Should First Nations be part of Canadian elections? 50 years after getting the vote, debate rages on

It’s been just over half a century since First Nations gained the right to cast a ballot in Canadian federal elections back in 1960.

Back at the time of Confederation, members of First Nations were originally not recognized as Canadian citizens and therefore could not participate in federal elections without giving up their treaty rights and ‘Indian Status.’

That process — known as enfranchisement — meant individual Indians lost all legal claims to rights set forth in the treaties as well as certain federal ‘entitlements’ reserved for them under the Indian Act. In some cases, it even meant the enfranchised would be unable to return to their community.

And while some things have changed greatly in Aboriginal circles over these past five decades, the rate of electoral participation by First Nations individuals remains relatively low. The reasons for this election apathy are wide-ranging; from historical grievances to lack of interest or education in Canadian politics, to feelings of irrelevancy.

Then there is the matter of whether a First Nation person should even cast a ballot to begin with, a controversy as old as the gaining of the franchise itself.

Amidst this debate raging on between educators, traditionalists, policy analysts, First Nation leaders and youth, perhaps none have expressed themselves as forcefully or unequivocally on the subject as Dr. Taiaiake Alfred. A Kanien’kehaka professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Alfred is a well known academic and commentator on traditional governance and so-called ‘decolonization strategies.’ To him, Indigenous participation in Canadian elections is a sign not only of “the failure of our leadership [but] the slow, and gradual and fading away of any real sense of being Native.”

The idea of leaders and intellectuals promoting political energy and activism into a political party in the Canadian electoral system is harmful, according to Alfred. He says First Nation leaders need to promote the idea of nationhood instead: “They talk about it all the time, and yet they are massive hypocrites by getting involved in electoral politics.”

Though he claims he doesn’t begrudge anyone who may cast a ballot on May 2, he says they may be disillusioned when comes to Indigenous nationhood. “If you’re a Canadian, you’re a Canadian, but don’t come back after the election and start talking about Anishinabe or Mohawk or Cree nationhood,” Alfred asserts. “Go all the way with it, and don’t be a hypocrite.”

For Alfred, First Nations individuals needs to choose between one or the other. “Or else,” he says, “the water will become very muddy. What are we then, when we are mixed up with everybody else?”

On the other side of the spectrum is Joseph Quesnel. He’s a Metis policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent, western Canadian based “think tank.”

“Someone can hold the belief that a community is important to one’s identity, but I also believe that you can have dual identities within Canada,” he says. “We can have provincial identities and we can also have national identities.”

According to Quesnel, First Nations need to stop perceiving the Canadian state as a ‘white man’s system.’ He says things would change if these attitudes were not present and might see greater political engagement by First Nations as a result. Quoting the ancient Greek philosopher Pericles, Quesnel says “just because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics will take an interest in you.  You become part of someone else’s design for political life.” He adds that if First Nations people want a say in the decisions that affect them, they should go out and vote.

Research shows that in some areas First Nation voters could potentially hold incredible influence in federal ridings, in turn affecting the outcome of elections — if only they casted ballots.

“If you have a couple of reserves in your riding, that’s going to influence things,” says Quesnel. “But in those ridings, voter turnout is lowest because of those same reserves. I don’t see how [voting] could do any harm. It could only change the political strategies and [then] they can’t take Aboriginal people for granted,” he suggested.

Robert Genaille agrees. A Sto:lo educator from Peters First Nation in British Columbia, he feels the act of voting is important.

“If I weren’t to [vote], then it would be a lot harder for them to care about what I had to say,” remarks Genaille. “I think if Indigenous peoples were to get out and vote by mass we would be paid attention to.”

And while he is aware of the possible stigma attached to First Nations voters from those who would regard them as assimilated or ‘selling out’ when taking part in elections, he is ultimately not convinced by their arguments: “We explain to our youth that we can resist the system by not participating in it, but that doesn’t benefit us in any way. Instead, it allows us to be invisible.”

Try telling that to Winnipeg’s Donna Moose. A Cree mother/grandmother of five, she’s only voted once and questions whether casting a ballot makes any difference whatsoever: “I think topics the candidates talk about, debate, and promise have no impact or effect on my life.”

Growing up in the city’s north end, Moose says she received little education about Canadian politics. However, she says if she saw more Aboriginal candidates running, she might feel more inclined to participate.

Working to convince people like Moose to do just that is the Assembly of First Nations, which recently announced via its Facebook page that it will try to compel the main political parties to address First Nation issues at a proposed town hall later this month.

Clearly, it will require some effort to get those issues on the radar. With less than three weeks to go before the federal election, the party leaders and their candidates have so far been largely silent on First Nations issues. Meantime, a half-century after they gained the right to vote, it remains to be seen whether Aboriginal voters will ever become an actively mobilized force at the ballot box.

59 thoughts on “Should First Nations be part of Canadian elections? 50 years after getting the vote, debate rages on

  1. I go back and forth and back and forth. On one hand, as a Kanien’kahakeh completely invested in a very political philosophy. We believe that the Haudenosaunee nation exists as a separate and sovereign identity. We have treaties that commence from 1630 onwards with first the British Crown and then the Canadian government that outline our relations with each other as separate sovereign governments. Why then should I vote in a foreign colonial occupier government’s process that seeks the continually oppress my people and deny us the proper restitution of our land claims? However, because I have a job in an industry that is almost completely dependent on the whims of government funding (public broadcasting), then most definitely I should vote as a so-called taxpaying citizen concerned about the dispensation of public funds.

    It’s a conundrum. This is the battle I have with myself every single election. The only election I feel good about is voting in the municipal elections, because I live off reserve and damn straight I need to have a say in local government. Like I said — back and forth and back and forth…

  2. …”And while he is aware of the possible stigma attached to First Nations voters from those who would regard them as assimilated or ‘selling out’ when taking part in elections, he is ultimately not convinced by their arguments: “We explain to our youth that we can resist the system by not participating in it, but that doesn’t benefit us in any way. Instead, it allows us to be invisible.””…./

    Actually F.N are already invisible ,voting will not change that fact one iota.That said rather than voting in a system that views First Nations as just another ethnic minority(rather than as Peoples and Nations) & aims to assimilate First Nations Peoples a much more promising and legitimate aim should be to encourage, First Nations youth and communities to strengthen & build strategies aimed at strengthening & empower First Nations forms of governance .Indeed the only one’s capable of making any real changes in ‘Indian Country’ (that actually address real needs)are First Nations Peoples themselves.

  3. That is the problem I have with Taiaiake’s position, many of us live in 2 worlds. In fact, 70% of us do not live in our home communities. There are many reasons to vote, and not all of them are First Nations issue related. Alfred’s point of view is fine for people who reside on reserve and have no white friends and/or relatives but for 70% of us voting should be a no-brainer. How many people say “I won’t vote in the white man’s system” but then turn around and vote in their band elections…that system was imposed by the colonizer too.

  4. “If you’re a Canadian, you’re a Canadian, but don’t come back after the election and start talking about Anishinabe or Mohawk or Cree nationhood. Go all the way with it … Or else the water will become very muddy. What are we then, when we are mixed up with everybody else?” On one level, this comes across as essentialist thinking, which would not allow for cultural conflations like the Oji-Cree, a hybrid if there ever was one. On the other hand, in the context of a dominant non-Aboriginal society/state that has spent the past couple of centuries doing everything in its power to erase everything and anything that is distinctive about us as Indigenous people — such as our languages, our customs, our spiritualities — all in the explicit/implicit cause of Euro-Canadian supremacy, the notion that we need to draw a line somewhere in defense of our uniqueness can be compelling too. What would Trickster do? 🙂

  5. Splitting hairs if you ask me, why draw the line there? We spend their money, wear their clothes, and speak their language. I agree there should be a focus on nation-building, but what do we do in the meantime?

  6. Taiakia verses Bratwurst(colonized food)

    Clearly we have a conundrum happening, where the question appears to be, should we participate or should we segregate away from Canadian society? Easier said than done, because, for one thing, we have to live within the confines of the system every day: But every time we find ourselves frustrated and unable to move in what seems to be the quagmire of a system, which often makes simple things so difficult, we know that our independence is that much more alluring. Native people are getting pretty knowledgeable, and those ancient confines are looking a bit weak.

    Since we have to live, and that there seems to be no way but to seek independence, it gets conflicting: But not impossible. I can live, but still know my life is different, and know that my people deserve more than being helpless mendicants.

    My problem is this lollygagging that aims to keep us conflicted. The idea that we have to be in one camp or the other is like closing a window. Anyone knows that any house is better with more than one window.

    Of all people, native people at that, who epitomize freedom, we should know that confining ourselves just aint gonna cut it! So when I see those walls of segregation going up, I personally take a step back.
    We can whiteman this and that for awhile, but after awhile it becomes a problem, it’s like an obsession. There is no victory in pointing the finger.

    Just to reiterate, as you guys aptly pointed out, that assimilation is a far cry, seeing that it has infiltrated our very being: And that’s the problem with the purist mentality, there is no purity.
    If we want to lead our people, you’re gonna find that there are different ways of knowing, and if we want to start insulting a great number of our people, I’m thinking that’s a sure way of diminishing your strength.

    The native reality doesn’t have to be an exercise in polarizing, but dialectics. We are capable of weighing and balancing our lives, we don’t need to ignorantly follow along.

    I just finished having eggs and sausages, colonized food, and I watched some great colonized hockey games last nite! I still feel pretty native with the desire to fight for our rights, something I’m sure will never leave me, even though Alfred would like to say who I am and how I should think. Damm..those sausages were good!

  7. …”I agree there should be a focus on nation-building, but what do we do in the meantime? “…

    Nation building ,building strong healthy families and communities,learning Indigenous Languages, strengthening traditional systems of governance , …i.e building the conditions that will ensure that First Nations Peoples survive as Nations & Peoples
    Now let me ask you whats your thinking behind voting,which could be seen as giving legitimacy to the very system dedicated to your destruction as Peoples & Nation, i.e for what purpose ? to what end ?

  8. Well the problem is not Taiaiakes position,but I agree the fact that many F.N peoples do not live in their home community is a problem. That said the solution is to build connections back to one’s home community,and the same is true of those people living back home,i.e they have to reach out and build connections with their brothers and sisters living else where.

    …”How many people say “I won’t vote in the white man’s system” but then turn around and vote in their band elections…that system was imposed by the “…

    yep that,s a problem ,but again Alfred is saying the same thing ,that is there there is a huge disconnect between words and actual actions.

  9. And I just finished eating corn,potatoes,chocolate.beans,squash ,pumpkin,maple syrup, turkey,vanilla,hot chili ..yummy good while watching a lacrosse game and I love canoeing ,snowshoeing & dog sledding for my head aches I make a willow bark tea etc etc…and your point is ?

  10. And I just finished eating corn,potatoes,chocolate.beans,squash ,pumpkin,maple syrup, turkey,vanilla,hot chili ..yummy good while watching a lacrosse game and I love canoeing ,snowshoeing & dog sledding for my head aches I make a willow bark tea etc etc…and your point is ?

  11. That was so good you posted it twice? I’m saying we will never be away from the colonizers, our lives are so much a part of this country that to call people hypocrites is a bit much. We have no alternative but to live and operate in the system, and to call people hypocrites for their participation, is dividing our people when we need to come together despite what our lives entail. So buddy do you never eat anything else, like that colonial food?

  12. MB, I take it you mean that all of these Indigenous/-based foods and practices have now become so associated with post-contact North American culture that we forget their Aboriginal roots. (Just so you know, I am a moderator, and I elected to delete the second, exact-same instance of your comment, assuming it was accidentally posted twice, as CMax alludes.)

  13. “In fact, 70% of us do not live in our home communities.” As I pointed out in an earlier MI post, many of Canada’s cities exist atop traditional Indigenous territories; the colonial imposition of control by outsiders exiling our populations in the process. Therefore, I don’t think we should necessarily restrict our sense of ‘home’ to the postage-stamp plots of land reserved for First Nations by Canada.

    The land remembers our peoples’ prior occupation for hundreds, in some cases, thousands of years before Europeans arrived. So, for those who have ancestors from the areas now known as Winnipeg or Saskatoon or Vancouver, to reside there is in fact them living in their home communities, regardless of whether non-Aboriginal people claim ‘incontrovertible’ roots there too.

  14. the double post was a mistake..
    …”We have no alternative but to live and operate in the system’…
    I agree to a point, but you also have a right to change the conditions of your life.
    Alfred’s dividing First Nations Peoples by stating what many people say everyday…? hardly what’s dividing F.Nations Peoples is the Indian Act & the unwillingness of settler governments to honor treaties & or respect F.Nations peoples as equals.
    Why would one chose to play the game ? indeed its a game where honor and respect matter very very little.
    I also have to point out that back in the day the elders wanted nothing to do with settler elections,as they understood that they would ,in affect & practice,be basically legitimatizing the very system dedicated to their destruction.
    Peace my friend

  15. You’re the first person to take the argument beyond the polarization level, and actually practice the dialectics that I was speaking about. I concur that, we need to be active in our causes. I guess with my experience with many purists, using that as ground to discriminate, which for the most part has gotten me to stand up against any promoter of divisions via such a outlandish claim that somehow there are lesser natives based on that premise. I say that cause despite what experiences a First Nations person may have for their life, it means little if they have the fight in them to see the best for their people. Hypocrite, colonized, white and on and on it can go, but those slurs against a person’s character cause anger more than anything, not to mention that people get uneasy and unsure of themselves. I have always been one to stand up to bullies who have no problem putting down people, all for the reason, it seems, just to elevate themselves. There was a way where people worked yet held a weapon in their hands, which means in a round about way that we can work and still fight for ourselves, as native people, and that has nothing to do with selling out. From what I remember, my grandparents taught me to get an education so that, we might “know the cunning of the white man.” I not scared of that colonial bull*&$#! I think we are more than capable of holding our own. I know that our lives are short changed in this colonial system, but I will not let anyone smother my freedom! Native or otherwise. I have the same Creator as any person, and I don’t bow my knee to anyone no matter what they believe. If anything when it comes to justice its always about the little guy, otherwise we would not have a case. Thanks for the exchange, PEACE has been called!

  16. …’You’re the first person to take the argument beyond the polarization level, and actually practice the dialectics that I was speaking about’…

    Definitely not my intention perhaps I did not make myself clear enough …the ‘Peace my friend ‘ was meant sincerely ,it was not because I thought you were getting agitated or polarizing
    Taiaiake definitely does not need me to defend his position,but again ,as I see it,he is pointing out the divisions and the causes of them… he is not not promoting them.
    Granted Taiaiake can be very provocative ,after all we are talking about a very provocative and serious subject ,I am not trying to be condescending here .
    And likewise CMax, thanks for the exchange.
    Peace my friend
    And beside I am sure the editors are getting tired of me going on and on… 😉

  17. Not a single person mentioned the First Peoples National Party of Canada ( once in any of those 37 comments. What does this say about the relevance of this obscure movement?

  18. the overarching brilliance of colonial domination is in how it gets the indigenous groups it oppresses to actively participate in their own oppression and undermine their own sovereignty and self-determination by participating in the joke called colonial politics thinking that it is going to promote their self-interests. worse, thinking that because 150 years have passed they are now “canadians” (or insert any colonial nation’s name) just like their oppressors. the majority of first nations people are incredibly ignorant, naive, disconnected and brainwashed; y’all are a joke. to yourselves, to your ancestors and to the people who have yet to be born. your ‘participation’ in the electoral process is a joke too…at 3.8% of the total population of canada, to think that you have any real hope of making a dent in the colonial system through collaborating in their corrupt political process is sad–the only thing that will happen is you will, through your blind-sightedness, undermine the case for First Nations political and cultural sovereignty even more than the colonizer could ever have hoped.

    what really needs to happen is y’all need to get your heads out of your asses and start looking at the big picture by looking inward at whats wrong with YOU and whats wrong with how you think about colonization and your role in it; you’re like the house niggers that Malcolm X described in his autobiography thinking that because you rub elbows with the massah that youre his equal. colonial social systems dont respect you; even if you assimilate completely and do everything youre told like a good lil injun negro, you will be a second class citizen because you aint white. i have been gone from canada over a decade and i come back and find nothing has changed in the way the majority of first nations think about this issue. what a disappointment–whats worse, is you dont even understand the depths of your own ignorance and naivete and some of you actually hold key decision making positions in your communities. there is nothing inspiring about “first nations” in canada; you are a conquered people.

  19. your kind of thinking is one of the major problems….its not THEIR money; any economic capitol generated through colonial exploitation of indigenous lands that are occupied by foreigners through corrupt and questionable ‘dealings’ (ie, treaty or trespass) rightfully belongs to the indigenous communities whose land it comes from…..if any language should be spoken here they should be speaking nehiyaw, or kanienkehaka, or anishinaabe or niitsítapi… people are defeatists with no spine and no guts. you roll over at the least signal from your masters and you expect them to treat you with respect? to treat you as equals? in the meantime you need to decolonize yourself and the way you think otherwise any “nation building” you do is just going to be a cheap knock-off of european-style structures.

  20. dont bother asking them why…..they have no real understanding of their own colonization, how do you expect them to understand how participating in the colonial political process is undermining their own self-determination? they are asleep.

  21. typically gross misunderstanding and oversimplification of what taiaiake is talking about. YOU are what is known as a judas goat…..what they do, these goats, is convince the rest of the herd as they are heading toward the slaughter is that there is nothing to worry about. “hey, chill out guys, quit complaining and acting like theres anything to be concerned about. man grow a sense of humor why dont you?”… a judas goat thinker, its all just another day in the corral.

    we need to start insulting native people…..they are being coddled and enabled by idiots like you. they are being told its okay to accept mediocrity and apathy, that its okay to be substandard and that its okay to accept their subservience to the colonial system. you wanna talk dialectics? lets open the discussion on how people like you (sell outs) are invested in getting everyone else to sell out so you dont have to deal with your conscience and conflict.

    there can be no two ways when it comes to indigenous sovereignty and self-determination… clearly dont expect canada to juggle dual-, multi-citizenship (canada’s sovereignty is intact as is its powers of self-determination) so why should we? why should we not be a fully functioning discrete political entity as we once were before the invasion? theres absolutely NO REASON why we shouldnt; all there are are excuses from lazy people like you who prefer to let their colonial master do all the work for them.

    the entire colonial relationship needs to be restructured; it is draconian and critically out-dated. but do you hear that aspect in the discourse? of course not….its not even on the radar; that is what happens when colonized people are making the decisions.

  22. your “reasoning” sounds like excuses made by a lazy mind and a lack of will.

    my grandmother, bless her heart, used to say: just because you live in a whorehouse doesnt mean you have to be a whore.

    these words have come to epitomize for me the current occupation and the dynamics of resistance. YOU choose how you will live in the midst of the corruption. you dont have to participate in it, you dont have to do anything the colonizer tells you to do; the extent to which you believe you have to, is the extent to which you have been hoodwinked….the majority of life is choice; and then we bump into the REAL challenges. the real challenge isnt how to live as indigenous people while under colonial occupation. anyone with any amount of pride and knowledge in their tribal traditions will know the answer to this….the real challenge is mental; most “first nations” are fat, drunks, smokers, unhealthy, eat shit for food, live squalid lives (materially, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally), and are dysfunctional. all of which are choices once you hit a certain age…..if you are an adult “first nations” who is fat, a drunk, a smoker, unhealthy, eat shit for food, live a squalid life, and are dysfunctional there is no excuse for it; you have only yourself to blame, not the colonizer.

    taiaiake practices what he preaches, he participates in the ironman triathlon, he eats healthy, he feeds his mind good food as much as he feeds his body good food….he doesnt smoke, he strives to embody the traditions of his people because his mind is healthy; he has decolonized himself to a large extent….and he doesnt make excuses about how to live within the context of colonial occupation.

    we have many alternatives to living as servants to colonial oppression….just none that would appeal to your laziness and weak willed mentality, so speak for yourself.

  23. the divisions are there regardless of what you think and they need to be addressed; you have to clean your own house and get it in order first if you wanna discuss real change and power….and there are “first nations” people who, in fact, ARE sell outs, collaborators, crooks, hypocrites, wanna be whites (i call them hafis: hang around the fort injuns), colonized people. if you think otherwise, you are dumber than you sound… is THOSE people who are setting up unnecessary obstacles and undermining a unified solidarity in their own communities. they are poison to all of us and worse than the colonizer because half the time they dont even understand how sick they are. theyve internalized the dysfunction so deeply that they think it is normal. and yes, they are lesser natives for this….they arent even native; they are caricatures and stereotypes of natives. they are INDIANS, the white man’s indians. what you are talking about is getting by in the colonial system; what taiaiake is talking about is GETTING OUT of the colonial system……as it stands, we dont even have the authority, legitimacy, or power of a province and are still lumped in with mentally incapable and underage people. if thats acceptable to you, go live it…just dont expect your version to garner any respect because some people believe in more.

  24. resistance is not about non-participation; it is about working for a paradigm shift. not participating in colonial political systems is only a SMALL part of the shift that needs to happen…..the afn is promoting voting as a viable option to colonial oppression….if you are one person in a group of 10,000 who votes no while the other 9,999 people vote yes, then whats the point of your having voted? principles? the 9,999 who vote yes cancel out your ‘voice’. the afn is part of the problem because they are not working to envision a viable alternative for First Nations to realize true self-determination and functional sovereignty; they betray the spirit of tribal nationalism and resistance to colonial servitude by going along with the impotent status quo……cmon!!!!! is voting really the ONLY thing they could come up with to challenge the colonial system and promote their own agenda?????????

    heres what i think….i think we need to organize to push for a total reconstruction of the settler-indigenous treaty, social, political relationship. the mafia is better organized and far more effective than any first nations community and have a hell of a lot more power AND they also operate outside the boundaries of government and law….because they have a common vision (money). they’re crooks & degenerates to be sure, but the concept of a bounded autonomy within the delineated boundaries of a larger structure is not only sound, but achievable with the right leadership and vision and entrepreneurial attitude; its been done and is being done. we have NO excuse to not organize and achieve a larger vision.

    look at nunavut….look at all the casinos…..why arent “first nations” cross-collaborating with each other to figure out viable ways to cut the government purse strings, protect indigenous homelands and achieve true self-determination and sovereignty? why cant first nations think beyond the constraints of their imposed living conditions? where is the first nations equivalent of the southern poverty law center or the NAACP or GLAAD for chrissakes? if the LGBT community can organize to protect themselves effectively from being persecuted by bigots why cant we?

    the answer is we cannot at this time because the “leadership” is guiding us toward the status quo; their lack of vision is our demise….they have the influence and are in the positions to participate in critical decisions that can f**k everything up for all of us for generations to come, forever. its not a huge leap to see in 50 years to 100 years that “first nations” in canada have the exact same relationship with the land (ie, none or an exploitative capitalist one) that moniyaws do. i dont see anyone taking the long view and doing things to ensure that our future is secured, not when the AFN is promoting that first nations act like canadians instead of First Nations.

    just because “canada” is superimposed on my ancestor’s homelands does not mean I am a canadian anymore than it means the europeans who live on cree lands are cree.

    if you want to be treated like First Nations, then act like it.

  25. “If Brown (vs. Board of Education) was just about letting Black people into a White school, well we don’t care about that anymore. We don’t necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching. We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain…We don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested in what they have because we have so much more and because the world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction. And so it isn’t about an argument of joining neo liberalism, it’s about us being able, as human beings, to surpass the barrier.”

    – Marcos Aguilar (Principal, Academia Semillas del Pueblo)

  26. the status quo is the status quo because people get complacent and apathetic and then hostile/defensive when it looks like they are going to have to get off their asses and do some changing

    it makes me sad how casually people use the word “revolution”….weekend warriors who dont really understand what that means, most of them

    revolution means a COMPLETE and TOTAL transformation of the STATUS QUO….nothing less. to achieve social revolution requires an individual’s entire mental universe to undergo an equally expansive transformation….the status quo is the status quo because the majority of people maintain it through their inertia. social change happens when individuals change, not maintain, the status quo

    revolution is holistic. you cant pay attention to one thing and expect the WHOLE thing to change. you cant do it part time and expect your efforts to have any effect. revolution is not compromise, it is the end of compromise.

    you can see society reflected within individual familial units and vice versa….the incestuous family who pretends nothing is happening so they can fake normalcy; the corrupt colonial nation (canada, for example) who pretends equality is the norm and not a platitude so it does not have to be held liable for its part in maintaining oppressive systems. in the end both sectors defend an illusion, a lie and the sickness is allowed to grow in immunity>

    my community is sick. many NDGNS people are sick…spiritually and physically. obesity and diabetes are among the top health concerns. alcoholism, suicides, child abuse….all symptoms of the disease….

    let me tell you a story…it takes place on my rez

    there was this woman, a cree woman, who was born and grew up on my father’s rez. she was a good kid and everyone said how friendly and nice she was. she was raised by her Kokum, see, and her Kokum was traditional…you could see it in the way the girl (let’s call her Sharon) conducted herself. She was generous, she smiled a lot but had a quiet and still energy inside of her, her eyes were deep, she respected her Elders in the old time way and spent a lot of her time visiting them on the rez, just spending time with them and listening to their old stories. she understood Cree but didnt speak it too well. out of all her friends, she was the only one who didnt smoke and didnt drink. her friends always invited her along and tried to pressure her into drinking but she never did. she lost some of them to car accidents on the rez, drunk driving.

    when she grew up she decided she wanted to be a tribal cop. she saw all the bootlegging, abuse, alcohol related deaths, drugs and growing gang activity and she wanted to do something to stop it from happening, or at least help someone from being sucked into it. so she became a tribal cop and moved back to the rez after a while, settled into a house not far from her Kokum’s and lived this way for a time doing what she could to keep the disease from destroying her community entirely, and visiting the Elders whenever she could.

    most people didnt mind her, though there was an ingrained distrust of anyone in a uniform, because she came from an old, old family and her Kokum was well respected and liked. but there were some who had no respect for her or her family at all. they called her a sell out, that she was acting white by being a cop.

    i dont know all the details because my father didnt and he is the one who told me this story….apparently Sharon tried to shut down a bootlegging house (some members of band council were affiliated with it—it was a big controversial thing on my rez)….in retaliation someone broke into her home one night shortly after, sexually assaulted her, beat her with a tire iron and left her for dead. it was an “indian” who did it. one of the “indians” who lived in that house she tried to shut down. he was caught later and sent to stony mountain penitentiary.

    Sharon? she spent several months in the hospital and when she got better she didnt come back to the rez; but she didnt stop being a cop neither….she just moved to a different place. bootlegging still happens there; band councilors are still affiliated with it….not much has changed. heroin has made it to the rez and thats the big drug of choice now…..some of my cousins are all strung out on it…they have kids. they live in trailers next to the rez school.

    and the “indians” all joke about it. what kind of “indian” are you? the “indians” say if you dont want to drink with them or get high or smoke up.

    my dad, also an “indian”, gets hurt when i tell him that he has wasted his entire life and sold his soul to a bottle. “hey now”, he says, “there’s no reason to get all ugly like that. why you gotta be that way?”

    my nieces are angry with him because he spends more time drinking than with them. they want him to love them more than he loves his liquor; they are where i was when i was their age 12 years ago and it bugs me to see them being rejected by their Mosum because he wants to go be an “indian” with his “indian” friends and get all fucked up and immerse themselves in a bottle. he’s 72….ive stopped trying to get him to love me more than the alcohol, stopped it a long long time ago. now i just try to get him to question things….to challenge him and his assumptions.

    my sister has also begun doing that too. it is because we love him and it hurts to see him live that way—-“happy” only when he is drunk. he is a residential school kid. put there at age three and escaped at age 13…he is a classic product of the residential school….almost 100% “indian”. hates the whiteman, but loves the whiteman. hates the whiteman’s religion, but believes in it because it was beaten into him. he was molested at that school by a nun and a couple of priests…..he is a smart man my father but he has been carrying the disease and the lie for so long, it distorts his natural clarity.

    the “indians” dont like it when you tell them that the ways in which they live their lives are dysfunctional; they dont like to be challenged, dont like people messing with their status quo….”dont rock the boat” they say.

    but a change is taking place…some of the “indians” are becoming First Nations. they are rejecting the dysfunction and reclaiming their traditional value systems and applying them to their daily lives. its happening on my rez too…with some of my family. they are beginning to understand the difference between “indians” and Indigenous First Nations…and are liking that difference because it is empowering. because it reminds them that they come from warrior Ancestors who werent “indians” either.

    revolution starts in the heart, spreads to the mind and spills out into the world, transforming it.

    when there is a viable option to voting in a colonial political system that will empower First Nations and when there is a vision being promoted by the leadership that is more than just an empty excuse to maintain the status quo, then we can talk. until then, its all a scam and i refuse to collaborate in my own exploitation.

  27. the “two worlds” trope is a lie. we live in one world and that is the world, the Homelands, of indigenous people under foreign occupation.

    i suppose voting makes sense if you have given up on sovereignty and self-determination. none of us has had much to believe in or be inspired by in terms of real nation building or indigenous political leadership.

  28. Maybe I aint a goat but a Ram. I sure aint a follower, sheep follow, and their one of the most stupidest animals in the world. The cry has been, “Our sovereignty is going,” but nothing will take that away! We were sovereign before there ever was a Canada; we signed the treaties as sovereigns. We are not domesticated nations; we are legitimized in the Constitution, and the Royal Proclamation. Fighting for what is de facto, is the ultimate in the red herring.
    This fighting for what is, you’re defeated before you even start. All that bullying and colonial domination has screwed with your head. I hold my head up every day; I am just like anybody else. I don’t fall with an inferior complex. I tear down things in this life, all those lies that say I have no importance, is just that a big fat lie. I know justice has my back, and truth will shake the foundations of Canada! You have pigeon holed because I don’t walk your path or Alfred’s for that matter.
    I would never call you names, because I am better than that. The anger of man will never do what justice wants, that’s why all this mindless anger is not my forte. It’s not a sellout, to know that we are all one people under one God, it about walking towards our destiny as people. Every time we can’t do that, sadly you’re the one who has sold yourself out. Even if we collide, there is still a future. Don’t even talk about Malcolm X, he was such a poor self in the end. You seem to have forget that.
    That’s all I get from you is anger, no future in that. Is there anything greater than your puny anger? You better believe there is and You would shake in your boots, when that justice rises. All that anger frustration, and crying will not accomplish justice. If it did something good, it would be condoned and that would be a greater injustice. Too bad you’re caught in that mire. Who’s leading who to the slaughter? You can’t see beyond your emotions, and truth will fly away because you refuse to hear just like any other angry person.
    Having said that, I know that it will be people who are changed on the inside who will shake the foundations of the earth, in that respect I believe what you do! I don’t have to be exiled to be a different person, I walk this earth with the same desires as most Native people, to moreover see a difference; and I am not a collaborator, but I will not chew the butt off other natives just cause they have chosen to engage, as in fight, with the system. I don’t know if there will be a difference in how you think cause there sure aint gonna be a change in Me!
    Take care brother, hope it all works out for you.
    Sincerely Clayton

  29. we arent sovereign, fool. the sooner people wake up from the pretty little lies they are living in about the extent to which they are colonized, the sooner we can get to the real work of being true sovereigns. and we sure as hell arent ‘nations’. nations are organized, decolonized, unified, have communal power, have real and symbolic power to get practical things done; they dont ask politely for what is theirs, they TAKE IT. sovereigns behave like sovereigns and nations do not allow other nations to interfere in their internal affairs…. all i see are a bunch of scattered conquered indians squawking on about sovereign this and sovereign that all the while expecting the colonial govt to bail them out & advocating for voting in a political system not theirs; you dont see canadians voting in the US electoral process.

    if all you get from me is anger, then good, my disgust is translating true. you are absolutely right, there is no future in anger and there is even less of a future (or present) in the false consciousness of a people who are incapable of seeing the reality of their situation. if you cant see the reality then nothing, none of your planning, will be any good because you are building your plans on false premises.

    and i will chew the ass off of ANY native who undermines my Ancestor’s sacrifices by selling out; im not an enabler and i have no compunctions about calling you or anyone else out who thinks that they are doing us all a favor by being and doing status quo crap and i personally dont give a shit what YOU think because as far as im concerned youre a write off so leave and make room for the real warriors.

  30. Folks, as the site’s moderator, I very much appreciate the passion you all have for advancing the cause of Indigenous rights and nationhood, but I am going to request that we refrain from personal attacks or insinuations about personal lives. Yes, someone had to start it, but let’s all try and take the high road here, challenging as that can be. I refer you to our site’s Terms of Use policy. Please review and consider amending your posts accordingly. There have been some personal references made that I cannot for legal reasons allow to remain on the site.

  31. When it comes to sovereignty, you are the one who believes a lie, the colonial lie that we are not sovereign. We need conviction and determination, we don’t need people like you making other believe in what is obviously not true. Sovereignty will always be ours.

    My ancestors fought in wars for Canada and you’re undermining what they did. You have no grasp of what took place. Maybe if you think about it for awhile and go beyond your stubborn ways, maybe you’d get a little enlightenment. I don’t believe in the status quo, just like you, but you have convinced yourself that that’s my position, you’re delusional, and you’re trying to find enemies in and amongst your own people.

    Take care, hope you overcome your struggles!

  32. lol…show me your “sovereignty”. where is it? is it in the indian act? is it in the band councils that mirror a dysfunctional european model of governance? is it in your yearly $5 treaty payments? is it in one of the numbered treaties? is it in your wardship status? is it in INAC? is it in the high rates of alcoholism, suicides, sexual abuse of children, wife beating? where is it?

    there needs to be MORE people like me who are not willing to be satisfied with your antiquated notions of “sovereignty” and who are not foolish enough to be blinded by an empty pride that wont let you see the truth. who see through the lies of both the colonial govt and people like YOU who think in 0ne-dimensional patterns.

    i dont have to go looking for enemies in the native community: you are all around me and im sick of people like you screwing my shit up. youre incompetent and have no pride dignity or honor; what YOU consider pride dignity and honor are laughable. you believe in falsehoods and thats worse than anything else… are nothing new or special. steve biko said about you: the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the minds of the oppressed. and it was people like you who sold out crazy horse and sitting bull—small-minded, no vision, jealous, pandering idiots.

    wake up and deal with reality. if your ancestors were such great warriors, theyd probably spit on the ground at your feet for what you are today.

  33. word. theres a new generation of ndgns people emerging….we are the ones who dont buy into the old bullshit that we need the govt for anything & who dont believe in enabling our own people to be victimizers of us…..i grew up seeing “indians” all around me not First Nations and not Indigenous warrior people, but “indians” with one hand held out toward the govt and the other balled into a fist against their own families.

    yes, the residential school era screwed our people over, but we need to recognize how we are enabling our people to continue as offenders in our own communities and what we can do to protect ourselves and our people from our own dysfunctional tribe members AND from the colonial govt.

    theres a big difference between being compassionate and understanding that many of our people carry wounds, and being enablers and allowing our people to have such low standards that they have stopped trying for better.

    i see way too much of the latter being done in way too many native communities and these anti-values are being passed on to youth. its criminal.

  34. Okay you have it all together, I give up you have all the answers. You have vision, no jealousy, wow where have you been savior. Stand up and do the job, I’ll be the first one there when you fix everything!

    Take care, warrior!

  35. passive-aggressive much?

    actually, i dont have it all together and if thats what you got from me, then you are seriously not understanding my point. my point is that doing the same old crap is going to get the same old results: crap. (am i allowed to write crap, censor?)….

    and im not a leader, im a follower. but i am a DISCRIMINATING follower and i dont just follow anyone or anything. i make a point to pick it apart and make sure it is worthy of my support and loyalty.

    voting in colonial elections is the same old crap.

    thinking in the same ways about the same issues, is crap.

    first nations communities are a mess and people keep pointing at the colonial govt and implicating it in the continued woes of our people (which is true) BUT they do not acknowledge the ways in which they are doing the work of the colonizer and colonizing their own people.

    the AFN is a joke….the most effective strategy they could come up with is that we, “sovereign nations”, should vote in the elections of another (truly) sovereign nation? WTF?!

    how about dismantling the AFN and using that money to set up a sovereignty and self-determination organization that wont pussy-foot around the issues because they are too scared to piss off the govt?

    you cant trust foxes to guard the henhouse and the “leadership” currently coming out of FN communities are damaged: their integrity is questionable, their motives, and agendas esp considering the direction they are trying to take us all, is questionable. and this attitude that we shouldnt criticize our own people and communities is just more enabler crap.

    im pissed off, youre goddam right i am. i see these people destroying something that is very beautiful to me and about which i care. i would die for my tribal nation….so your goddam right im angry that the status quo is allowed to pervert my Ancestors values and traditions and what they sacrificed themselves for.

    Do you think that if any of them could come and see what the mess is that is being created by their own people they would in any way be proud? hell no…..they would not even recognize the majority of us as nehiyawin; they would call us moniyaws and they would be right. the majority of “indians” in canada dont even understand their own cultural traditions and what it means to be indigenous; they act out the whiteman’s version and call themselves “indians”….these “indians” fight to get to the front of the polling line so they can empower the colonial govt in making decisions for them. wth?!?!?!

    and they all act like it is a normal and natural thing, this election of colonizers. taiaiake is the ONLY public figure who is making sense and providing the voice of reason and sanity.

  36. ghanderman I hear you and I agree with much of what you say …but Rick is not censoring he is asking that we all be respectful.Indeed respect is one of the most important traits of a warrior.Not here to lecture just stating what I believe to be a fact.

  37. CMax wrote …”My ancestors fought in wars for Canada and you’re undermining what they did. You have no grasp of what took place. Maybe if you think about it for awhile and go beyond your stubborn ways, maybe you’d get a little enlightenment. I don’t believe in the status quo, just like you, but you have convinced yourself that that’s my position, you’re delusional, and you’re trying to find enemies in and amongst your own people.”…

    Maybe some of your relatives fought for Canada but I have heard many veterans say they fought for the Crown whom they(as members and warriors of a particular First Nation) were allied with.They did so because they hoped this would induce the Crown & Canada to honor its part of the agreement and treaties.Indeed they were representing their First Nation’s they acted with honor and forethought.Unfortunately Canada, the Crown,and white people/settlers in general continued on with their disrespect,dishonored themselves and refused to honor the treaties or indeed even consider ‘Indians” as their equals.This continues to this day…
    I agree settlers and First Nations are stuck with each other that said and as ghanderman has pointed out F.N’s have a right and can live as sovereign entities.Changes starts in the heart one person at a time you have to ask your self what it means to be indigenous.And please stop with the nonsense ..i.e nobody here, sure as shit not Alfred is telling you who to be or how to think again he is asking you as an individual to decide who you are by looking at the history,the fact and outcomes and of course the possibilities.
    Not lecturing you just stating how see it,that said written exchanges-prone to misunderstanding- are not the best format for debate (I prefer real time face to face) .

  38. ghanderman wrote…”there needs to be MORE people like me who …”

    Easy there don’t start thinking/believing you have all the answers…indeed how un-warrior likevof you.Please do not take offense ,modesty is a virtue after all

  39. O the jealousy thing …Funny I hear that a lot, any one who disagrees or attacks the Band Council system and those perpetuating dysfunction are somehow jealousy.Indeed I have heard individual band members who profit from the Indian Act and get big fat pay-cheques from the settler government using the crabs in the bucket analogy to describe their critic and opponents….zzzz

  40. Cmax I re-read your post ,it seems I misread this part you wrote…”You’re the first person to take the argument beyond the polarization level, and actually practice the dialectics that I was speaking about’…
    I replied…”Definitely not my intention perhaps I did not make myself clear enough…the ‘Peace my friend ‘ was meant sincerely ,it was not because I thought you were getting agitated or polarizing”…
    That said, the rest of my point still stands.Where you see “purists” e.g Taiaiake I do not. I see a guy pointing out the causes and consequences and asking people what they are going to do about it ,I see a guy practicing what he speaks.Also Alfred is talking in general terms,if he was talking face to face to an individual I hardly think he would call the guy a sellout(out of respect and common decency),but I do believe he would attempt to engage the guy in hopes of pointing out the weakness,over-sights or what ever you want to call it in the guys logic or point of view.
    I also have to add that at some point F.N people are going to have to decide what it is they want,and anyway one cuts it that will involve taking sides (sometimes-given the nature of the issue-things are bound to get heated even personal) ,i.e support the Indian Act and bow to its dictates and or rebuilding & practice indigenous forms of governance.
    Anyway peace my friend

  41. That’s the first time you settled down, and stopped ranting. Does that feel better, great stuff! I’m not far from what you have said in terms of seeing things like you, so rather than trying to shove all that garbage down my throat maybe you would have seen that. I am entitled to say what I want and to have my opinions just like you. I almost left cause you wouldn’t get it together, and it is pretty obvious that we need to be a lot better at conveying our views. Like I said we make too many people into enemies when we need them in the grand scheme of things. Anger is what we all have if you’re a real Indigenous person, but some of us have it together. There are other views and opinions out there than mad aggression. I advise you take the time to find those opinions and give them a little ear. And You may even find a greater strength to your words.

    Again great stuff!
    All the best

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