JANUARY 8, 2013 11:09AM

Indians on Warpath

Rate: 3 Flag


All right, that's an unfair title, possibly racist, certainly misleading given that the protests are peaceful.

But the situation is that Canadian aboriginals, who protest regionally periodically over desecrated burial grounds and such, currently have a nation-wide action underway. The trigger was a chief, Theresa Spence, from the northern reserve of Attawapaskat, pop. ca. 1500, who came down to Ottawa (national capital) and is on a hunger strike which she started on Dec. 11.

Her strike is getting a lot of attention as well as support in other parts of the world. Social media is a great help, broadcasting the Native point of view, showing videos, promoting flash-mob circle dances in shopping malls and busy intersections, etc.


A lot of righteous whiteys are loudly supporting. I am of two minds about this, being a bit turned off by some of the people on my Facebook feed from whom I get a whiff of self-righteousness, though I have to admit that the loudest of these does make trips to the site of the fast to bring warm clothes, blankets and food for the on-site supporters.

Though that brings up another point – it's a bit feckless for a bunch of people to set up this camp, close to Parliament Hill, and not bring sufficient supplies with them and/or have their own lines of regular supply.

And oh yeah, the name of the movement and its slogan, IDLE NO MORE, annoys me, for no good reason. (Note - IDLE began earlier and elsewhere, but has become identified with Chief Spence's fast.)

But I can always find something to bitch about.

And basically, as a semi-decent human being, I can do nothing other than be in favor of this protest. Even though I squat on unceded land – actually, part of the large parcel of disputed land upon which said Parliament Hill resides.  Where Chief Spence is doing her fast in a teepee is an island beside Parliament Hill and is all that's left of this unceded land that the government recognizes as Indian land.  

Chief Spence and her teepee has become a magnet for people with their own agendas, like would-be political leader Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre.  

However, judging from letters-to-the-editor (admittedly a venue where trolls and grumps are over-represented), a great number of Canadians are hostile to the cause. “Get over it, get a job, whitey won.” That pretty much sums it up.

White Canadians resent Indians – why couldn't they just disappear, like the buffalo, or (grudgingly) disperse into the majority population. (Actually a lot have done just that, and an infusion of white 'blood' has made a lot of self-identified Indians less visible. And lots of visible Indians are living & working white-style in the cities.)

I imagine the same is true in the U.S., in areas near large reserves, tho for the country as a whole the 'Indian problem' is overshadowed by the white population's resentment of black people – why after emancipation couldn't they have just (snap fingers) disappeared, dammit.

(Tho, on the third hand, in the end it's the Indians whom the American whites 'should' most fear, only they call them Mexicans. 'Mexican' is a national designation. Their ethnicity is INDIAN!* And they're well on their way to taking over the country. White Americans, be glad you're only going to have to learn Spanish and not one of those languages that produced names like Quetzalcoatl.

*Except the top layer, of Spanish descent, but they're not the ones coming across the border to pick lettuce.)

So what are the Indians' complaints?

(Side note – Indians often refer to themselves as Indians, but despite it being the simplest term it may behoove a white person such as myself to use the PC terms 'aboriginal', 'Native' or, current favorite, 'First Nations people'.)

Same-old, same-old: treaties, which weren't much of a bargain for the Natives in the first place, are blithely disregarded when it suits the government. Protection of waterways has recently been largely withdrawn for the convenience of mining interests, and those mining and oil interests extract wealth from Native lands without payment nor even, for the most part, hiring local Natives.

The particular complaint of Chief Spence has to do with the housing situation on her remote northern community.

Now here's where there's a clash of attitude. Natives used to live off the land. Some of them still do a little hunting and trapping. But that doesn't support a modern lifestyle which (even at a very modest level) most of them want. The chief may be doing her fast in a teepee, but it's to get attention to the need for white-man houses on the reserve.

The government, in its paternalistic role vis a vis the Natives, supplies money for producing houses. Which are shipped up north in pieces during the shortish time period in which such things can be done, and they are not always of good quality, and often not of a kind that will stand up to northern conditions. They don't last long, and during their limited liftetime they are not kept up  ("dilapitated" is the media's favorite term).

Hold on – why are those shiftless Natives not keeping their houses spickety-boo? That thought, I admit, had crossed my mind tho, I like to think, not in quite those terms. But something I heard on the radio put me in my place: When you and I are in need of a plumbing pipe or some plywood to keep the old homestead together, we trot down to Home Hardware. There ain't no Home Hardware up there. Supplies can only come in during that short period in the summer or get flown in. Either way, they're limited...and far more expensive than here in the south (Canadian south, still at the moment pretty Arctic-like) and the customers have much less income.

EVERYthing up north costs a lot.

Well then, why live up there in the white-god-forsaken Arctic, where there's hardly any way to make a buck, sorry, dollar and conditions are so awful? I ask myself the same question about my own locale as I shovel out my driveway, or sweat through blackfly season. People live where they live, where they were born, where their family and community are, where they (unaccountably) Love The Land, where they're stuck... And besides, lots of them do come south, for education which they can only make use of down here, or just to join the mainstream – only to find a lot of discrimination and loneliness. A visible number end up on the street.

Anyway, white people, at least those who vomit up letters-to-the-editor, say what do Those People Do With All That Money We Send Them. Here's a run-down, for anybody who's interested. A longer one.

OTOH here's a pretty devastating negative piece on Chief Spence and Attawapaskat.

Anyway, last word was the Prime Minister was going to meet with the Assembly of First Nations next week.

But Chief Spence and fellow chiefs were not satisfied. The Assembly did not speak for them, the heads of independent First Nations. Sort of like speaking to the U.N. instead of, say, the head guys of Greece, Spain, Portugal and those other in-trouble countries. And anyway Chief Spence was going to fast until some kind of meeting actually took place. An announcement of intention was not enough.

The Prime Minister, of course, is making like this meeting is just an event he would be having anyway, and he is not in any way responding to the chief's fast.

The Chief is drinking water, tea and broth. She started out with some extra body fat. She may last a while yet.

BULLETIN BULLETIN – Government has just released a report (here's an item) saying that an *independent auditor* says that of a hundred million “given” to Attawapiskat 60% has no documentation, and that figure would go up to 90% for “no or inadequate” documentation. "Where did the money go?" come the shrill reactions.

Timing of this release is, obviously, a trifle suspicious.

Lotta nasty letters-to-the-editor. But one person noted that, “According to the figures quoted, the band got $10,666 per person per year in the time period quoted.” As noted in one of the links, that figure has to cover health, education, in fact EVERYTHING, and even if it were totally devoted to housing it would be inadequate.

But why do “we” have to *pay* “them” ANYthing? Well, rent, or for land appropriation, reparations for various outrages like ripping the kids from their families and sending them to 'religious' schools to be abused. It's our mule-and-40-acres.

By the way, did you know that the Canadian reservation system was the inspiration for South African apartheid?

One of the little things circulating on Facebook is some old bit of paper that is permission for someone to temporarily leave the reservation.  (Unfortunately, I didn't hink to capture it, and it's 5000 posts ago now.) It's not like that now, of course...not officially.

BULLETIN BULLETIN BULLETIN – Oh hell, I had a news item about a Native spokesperson refuting the above (surprise!), but I can't find it. Other items spell out problems on both sides – there is supposed to be government oversight and reporting back, which seems to have been sloppy or non-existent, even tho done by people of certified European extraction...

Anyway, as long as they're exchanging bulletins and not bullets...



A handy guide to various articles, positive and negative, from one of the national newspapers.  Much more available on Google, of course.


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Republished from Our Salon.

Note - links are not very visible...look for dark blue, scarcely distinguishable from black.
This seems an incredibly complex issue, one where both sides of the argument make sense.
Got into a hellacious argument a couple of years ago (yes, beer was involved) on this and related issues, which culiminated in someone shouting in my face, "When is it going to be enough?" My response: "Never."

Successive federal and provincial governments have failed miserably in their negotiations over land and treat rights. They shame every non-First-Nations person in this country.
Americans and Canadians are basically the same except for two major differences, one is of course guns the other is our history with the indigenous populations. Canadians never did to the Indians what Americans did (non repentant genocide) but then again Canadians never had a Tecumseh.
The "inspiration" was new to me yesterday.
I read the book "Tecumseh" as a child and ever since have had deep sympathy for the "Red Skins" and their culture being systematically destroyed and extinguished by the White Man.
Myriad,thank you for your engagement in this brisant "war path".
Jack H.,
you said it well."non repentant genocide"
@Jack Heart:

Around here, Tecumseh is a hero, with streets and towns named after him, for his role in repelling the American invasion in 1812-14. Even though he died early in the conflict -- as did his comrade-in-arms, British Gen. Sir Isaac Brock, his rallying of First Nations warriors to the colours has left us a debt we Canadians can never properly repay.