty of maintaining the harm and ignorance that fosters willful blindness in Canadians. If there is any doubt on this, one only has to read the comments accompanying news sources to see high levels of racism that can escalate into racial threats.
In direct contrast to mainstream news coverage stand numerous First Nation or Indigenous media sites facing further daunting tasks. Mainstream media is providing one side so First Nation media must counter that positioning. However, First Nation media is disadvantaged because they also are speaking to Indigenous audiences about reforming solutions that take further steps in analysis.
Racism is denied. Canadian news programs will diligently consult a panel of non-Indigenous “experts” who all assert that racism in Canada does not exist. There is no systemic racism in Canada the RCMP Police Commission Brenda Lucki said last week. Then, Rodney Levi a Mi’kmaq Indian was shot dead by the RCMP.
Indigenous media sites have secondary responsibilities. In addition to writing a more balanced position inclusive of Indigenous experts, Indigenous media sources are tasked to critique the Indigenous communities or governance systems that may be adding to the systemic racism.
Prior to colonization, Indigenous governance systems were accountable to the Creator, Creation and the people. With colonization and the imposition of the Indian Act, Indigenous governance systems have changed. They are now accountable to Trudeau and Indian Affairs.
Hereditary or traditional governance systems threatened Canada’s emergence because these systems would be equal to Canada and demand constant upkeep. How different would the tainted history of Canada look if the “co-owners” of the land were given equal footing as agreed?
So the analysis that systemic racism exists will have another application for Indigenous people. In addition to institutions like the RCMP, or the federal government and the resultant policies or legislation contained in the Indian Act, comprehensive Indigenous critiques must address systemically challenged administrative governance systems like existing chiefs and councils.
Canada would have Canadians believe that existing chiefs and councils are true representatives of Indigenous nations. This is not true. If Indigenous First Nations lived together, as a community, transparency was built into their everyday actions. There was no separation of church and state. This was no separation for landholders and serfs. There was no difference in “wealth or material accumulation” for each nation member. Most importantly there was no need for a “policing” force.
This is the Indigenous system that existed pre-contact. This is one example of how the Indigenous people were to move forward with the European settlers forming a country. Almost immediately after forming some semblance of a country, Canada enacted the Indian Act, which restricted Indigenous people and their practices. Canada had assistance from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in herding Indigenous First Nations onto reserves restricting Indian movement, access to hunting camps, and sacred areas.
Canada also received help from the RCMP in forcing Indian children into residential schools. Together, the federal government and their national policing agency have inflicted centuries of damage to First Nation Indigenous peoples. Where is this analysis?
Following serious disputes, such as the Oka crisis, successive federal departments have paid lip service to inquiries or the necessity for tribunals, royal commissions or general commissions like the Truth and Reconciliation commission. These inquiries or reports document serious harms and provide recommendations to Canada. Canada then twists and disables recommendations until they are merely whispers and not even worthy to be called lip service. Canada has also ignored recommendations or perverted parts to meet their agenda such as dividing the Department of Indian Affairs.
This is why the Indigenous First Nations peoples are screaming to be heard. Trudeau along with his government’s tears, head shaking or kneeling will no longer placate the First Nations peoples. First Nations people are also, finally understanding that their councils, regional or national bodies are extensions of Indian Affairs departments so actual action means that the people must rise to this occasion.
In mainstream media, IF there is admission to actual wrongful actions, then there are denouncing statements made about racism (cue the orchestra). Indigenous media features more specificity in their stories and may include further harder governance or community discussions. First Nations in their communities on reserve know that they are part of a collective tribe or nation. However, for each First Nation person to have equity in their own nation, the true governance, community or urban situation must be understood. Only then can this position be understood in the larger Canadian societal picture, and only then will there be changes to stop the killing of our people.