So I am slowly getting to my new years resolutions. One of which is to reactivate (again) my blog. This. So to start off, I am using something that I just typed up on Facebook in response to an article. Total opinion, no answers, lots of questions. In a lot of ways, more of the same. But I gotta start somewhere, that first foot forward to start walking again, and I really really need to start walking again! So, enjoy.

A friend’s comment on the following article: This is an interesting article ( With a comment attached to the bottom.) I disagree with some of it, but in general it makes sense. I want Native peoples to prosper as much as they do, I just think they are not addressing the issue.

( The environment plays into his article, and although economies depend on resources, We need to move on to more renewable methods as-soon-as-possible.)

Too many first nations people live in a dream palace
The Globe and Mail

Inside the dream palace, there are self-reliant, self-sustaining communities – “nations,” indeed – with the full panoply of sovereign capacities and the “rights” that go with sovereignty. These “nations” are the descendants of proud ancestors who, centuries ago, spread across certain territories before and, for some period, after the “settlers” arrived.

Chief Spence, leading a group or “nation” of about 1,500 people on the shores of James Bay, demanded at the beginning of her strike a series of meetings with the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. This demand reflected a very old and very wrong idea (part of dream-palace thinking) that the “Crown” is somehow an independent agency with which aboriginal “nations” have a direct relationship, whereas the “Crown” is nothing of the sort.

The “Crown” is the Government of Canada, a matter of clearly established constitutional law, which is why Chief Spence made her demand to meet the Prime Minister, too. Stephen Harper was correct in refusing a face-to-face meeting, since a prime minister should not be blackmailed into doing what any group or individual wants. On Friday, however, he did agree to meet soon with a group of aboriginal leaders that could include Chief Spence.

Chief Spence has attracted various predictable public adherents to her cause. Something that calls itself the Idle No More movement has sprung up here and there – a rather unfortunate name if one thinks that it might suggest previous idleness. Some chiefs have welcomed the movement; others have distanced themselves from it, either because they prefer to control aboriginal politics themselves or because they understand that scattered incidents of protest that inconvenience others are a surefire way of dissipating support for the aboriginal cause.

Much of the rhetoric surrounding Chief Spence is of the usual dreamy, flamboyant variety, a mixture of anti-capitalism and anti-colonialism, blended with the mythology (blasted by the reality of what one actually sees on too many reserves) about environmental protection and the aboriginals’ sacred link to their lands.

To this is then added a desire to protect “traditional” ways, which in some cases means hunting, fishing and trapping, noble ventures that can lead economically to something only slightly better than subsistence. Without a wage economy beyond these “traditional” ways, the path lies clear to dependence on money from somewhere else, namely government, which, in turn, leads to the lassitude and pathologies that plague too many aboriginal communities.

Of course, there are some communities that offer the antithesis of dependency. They benefit from participating directly in the exploitation of natural resources near their communities, which should be the driving thrust of all public policy.

These communities have decided collectively to integrate to varying degrees with the majority cultures, to form business arrangements (where possible) in a vital attempt to create own-source revenues that will dilute or end the spirals of dependency.

But too many communities remain within the dream palace, hungering for a return to a more separate existence, even if the lands on which they sit are – and likely always will be – of marginal economic value. Attawapiskat, Chief Spence’s community, is subject to severe flooding, given its location on the James Bay plain, but it refused to consider moving farther upriver or near Timmins, where there might be employment opportunities.

To imagine that isolated communities of a thousand or so people can be vibrant and self-sustaining, capable of discharging the panoply of responsibilities of “sovereignty,” is to live within the dream palace of memory.


A comment:

Bovine Scatologist
12:56 PM on January 5, 2013

I do a fair amount of business with the first nation community and have had dealings with many Chiefs and Council. Many are aware of the challenegs they face but many are still willing to throw out the victim card, race card, residential school card and the treaty rights card. Their deck is endless.

They are disfunctional and are very simple in relation to the rest of society. I don’t mean that as an insult but as an observation. I have never met with a native customer on time. They are always late, if they show up at all. Indian time is any time and is a small symbolic way of showing how out of touch they are with society. Their traditional way of life is romantic and simple but it does not lead to sustainability. Until they can accept this and take steps to merge into the rest of society while still hanging on to the
traditions, they are doomed.

I have friends from asia that have arrived here with nothing mare than a suitcase. They took jobs that many others would not take and built something for themselves and their families. The First Nation community can do the same but it will take years maybe decades but it has to start now.

The rest of Canada is out of patience and money.


SAGARTAN’s comments. There are a couple of points that both the writer and the person that left the comment haven’t mentioned or remarked on. That is that there is a profound affect and effect on individuals, communities, and culture that relate to an extensive history of victimization, and this is not changed overnight. What I mean is that behind all of those “cards” that get played (as mentioned by the commenter), are real-life events that actually happened, and really affect people’s brains/minds and bodies – and the results are pretty devastating. Horrible, awful things that nobody likes to think about or talk about or listen to. (Imagine ten people smile at you, and then one person runs at you screaming and yelling and swearing and hits you many times. Just one occurrence compared to ten nice things. Those ten smiles are not going to be enough to make up for that one incident with all of its violence.) I don’t believe that it is as easy as telling someone to “Git yer shit together.” That method is notoriously unsuccessful with anyone, but especially as we see with portions of the (general/whole) Canadian population that are homeless/mentally ill/dealing with addictions  – and I am not comparing first nations to those populations specifically, but recognizing that first nations are disproportionately represented in those populations.  Also with the commenter, I don’t think that it is appropriate to compare immigrants from “Asia” (or anywhere else) to the first nations populations – the levels of poverty and difficulties that exist in “Asia” are just as dire, and in a lot of cases worse than what we see here in Canada. The commenter is not taking into account those populations in the immigrants’ countries of origin that are in similar situations. I don’t think that if the commenter thought about, they would truly believe that these same kinds of problems don’t exist in other countries – they do. The problem I have with what both the writer and the commenter have written is that the issues becomes too black and white and too easy to solve, and I don’t think that they are either of those things. There is also a huge aspect of it that seems to say “This is your problem, and has nothing to do with me. Don’t ask me to help, and don’t expect me to help. Sort it out on your own.” This is basically saying “Git yer shit together” in a different way. Perhaps it is because I cannot come at this without my religious and spiritual convictions that compel me to care about other people (all people- the ones I like, and the ones I don’t like), but if anyone needs to do something and get our collective shit together, it is “us” – it is everyone else. We need to care enough about what happens to other people and recognize that living in community means that by caring about what happens to others is also caring about what happens to ourselves. This is not about being the “saviour” of anything either. To ignore and dismiss other people’s problems is to erode the foundations of what holds communities, cultures and societies together. Not once in the history of humankind has any one society got it “perfect” or “right.” Last time I checked, Utopia had not been reached by anyone, anywhere. Part of that means caring, part of that means being frustrated, part of that means being challenged, part of that means that we will all be changed. There is something significant about helping – not doing instead of someone else, or taking on problems that are somebody else’s, but figuring out how to participate and be a part of someone’s life. This is not changing overnight, and we should stop expecting it to. It also didn’t happen overnight, and will likely take longer to bring to wholeness/normalcy/whatever than it took to happen. This means a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of caring, and at some point, that will all probably involve spending money – because we all spend money every day. Nothing happens for free. We need to stop expecting problems to go away while not spending money on them, or investing any time or energy in them. Its not easy, it costs a lot, and it takes a long time. Imagine if all of our parents just gave up on us? Where would society and culture be? Maybe we are there? These issues are huge and far reaching, and touch all of us. I don’t have the answers, and don’t claim to. I also know that I can’t possibly hope to solve this on my own. But together, the whole of society can. We have the intelligence, the resources and the ability. I think the real question is of will – do we want to?

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