Speaking for or about native peoples

Joseph Boyden is an author who has written historical fiction about Canadian and American indigenous people.  He has a little native blood in him and some media people have treated him as a spokesperson on native issues.  He has been challenged in this role on the grounds that he does not have enough native heritage. (Link onelink twolink three)

This blogger has difficulty with the idea that any one person can speak on behalf of indigenous people because they are individuals and represent a wide range of viewpoints.  Who speaks for Americans?  Obama, Clinton or Trump?

However, there are some who are qualified to speak about native people with varying degrees of knowledge and a lot of caring.  Boyden is one and the author of this blog is another.  Beware of natives who claim to speak for their people.  A lot of them are what I call “professional Indians.”  These are people who make careers, if not a living, by serving white people a lot of bull manure about some aspects of native life or culture.  Boyden is qualified to speak about natives because of the research for his books and I am qualified because my wife is a minister in the United Church of Canada and for four years we lived on a British Columbia coastal Indian Reserve.  Also I have an Indian name.  When I commented that there was a lot of teasing in the giving of Indian names to white people I was told it was a great honour to be given a name by the band’s hereditary chief.

Shortly after we arrived in the village they held a nomination meeting for chief and council.  Not being familiar with the concept I decided to attend and was surprised when three or four people, community leaders, joked about nominating me for elected chief.  After being there for a while and observing band politics I could see there might be some appeal to having a chief who was an outsider.

This band had an elected chief and council and four hereditary clan chiefs who took their positions seriously even though the clan system was getting weaker. The chief of the beaver clan was considered the village chief.   We were told chief and council make most decisions but the chiefs had the right to call a meeting and overrule them. The hereditary chief complained his children did not get jobs in the village because he was sometimes critical of council.  Ten years later we returned for a one-day visit to find the village was divided because the chiefs had tried to exercise this power.  During the day we visited two of the chiefs and were seen as being on their side.  That evening there was a dinner organized by chief and council and while most of the people at the dinner gave us a hug and said “welcome home” the organizers did not acknowledge our presence.  For four years they seldom held a dinner at which my wife was not asked to say grace and I expected she would be asked again.

Us Canadians are forever struggling with division of powers between federal and provincial governments.  Back in 1992 our leaders negotiated some revisions to the balance of power and these revisions were put to the people in a referendum. Under the accord, an aboriginal right to self-government would have been enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. Moreover, the accord would have recognized aboriginal governments as a third order of government, analogous to the federal government and the provinces. In other words, aboriginal governments would have been granted their own order of government, which would have been constitutionally autonomous from the federal and provincial levels of government.

I remember the native leadership were excited about this and insisted the results the native vote be published separately from the white vote.  There are several explanations as to why Canadian natives, as well as Canadians in general,  did not support this accord.  Having since lived four years on a reserve I think native leaders do not speak for their people and Canadian natives certainly did not want more native self-government. Nepotism is found everywhere but on reserves it is blatant.

For the record I am very happy neither I nor my children were raised on an Indian reserve.  I also see natives as being and remaining a conquered people. Treaties are and were a fiction which allow us to, with a clear conscience, hold indigenous people in prison camps. Those people who take a politically  correct approach to native issues are making them into scapegoats.  Forget about the evils of residential schools.  What we are currently doing is much worse.

 

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Please send the link to this post to your friends and social media.  Promoting a weblog can be difficult.  I get some referrals from LinkedIn.  I used to get quite a few from Reddit but I have been “shadow  banned” for linking to my own weblog.  Self promotion (and free speech?) are serious offenses on Reddit. I figure my strength is in the thinking that goes into the posts and I thank you for helping.  (r/economics   r/libertarian   r/economiccolapse  r/Degrowth )

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The dilemma of immigration

As Americans and Canadians struggle with immigration policy it would be wise to remember people have been  migrating for millenia.  It has probably always been an emotional, stressful and sometimes traumatic event both for the migrants and for the hosts.

In North America we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants. My mother’s parents came from London and my father’s parents were United Empire Loyalists which means they moved to Canada from the United States during the American revolution.  Even the ancestors of our natives are believed to have come from Asia.  I heard the brother of a hereditary chief of a coastal Indian Band tell how in the early 1900s his family migrated down the coast from Alaska.

johnny_automatic_walkingImmigration policy is difficult because some people see immigrants as necessary and others see them as a threat.

Some Canadian business people want immigrants for cheap labor or to do work the rest of use won’t do. Others claim we need immigrants to keep the population up and worry that as we age there won’t be enough younger workers to pay our pensions.

Immigrants sometimes come as refugees and should be treated with compassion and understanding.  Recent immigrants want their family and friends to come.

But immigrants are also a threat.  They work for less money and may be seen as taking jobs.  Sometimes they come with different values and religions.  A few of them (or their children) may want to convert us.  In the past immigrants have conquered their hosts frequently with violence.  When the Europeans conquered North America it is estimated 90 per cent of the native population died mostly from smallpox and measles.

Many  immigrants come for economic reasons and that too is now a threat.  Us North Americans have been very efficient at consuming our natural resources.  We still have a lot but what is left takes more energy to harvest and our economy is in trouble.  We may still be better off than the rest of the world but we are feeling the effects of an economic slowdown.  The more immigrants the smaller the piece of pie for everyone.

So there you have it.  Immigration policy is very difficult.  Sometimes there are no acceptable answers.

Treating young adults as children and healthy eating

When I first saw this column I thought it was about our right to make our own decisions about what we eat.  But at a closer look  it was about treating young adults as children.

The column was criticizing conservatives for supporting some high school students who objected to restricted choice of menu items in their school cafeteria thanks to some nutrition guidelines for foods sold in schools.

It bugs me that some people consider others to be children until they are 16, 17 or even 18 years old.

“Remember, though, that students are still students for a reason — they aren’t adults,” says the author of the column.

A year ago while on a cruise through the Panama canal my wife and I did an excursion to a native village  in Panama.  On the way out we were told that generally by the time the girls were 14 years old they had two babies.

I don’t want my granddaughters to have children at that age but I do think that once people reach puberty  we should recognize they are no longer children.

The other issue in this column is that there are always people who want to tell others how to live their lives and they come from all parts of the political spectrum.

Some people have trouble letting others make their own mistakes and taking the consequences.  The most important things in life we have to learn for ourselves.

Probably the best way to prevent health problems is education about what makes for a healthy lifestyle.  However, it is easy to know what to do or not to do but not always so easy to practice what we know.  Most of us do things that contribute to our own demise.

Treating natives as scapegoats or with equality

The following is a comment posted to an article on The Economist about Canadian natives in the Nov. 17, 2011 issue. This may not be about economics but having lived on a reserve for four years it is something about which I have strong feelings.

http://www.economist.com/node/21538794

 

The way in which us Canadians currently  treat our native population is mostly nasty and much worse than anything which happened in the past.

If we are to treat them humanely we must come to terms with two things.

First, they were and still are a conquered people. When the Europeans came to North American,  they conquered the natives with the help of smallpox. The royal decree that they had to negotiate treaties was a fiction to cover the reality.

The second is that the way we currently treat natives is working to make them into scapegoats.  By allowing them special privileges other  Canadians are developing a lot of resentment.  As the economy goes down it will be convenient to be able to blame natives rather than ourselves.  This is already happening with respect to parts of the West coast fishery where natives are being blamed by some people for a decline of the Fraser River salmon run.

The most important thing to do to for natives is to treat them with equality.  They should have the same rights and responsibilities as every other Canadian.

Natural gas in British Columbia

There are major concerns about the recovery of natural gas from shale deposits.  However, here in British Columbia we don’t hear much about those concerns, even though we produce a lot of the stuff.

I suspect there are three reasons we don’t pay much attention to the environmental concerns.

The gas is located in the north-east corner of the province,  a sparsely populated area a long way from the major population centers.  The tax revenues are a major contribution to the provincial budget. And a company that wants to export the gas has given an Indian band a lot of money to build a terminal on their reserve. To criticize this gas production would be to criticize natives and that is not politically correct.

But I should not be saying anything about this.  As a resident of British Columbia I and my family benefit from the tax revenues and quite a few of the natives involved are personal friends.

Resource projects and natives in British Columbia

B. C. first nations need to embrace natural resource projects

This is the headline for a column on the front page of today’s Vancouver Sun in which  Barbara Yaffee   argues that British Columbia natives should embrace rather than oppose three high profile and controversial projects in the northern part of the province – a mine, a oil pipeline and a tanker port to export tar sands oil.

It is not just native peoples who are against these projects but when the economy is tough the search is on for scapegoats.  It is sad that the way we have treated natives and the way their leaders have demanded they be treated is setting them up to be scapegoats.  But then maybe societies need someone to blame when things get difficult.

Ms. Yaffe points out Canadian natives suffer from lack of clean water (that is not the case in Kitamaat village near where the port would be located), high unemployment, high suicide, high incarceration and a lower life expectancy than the rest of us Canadians.

It is not clear to me that these project would solve any of those problems.  There will be shor-term  benefits but these projects could well be against the long-term interests of all of us.

Yes, we do have to make tradeoffs and sometimes they should be in favor of environmental concerns.

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