The Federal government under Trudeau has rolled out a rights framework legislation, which can more easily be understood as the White paper of 2018. Recognition and implementation of First Nation rights is to signal “change in the relationship between the government and the original people.”
How many times have these same words be spoken by federal governments or other paternalistic agencies? The original people are tired of change that is only in statements, documents or pretentious pieces of legislation.
This is not that hard to communicate: it has been said repeatedly by original people for generations. It is past 500 years since the first settlers came to this land and still the original people remain misunderstood.
The original people had systems of governance that included the Creator in all actions. This governance system has become colonized and bastardized to the extent that our “leadership” themselves are now failing the land, the waters and the people.
We are a collective people who survived with a respect for the Creator and all life. We did this without ownership. We did this without hierarchies. We did this without property or monetary systems.
Repeatedly I have stated that mainstream ‘whitethink’ is trying to reconcile with Indigenous worldviews — which is impossible. Why is it that a system of capitalism that forced settlers to seek a new life across the waters remains the system advocated by their settler descendants? Is there not another reason why settlers were led across the waters? Could it be to learn from another people that all our actions are connected and interrelated?
Currently the federal government is misleading the Canadian public stating that they are trying new approaches to the “Indian problem”. Successive Canadian governments keep rebranding, repackaging and hijacking Indigenous terms, which will not solve “the Indian problem”.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) recently had an emergency special meeting in Gatineau, Quebec to deal with Trudeau’s proposed Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Legislation. Firstly, it is important to mention that the AFN is an advocacy organization. They are not a nation and are in fact an offshoot of the incorporated National Indian Brotherhood structure.
The AFN is responsible for maintaining communication lines with federal agencies to ensure that the historic relationship of two peoples going forward continues. It is a communication and organizational entity only.
Original leaders who formed the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) knew that a unified voice was needed for the Indigenous when Trudeau the older came out with the 1969 White Paper. These original leaders were traditional, spiritual, and hereditary leaders who knew they were servants to their people. It has taken the mainstream fifty years to corrupt this kind of leadership.
Today’s First Nation “leadership” resembles non First Nation CEO top down hierarchical thinking, not the grassroots voices that spiritually worked together for the good of all our relations across this land. This is not only sad, it is frightening for the grassroots people who have vested interests going forward in our future generations.
The past national AFN chief Shawn Atleo was forced to step down when he was talking to then Prime Minister Harper about passing education legislation without grassroots consultation. Current national chief Bellegarde has done the same thing. While Atleo had education offloading to the provinces (Bill C-33 First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act), Bellegarde is doing the exact same thing. The only difference is that this same process has two bills going forward in “Indian” education and in Indigenous language. No one is asking for Bellegarde to step down.
What is the reasoning?
Part of the reasoning, is that “leadership” has been complicit in the education legislation. Another part of the acceptance is that “leadership” really does not have the understanding of what these pieces of legislation entail.
In 1969, the historic traditional leaders conducted ceremonies, prayed and asked for spiritual guidance to take on Trudeau the older’s agenda. They took trains, planes and drove to Ottawa to make a stance. They did this with only landline phones over incredible distances because their hearts and words were fighting for the future of their people.
Since this time, Canada through Indian Affairs has interfered and assisted in delaying or determining governance in communities. This is true in all areas including development. The First Nations have the ability to form businesses on reserve. It is the hoops and bureaucratic wrangling in the Indian Act that prevented businesses from forming. BUT if First Nations now designate and start to privatize their land, economic development is suddenly a good thing. Federal control over Indians and their lives makes problems then pitches solutions.
Governance has been carefully monitored by Indian Affairs. Originally two year time lines were given for elected chief and councils. By the time a chief or council got in, understood their role, it was time for a re-election. Then Indian Affairs began seeing election challenges and had to deal with chiefs speaking for the good of their people. This was worrisome.
Indian Affairs introduced the term “custom” into the Indian Act election sections so that Bands could “customize” the time that their council held office. It was also meant to lull or trick the people into thinking that a custom election “was the way things were always done”. Usually bands went from two-year terms to three or four year terms under this “custom” heading. Some bands still conduct their elections under Indian Affairs guidelines.
Therefore, is this governance that produces six hundred chiefs or “leaders” from the First Nation bands across Canada, an accurate representation of our traditional governance structures? No it is not. They are Indian Act chiefs elected through a system set up by the Federal Government.
This is how the Canadian people are being tricked. Federal problems that showcase fancy meetings headdress wearing chiefs and grandiose announcements are not solutions from the original people themselves.
There are the “treaty-talking” chiefs that want money to flow, while their egos shine and hopefully get a tax-free way to grow grass. These would be the kind of chiefs you find at the AFN.
Real leadership is our big picture, original visionary thinkers who still live in our communities. They are the final vestiges of the hereditary clans and chiefs that are trying to keep the original people going forward with the original ancestors hopes, dreams and blood memory.