Posts Tagged ‘First Nations’

Joining the First Nations in protest

June 27, 2007

With the Native Day of Action upon the universal us, I wanted to get a few thoughts out. I’d say before the onslaught of media/mediated blather on the subject, but the river of ink has been flowing for months now. I’d also say corporate media blather, but there are a number of tributaries flowing into the main. The leftist media and the others are also helping to confuse the issue. I say confuse the issue fully aware that the issue is confusing, and anyone whose mind’s made up, should smash that wall of thought to pieces and start over again. I’ll end this little prelude by repeating that native issues are confusing, and the thoughts I’m about to write out are far from finished.

“If the blockade strategy goes ahead, one thing is certain: There will be rivers of ink spilled explaining that, while native grievances are legitimate, there is no excuse for such disruptive tactics.”
Naomi Klein

“I hope we will be marching for first nations rights with Canadians from all walks of life.” Phil Fontaine

“The protesters’ grievances center on unsettled native land claims. They have nothing to do with helping the aboriginal people who suffer under a system that lets small groups of vested interests rule.” The Globe and Mail

The Naomi Klein quote comes from the May 4th Globe and Mail, you could read the article yourself, but it’ll cost you. in that article she writes,

Mr Brant has a different message for non-native Canada – don’t just listen to us, join us. He points out that Canadians, even those who tell themselves they support native rights, “still treat them as a government problem.”

It was the “join us” line that I wanted to write about. You know that feeling when you want to say something, feel something needs to be said, but you’re not completely sure how to write it? I thought about sending a letter, but what can be said in 250 words?

The above quote from the Globe and Mail comes from an editorial on May 30. I mention this after asking what can be said in 250 words, because anything that goes against conventional wisdom, anything that isn’t a part of our national schema is meaningless if it can’t be grounded in readers’ minds.

I support indigenous rights, which are different from human rights, because they expand notions of human and community. I support the difference because it destroys the notion of equality that confines us to the same. What could that possibly mean to someone who could write “a system that lets small groups of vested interests rule” and not feel the cold irony of his own situation?

Indigenous people are defined by the land they inhabit, are bound by the land. When they are removed from the land they cease to be indigenous. Land is everything, to the first nations, because without it they are nothing.

Re: Let the objections finally cease

March 16, 2007

I wrote and sent this letter to the editor at the Globe and Mail:

As a Canadian who takes as fact the First Nations’ responsibility for their own lives and communities, I’d like to answer John Ibbitson’s question, “So what are you doing to help them reach that independence?”

First and finally, I’m not suggesting we take away their autonomy regarding self-education. Integration is not, as he writes, “the only solution.” The last time Ibbitson made this suggestion (Dec. 21/06) Phil Fontaine (national chief, Assembly of First Nations) replied, “our dedicated leaders and educational professionals have developed a plan that will more effectively meet our needs.”

It wasn’t printed.

Just as a note, I use “we” (italicized in the letter) very self consciously. Ibbitson draws his readers into this “we.” He writes:

Let’s say to each other: We will bring status and non-status Indian, Inuit and Métis high-school completion rates up to national average in this generation, and we will not let jurisdictional disputes, funding shortfalls or anything else keep us from reaching that goal. And we will hold our politicians, our native leadership and most important ourselves to account.

I am a part of this we, and bothered by the inclusion. I become an actor in a conspiracy, a conspiracy I want no part of, and must respond with “we.” And there is a conspiracy here. “Integrating native schools into the provincial school systems is the only solution,” A conspiracy against First Nations autonomy.

Another note, When Fontaine writes “our dedicated leadership” and Ibbitson writes “our native leadership” the same possessive pronoun refers to different groups.

And another note: Ibbitson writes:

Those close to the issue are shaking their heads. They know the federal government would never surrender jurisdiction, the provincial governments would never agree to assume it and native leaders would never give up control.

We’re shaking our heads in Ibbitson’s mind because of what we know? But he’s proposed the solution, what he goes on to call the only solution:

The solution would be for Ottawa and native leaders to let provincial governments — who actually know how to run an education system — assume full responsibility for native schools.

For the record I’m not shaking my head, but if I were it wouldn’t be for the reasons Ibbitson puts forth. First is the repeated proposal of integration that Ibbitson is making. There’s a question; What are his intentions? The last time he made the suggestion the native response was clear, they’ve got it under control. So this second proposal, essentially ignoring the First Nations response, has got to be questioned. I don’t have an answer, just a question; What are his intentions?

Next, the interjection, “who actually know how to run a school system,” might provide the answer to why Ibbitson ignores the First Nations response. The First Nations are obviously not “who” for Ibbitson. This is actually offensive. All the more so, when you consider the influence the provincial education systems have had in the north. The provincial education system doesn’t work for low income kids.

And third, why wouldn’t the federal government want to drop this hot potato? Why wouldn’t the provincial governments take the money? Most kids fly out for high school already, integration wouldn’t be much of a change. These two objections are fabrications to make it look like the First Nations aren’t the only ones who don’t want this.

The First Nations are in an excellent position to experiment within education and find different practices that work in their many different communities, languages and cultures. There can not be an “only solution” when it comes to education in the north.

I now know why the question “How Canadian are you?” bothers me.