“Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian department.”
This is a statement made by the then Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott, in 1920. It puts in a nutshell the prevailing attitude of that day.
There have been many policies and legislations introduced or enacted that support that statement. Many of these include enfranchisement, residential schools, and the 1969 “White paper.”
There are many other enabling policies that erode and extinguish aboriginal and treaty rights. Sadly, the statement made in 1920 prevails in our generation.
In Minister Nault’s Governance Act, it is said to be not about aboriginal or treaty rights, but rather about “good governance” in First Nations communities.
He is right when he says it is not about aboriginal and treaty rights. In fact, it totally disregards the treaty relationship. This act will lead to the abolition of the treaties and move the aboriginal people into an area far removed from a unique society into a mere policy of the government of Canada.
By the time this reaches the seventh generation, there will no longer be “Indians,” treaties, reserve lands, and inherent rights of the Anishanaabe. The existence of “Indians” will cease and the “problem” will be replaced with a lesser form of municipalities/corporate entities.
This is beyond assimilation; it is something that approaches genocide.
Anishinaabe people across the country strongly believe in accountability, transparency, and responsibility. It is those three values that are being used to sell the First Nations Governance Act.
The legitimate concerns of good governance in the communities by elders, women, and youth are being exploited by saying that these concerns only can be addressed by the First Nations Governance Act.
First Nations solutions based on legitimate processes are being ignored because the minister refuses to accept input which might improve the likelihood of success. Instead, an illegitimate approach is being imposed when there is a willingness to generate grassroots solutions.
Inevitably, this will result in failure.
Indigenous people are the poorest of the poor and yet they hold the key to the future survival of humanity in a manner that accepts and respects cultural diversity.
If the Anishinaabe are to continue, we will need to leave something for the seventh generation to keep building with. Our responsibility is to the seventh generation: the First Nations Governance Act does not do that nor make provisions for that.
Treaty #3 leadership has made significant progress in giving life to the spirit and intent of the treaty. The anishinaabe nation and the leadership of the communities have developed a strong relationship with the municipalities within the territory.
The treaty is between two nations. In almost 130 years, the benefits of the treaty have been unbalanced in favour of the Government of Canada. They have ignored the municipalities and the rights of the Anishinaabe. This has been one of the sources of division between natives and non-natives.
The Common Land, Common Ground Forum has bridged over some of the misunderstandings and built pillars to support and uphold that bridge. It is through these types of relationships that will create meaningful change which is to the benefit of all people.
These relationships also make substantial strides away from the colonial thinking and practices of the past.
Wabaseemoong First Nation