Addendum: Canada’s Whitewashing…

There are a few things that have come up in response to my previous post about indigenous issues, and rather than do massive edits of my original post, I’m just going to add this lil addendum.

Number 1:

I feel like she must’ve strained a few muscles reaching so far. I mean, it’s not even a good spin attempt. Plus, she followed the Trump Rule of True Facts where if you repeat a thing enough times, no matter how many times you’re told you are wrong, it magically become true.

I am not an activist, I am not green, I’m not against the pipeline. A lot of people seem unable to grasp the issue being about more than just a pipeline. If you are sympathetic to the Wet’suwet’en, you must be anti-pipeline, right? Except, no. Because as I explained in my previous post, this isn’t about the pipeline, per se, for them. It is about respect for land title holders and real reconciliation. Being pro-pipeline and understanding what the protests are about are not mutually exclusive things, it is possible to do both.

“But what about the Wet’suwet’en who are for the pipeline? Aren’t they being dismissed by leaders who are just power playing?” you ask, exasperatedly.

“If you had to agree in order to be part of a community, we wouldn’t need democracy and everyone would vote the same,” I reply. Wet’suwet’en are people, just like every other person, and they have their own personal opinions. There is a real clash happening between those who merely see the economic benefit (which is real), and those who see the importance in making a stand and not being disregarded. The reason that I went briefly into some of the indigenous history in our country is to show that these are people who have been swept aside, ignored, punished and disrespected for actual centuries. Now, they want to set a precedent, they want to claim ownership to what was rightfully awarded them, they want people to see that they can’t just be trampled over and that if you want to use their land, they’d very much prefer you ask and cooperate. They want to make it clear that they have sovereignty over their own nation, because a ruling that says they do is useless if it’s not relevant in practice.

The term “sovereignty” leads most of us to think of whole countries. It could easily play on the idea that some seem to have that the natives around are trying to exert their will onto all of us, as Canadians. This isn’t true. In the case of indigenous people, sovereignty means their right to practice self-governance and to control what happens on their land. Things that the court awarded them, so they’ve done this legally and correctly.

The issue now is that CGL expects the Wet’suwet’en to bend to their whim, without any discussion, cooperation, mutual planning or consultation.

Number 2:

I’ve seen this question worded in various ways all over the place, and I do think it’s a legitimate question to ask if you don’t know the answer.

“If the people didn’t want the pipeline, why did they vote in officials who agreed to it?”

Here’s where I go to the book that I’m currently reading, and I wholeheartedly suggest anyone interested in learning about indigenous history read it as well: 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, by Bob Joseph. Picked this up at a local bookstore for 20 bucks, but you can probably also find it at your library – and if you do happen to click the link I’ve provided, there are a lot of other free books available to download. No, I get no kickback for this, I just really like the book.

Elected officials are part of the Indian Act, and it was an attempt to force Indigenous people into the mainstream (read: white) system of government.

Hereditary chiefs work under the indigenous style of governance and are not beholden to the government at all. They receive no government funding for what they do. Elected chiefs, to the contrary, are very much operating under the federal government. The Indian Act (which, by the way has hardly changed since its introduction in 1876) imposed a band council system that must be adhered to.

Control of many elements of the reserve, including land, resources, and finance, were passed into the hands of the Department of Indian Affairs as Indigenous people were considered unsophisticated and incapable of managing their own affairs. The chiefs were granted little in the way of bylaw powers, and those limited powers were not at all reflective of their former self-governing powers, which further emasculated them and their role in leading their nation. Their role was (and is) to administer the Indian Act.

Here’s a list of what chief’s decision-making powers were reduced to:

1. The care of the public health;
2. The observance of order and decorum at assemblies of the Indians in general council, or on other occasions;
3. The repression of intemperance and profligacy;
4. The prevention of trespass by cattle;
5. The maintenance of roads, bridges, ditches and fences;
6. The construction and repair of school houses, council houses and other Indian public buildings;
7. The establishment of pounds and the appointment of pound-keepers;
8. The locating of the land in their reserves, and the establishment of a register of such locations.

The two-year election cycle exacerbated the inability of chiefs and councils to make any significant progress on long-term development initiatives, govern and act in the best interests of their citizens, or build effective foundation for community development.

The potential for leadership changes every two years can make it difficult for economic development projects to progress, especially certain resource development projects that are decades in the planning phase. Political instability and economic development are not good bedfellows.

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, pages 17 – 19

What it boils down to is that the elected council and chiefs are beholden to the federal government and rely on it for funding. In order to manage the affairs they are given to manage, they need resources. Their biggest responsibilities are maintenance of reserve structures. Even if any of these elected chiefs wanted to go against the pipeline development, their hands are effectively tied. They cannot risk going up against the government and the possibility of losing their funding and resources. Disagreement or holding out could very well lead to their inability to properly do their jobs. And that’s a real issue. I believe that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a campaigning or elected official who would be willing to hold out and not sign the agreement.

Number 3:

This bullshit.

“Your attempts at damaging the country’s economy for your own ends have set “reconciliation” back a hundred years in a couple weeks.”

Now, I’ve seen quite a bit of this recently. The idea that Indigenous people are just begging for us to agree to reconciliation, and that we might deign to alight it upon them if they can just be good.

The truth is, the indigenous people have been trending with a #reconciliationisdead tag for a while. What they’re doing isn’t setting back reconciliation, what’s been done with regards to them is.

Here’s another one, “These (protests/blockades) aren’t helping their cause.”

I replied to ask what this individual thought might actually help their cause. Responses ranged from “A fucking 30/30 right to the fucking skull” to “Get a job.” Of course I understand that these are emotional responses and not rational or logical, but that’s the point. They aren’t rational or logical, so why bring it up in the first place? These people don’t actually care about natives “helping their own cause.” They simply want to act superior, as if their opinions count and the truth of it is that they don’t care about the cause. They just want indigenous people to sit down, shut up, be good, and stop being news so they can go back to ignoring them. The only options are rage or indifference with many of these fine folks.

Number 4:

Speaking of bullshit, also this bullshit:

Because if someone inconveniences you or disagrees with you, they aren’t people anymore and racists stereotyping/threats are fully acceptable. I’m told that people have seen this sort of sentiment from natives as well, I have personally not. I think it’s sickening no matter where it’s directed though, period. There’s a lot of hostility and hate, a lot of dehumanizing language, a lot of people feeling entitled to it.

I have the deepest, darkest sense of humour, no lie – I can laugh at just about anything. But none of this is meant as a joke. Nobody is laughing. It’s not funny, and it’s not okay.

These people are talking about mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins. People who can’t be reduced to a layabout, unskilled, non-working, unintelligent drunk stereotype because they are every bit as dynamic as the rest of us. It’s lazy thinking and it’s ignorant.

I don’t believe that anyone thinks the pipeline isn’t actually going in. I think it will. I also think that sometimes you just want to stand up for something and fight even if you probably won’t win, just as a matter of dignity. (Edit: The protests have at least earned them this.)

That’s fair, even if you don’t agree.

PS – I’m pretty middle-of-the-road on the blockades, personally. Not sure if they’re necessary or helpful. I do know that the blockades got people’s attention, and that protesters were chased off their own land and had to go somewhere. Everyone is an expert in the economy and proper rules of protests suddenly, it seems. Good, bad, effective, ineffective, I don’t know.

Time will tell.

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