Idle No More – You Have Some Problems

Lets face it; it sucks to be an aboriginal person in any country. Civilization is shaped by conquest, genocide, and religious oppression. None of it right, appalling and tragic is the plight of those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of those with bigger muscles. Entire civilizations wiped out in the blink of an eye.

Canada‘s first nation’s people are no exception. Adding insult to injury, not only did they find themselves rounded up and placed in reservations; their children were taken away and subjected to the horror of the residential school system. A shameful attempt to eradicate any trace of traditional native culture and language. Treated as not much more than slave labour, they endured physical and sexual abuse, all in the name of a Christian God.

I don’t blame any of them for the chip they carry on their shoulder. That said; many, many people have had a rough time. No one said life would be fair. Thousands and thousands of immigrants arrived in North America with nothing more than the shirt on their back. They too lost their homes, fled persecution and war, yet made a choice for a better life. They never forgot the “old country” but embraced Canada as chance to make a fresh start.

I’m well aware of the difference between immigrant and indigenous populations. The point I’m making is that first nations people never acquired the mindset needed to succeed. History is rife with tragic stories of persecution and oppression. In ancient times they would have been killed or forced into slavery. Forget treaties or reservations; those are modern concepts shaped to alleviate moral dilemmas unheard of throughout thousands of years of history.

The “Idle No More” movement has a valid point and a terrible approach. Not only a lousy approach, but a major image problem to overcome.  It always has, and will always be about the money. The problem is far from simple, but assure you it will not be solved by banging a drum. Start by taking responsibility for your lives. Explain how you spend the 100’s of millions of government money, tell us why you don’t encourage your children to take advantage of the opportunities handed to them on a silver platter. My children would leap at free tuition.

Idle No More doesn’t have a leg to stand on until they stop being the victim. Your culture, just like religion can be kept alive at home. You are Canadians now and need to take responsibility for your future.

8 thoughts on “Idle No More – You Have Some Problems

  1. It is a very complicated situation, isn’t it. We have a cabin on First Nation land (and the nation just voted not to renew our lease.) I’ve spent a lot of time researching in order to try to understand their point of view. I wish I could blog about it, but re-negotiations are ongoing and I don’t want to say anything that would jeopardize the process.
    I can say, though, that the First Nations are at a cross roads and it will be difficult for them to move forward if they decide to cling to the past.

  2. Civilizations are built on numerous components. Your article is full of dangerous generalizations, the first being that conquest, genocide, and religious oppression are all that makes a grand society. You’re dead wrong.

    And slave labour? Don’t get out of hand. Residential Schools were a broad attempt at assimilation, but are you really trying to connect this to an equivalent of black oppression and slavery in the United States? That’s the only leap I can make here, anything else is lacking hard evidence.

    The point that mental, physical and emotional abuse was perpetrated by nuns, priests and administrators with very little oversight is more than enough of an argument. It really was shameful.

    The problem with your arguments is the attempt to try and have it both ways. You can’t acknowledge the tremendous hardships an entire generation of Aboriginals faced, consider the ‘chip on the shoulder’ as valid, and then argue everything else as you have.

    Have you given tacit approval to the conquest, genocide and oppression you cited earlier as being a sort-of-really-bad-thing? You’ve now you’ve gone to say they should just get used to keeping their culture, like religion, at home. Why? I thought it was tragic to be on the receiving end of the bigger muscle, most assuredly in this case the Canadian government.

    Why can’t culture be proudly on display?

    In terms of the monetary question, you’re vastly off-mark. A significant majority of Aboriginal tribes/bands/reservations or what-have-you are very good at money management. Where is their money going? Often into social integration, economic development, and community structural projects like roads. Many Aboriginal communities make quite a bit back, such as having their own Northern-Canadian airways, or the Squamish people’s massive shopping centre plans in B.C.

    Financial questions regarding Aboriginals requires far more careful dissemination of information.

    Your argument that they have a valid point but wrong

    I vehemently disagree with your ‘fresh start’, and ‘silver platter’ arguments. No, a lot of them haven’t had a chance to get either. They’re not my Swiss great-great-great-grandparents who bailed from the Bern-region to come and, quite literally, make a fresh start. They have so much baggage weighing them down, that the few who do break-off should be commended beyond compare.

    They also did not choose to create a ‘fresh start’. Some want very much to stay attached to the values that they pride themselves on.

    As for silver platters? No. It’s great that you can push your kids into that wonderful, free tuition. But you are not a parent who has suffered an incredible amount of trauma, or had your own parents suffer the same. It’s a systematic and cyclical system. Most know about the platter, but why should they care? They’re the by-product of an incredibly skewed set of structural abuses from, as you said before, all that residential abuse. But also a lot of racism within the system, which could be it’s own massive discussion.

    No leg to stand on? They have a tonne of legs with which to remain perfectly stable in their argument. Go to the Idle No More protests, looks at their arguments, and understand their positions. Your distillation of ‘victim’ is crude. They have a moral superiority on a broad base of arguments stemming from the vast abuses.

    But they also have one that displays an incredible pride in culture, and a solidarity across a the many Nations that span hundreds of languages and treaties with the Canadian Government.

    Since you wrote this, the Walkers have done a great job raising awareness by trekking to Ottawa and various other major sites of Canadian power and legislature along traditional Aboriginal hunting and migration paths. Are they victims? Are they maintaining a victim-hood mindset?

    And what is this ‘mindset of success’? What is success? Is it money, power, self-respect? Maybe many of these people don’t want to adhere to the modern, Western, capitalist mindset of money, money, money. Maybe family, traditional values, love, and a respect for nature take primacy in their lives. Maybe that’s success.

    But here we are, the civilization that built atop of them. Guess they’ll have to get on board and ‘civilize’.

    • First – thanks for the “follow”, especially after the patience to make some extremely valid points.I’m going to go back and re-write the post – in hind sight glaring generalizations and blanket statements twist my intention. Thanks for making me take a look at it again.

  3. Hey, thanks for the follow and the comments.
    I wrote that piece a while ago and have needed to follow it up since spending some time on a reserves this summer. It’s been a difficult article to write, seeing as it was one reservation among hundreds and can in no way be used to represent the opinions of canadian- or any- “aboriginals”.

    I think the biggest problem facing aboriginals is just this though, that the movements of aboriginals are always going to be general. Just like I can’t use the information I collected on that ONE reserve to represent all reserves, INM can’t be used as a way to look aboriginal issues in any detail. I remember being disappointed at the time that the protests would be quickly categorized into jingle dresses, round dances and fry bread. I really like that you’ve seen through that. That you simply ask them to be Canadian. To be honest, that’s loads better than seeing the protests as endearing or even alien, like you would watch a unicef commercial.

    The wide spread of IDM is also its biggest weakness, it allows the general public- and voters – to lump them together, factions which have been formed from centuries of defining themselves in relation to each other and often in spite of each other. Most Mohawks would sooner call themselves Mohawk than aboriginal and etc. There are positives that have come out of this “lumping” though. After the Nishiyuu walk for example, Algonquins are talking to the Cree people again after YEARS of tension.

    I liked your side of the argument, and would be really interested to see more. Keep it coming!

    • Where I live in B.C. there was once 64 distinctly different spoken first nation languages. A group of aboriginal elders are trying to archive what little is left before the remaining few able to speak them die.It breaks my heart on so many levels. Thanks for the comment – more to come 🙂

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