There is no singular event or time that provides easy answers for the ongoing trauma that the original people have felt, still feel and will feel in their homeland.
From the time of colonization and settler land theft there has been an uneasy truce between the original people and the European immigrants. This truce began as peace and friendship, which is the hallmark of every First Nation’s protocol when first meeting newcomers.
The application of this tradition; however, was lost on the first settler/colonizers. The Europeans who ventured to this new land were looking for land and a place to forge a “new beginning”. The fact that fully-fledged and operational societies existed prior to their arrival did not deter the first settlers. Instead they reported back to their masters and funders that only savagery existed among the heathen Indians and that profits could be made from the resources of this land.
What god or what power allowed this privileged thinking? Armed with papers from various church or state governments, did these first settlers truly have any authority to lay waste to a land that belonged to other human beings?
It is this same thinking that permeates every piece of legislation, every policy and every law affecting the original people today. It is the thinking of manifest destiny, the thinking of progress, individualism and materialism that guides the non-indigenous people.
Can this selfish nature and greed be categorized as a cultural way of life? In European writings prior to colonization, this same thinking directs the actions of “men”. It is based on their reality. This reality was forged from autocracies or monarchies that exercised control and “dominion” over other nations, the land and all parts of Creation.
Contrast this with the original people, the 600 plus nations who inhabited the lands north of the medicine line, and you will see there is a different cultural thinking happening. It is not subsistence thinking or lack of progress. It is not a hunter-gatherer society that supposedly would “progress” into a system built on commerce and materialism. It is a system built on harmonious knowledge with all other nations, plants, animals, seasons, waters and the land. It is a self-sustaining and self-governing system that allows for human life while respecting that all life is interconnected.
Where is the progress or lack of “sophistication” in this indigenous thinking?
Is the thinking that all planetary life has value not an advanced philosophical take on what the existence of man means?
This clash of worldviews, that of the original nations to hold and preserve a meaningful and treasured way of life; with that of settlers, racing for individual fame and gain, has set the stage for a historical dispute that continues to this day.
If the original people had values of sharing and inclusion, how can this ever be reconciled with settler norms of taking and exclusion? How many more reports, inquiries or tribunals, does the Canadian public need to answer the question that has already been answered?
Currently, Canada is in the throes of its latest fiasco that is to “find the root of aboriginal trauma”. Following countless Indian agent reports that marked the Indians as unwilling participants to forced federal policies, to the Berger Report, to the Penner Report, to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and finally to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; this problem has remained the same. The original people, the first nations that occupied this northern part of Turtle Island had their own approaches to governance, law, parenting, kinship, education, health care and economies that maintained harmony and balance over monopolies and disturbances.
How many reports are needed to reconcile this oppositional view? Are the original peoples to keep facing the genocidal actions of poverty, racism and systemic restraint every day while government policies of underfunding and control drive the original people into assimilation or death? This remains the goal of the settler colonizer.
The latest fiasco is the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry (MMIW). An election promise made by Trudeau’s Federal Liberal government is hanging on by a badly frayed piece of sinew. The inaction of the commissioners, coupled with the lack of communication and the colossal task of trying a “new” non-adversarial approach when four out of five of the commissioners are trained adversarial thinkers is ridiculous.
When the oppressor continues to oppress, it is those who fight this oppression that need the voice. I have written several times about the need for Canada to start acknowledging this specific voice. It is the voice of the original people who are the grassroots people that will make change. That is if Canada really wants a change.
As Canada madly rushes about, planning red and white parties or picnics, with fireworks and maple leafs they are celebrating 150 (um, 35) years of changing from royal to economic autocracies, that’s all.
If Canada really wants a change, the Missing and Murdered Inquiry will reopen specific cases with full police or RCMP involvement. If Canada really wants a change, they will try to bring closure to these families of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women by more than just one-day meetings that call for RSVP’s. If Canada really wants a change, they will involve the real voices of the people most affected by the Missing and Murdered troubling statistics — that is the on reserve or First Nation people directly affected.
If Canada wants the appearance of making changes or fulfilling election promises for Missing and Murdered Women, they will appoint commissioners trained in mainstream thinking. If Canada wants the appearance of making an effort towards Missing and Murdered Women they will not involve any policing agencies. If Canada wants the appearance of caring about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women they will express their work as new or innovative, which is political double speak for we don’t know what we’re doing. It is also political smoke and mirrors. If trickery can let the Canadian public “think” that this is a new “indigenous” legal approach then they won’t expect answers. That’s when it’s time to ask indigenous legal traditionalists and practitioners if this is really what is happening.
As an Iyâhê Nakoda winyan, an indigenous legal traditionalist and practitioner, I can say heyah, no this is not happening.