ONTD Political

You have to look at history to understand what is happening in Indian Country.

In the 1870s, the federal government signed treaties with the First Nations on the plains and the reserve system began. The aim was to remake the First Nations as farm workers and domestics.

The older generations were written off, and their children were placed in boarding schools with the intention of taking the Indian out of them. At least that was the theory.

For the first half of the 20th century things remained much the same, and Indians were regarded as a vanishing race. In 1950, the federal government conducted a series of hearings on the Indian Act.

At one session it heard from a university professor named Diamond Jenness, who was regarded as one of Canada's top anthropologists and an expert on Indians. He presented a plan to eliminate the Indian problem in 25 years.

He proposed selling the reserve land and ending special status for First Nations people. The proposal was enthusiastically endorsed by the parliamentary committee, and roundly condemned by the First Nations leaders.
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The more onerous parts of the plan were shelved, but volunteer enfranchisement was added to the Indian Act and provisions for the sale and disposal of Indian land were included.

The Trudeau government in 1969 conducted a series of Indian Act hearings and concluded by presenting its white paper on Indian policy. This policy called for the end to special status and the disposal of First Nations lands. It, too, was condemned by our leaders and served as the catalyst that strengthened and built the national First Nations organizations along with the provincial and territorial organizations.

The policy was eventually shelved and First Nations leaders continued to lobby for the recognition and implementation of treaty rights.

The opportunity to gain recognition came when the Liberal government began the process of patriating the British North America Act and creating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

First Nations lobbied for the entrenchment of treaty and aboriginal rights in the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the government became alarmed about the growing militancy of the chiefs and regional leaders.

The Department of Indian Affairs did what every colonial office in the British Empire has done. It turned over the administration of its policies to local people, and burdened them with rules and regulations.

This tied up our chief and councils with administrative tasks, and the fear of losing their funding. The colonial office treated the chiefs as if they were Indian agents.

This is where the Idle No More movement emerges.

The next step was to mobilize the grassroots people who couldn't be bullied by the colonial office.

What has followed is a perfect storm. The federal government cut back on funding to First Nations and aboriginal organizations and institutions. It introduced controversial legislation with no meaningful consultation, and we have a weak and ineffective minister of aboriginal affairs.

The Harper government is implementing the old Reform party agenda, which is close to the Liberal white paper and Jenesse's plan to rid Canada of an "Indian problem." The mandarins at the colonial office agree completely.

Meanwhile, the First Nations have grown in leaps and bounds. Our population has grown at a rate that outstrips the rest of the country. In fact, our population has doubled since the Oka crisis, and we have an increasing number of educated young people prepared to take up the cause.

Idle No More owes its existence to the long history of First Nations policy failures on the part of successive national governments.

On Friday, demonstrations organized by Idle No More will be held across Canada.

A major demonstration is planned for Parliament Hill. Others are planned in cities across the country, including Saskatoon.

Meanwhile, Prince Albert, maintaining its reputation as a backwater hillbilly town, has denied the demonstrators a parade permit. I doubt that this will stop the demonstrators, with freedom of assembly recognized as a guaranteed right under the charter.

The House is not sitting in Ottawa, but the message is clear: Our people are fed up and want change.

The next step is to co-ordi-te the message and have our leaders in the Assembly of First Nations and regional chiefs sit down with the federal government to work out a protocol for creating new legislation. Mere consultation is no longer good enough.

Sometimes you wish a word could be banned from the English language. "Consultation" is such a word.

Like beauty, it exists in the mind of the beholder. Governments use consultation with impunity. A mere hello gets recorded as a consultation.

First Nations legislation must be jointly developed, and the option should be there to enable First Nations to develop their own laws where required.

Not to receive a positive response from the government means growing frustration in Indian Country, coupled with ongoing civil disobedience that could see blocked highways, stalled resource projects and international condemnation.

We stand at a historical crossroads, and we can't squander this opportunity.


source

BONUS! Idle No More's mission, a video from the CBC:
Pam Palmeter previously worked at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Department of Justice, but she left her government position and now helps organize the Idle No More protests.

This is something all Canadians should support, not just First Nations people. I strongly recommend checking out the Idle No More Facebook page--it's filled with images from events in Canada but also messages of support from indigenous people around the world.
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