Tag Archives: Indian Act

Losing the land again: The risks or privatizing property on First Nations reserves

By Kyle Carsen Wyatt, February 11, 2013.  Source: The Walrus

Sometime this year, the federal government is expected to introduce legislation that will pave the way for fee-simple (read: private) land ownership on First Nations reserves. According to its champions—former Kamloops chief Manny Jules and on-again, off-again Harper adviser Tom Flanagan—the new law will generate business efficiencies, investment opportunities, and individual prosperity for the 300,000 Native people living on reserves in Canada.

Editorial boards and political affairs observers have commended the First Nations Property Ownership Initiative, a working proposal crafted by Jules and Flanagan, along with Christopher Alcantara and André Le Dressay, in their 2011 book, Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights. Proponents, who include a handful of First Nations, dismiss the alarms raised by most of the 600-plus Native communities in Canada, as well as Native studies scholars and the Assembly of First Nations. The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson has summarized their objections thusly: “The first is that native land is traditionally communally owned. Private property is yet another assimilationist Western concept being imposed on native culture. The second is that once reserve members own their land, they can sell it to non-natives, eroding the land base.”

Ibbitson rejects these concerns out of hand, arguing that “the legislation will be strictly voluntary. Only those first nations that want to embrace the concept of private property will do so.” This line of reasoning presumes that communities and individuals driven to desperation can freely engage in decision making, when in fact many of them will succumb to a coercive land grab that has been 500 years in the making. He also contrasts the proposed legislation with the US General Allotment Act of 1887, better known as the Dawes Act, pointing out that it was involuntary. He is not alone in dismissing the nineteenth-century law. Backers of the First Nations Property Ownership Initiative regard its dismal legacy as a trivial aside, a laughable historical analogy: different time, different place. But as Cherokee novelist and 2003 Massey Lecturer Thomas King observes in his new book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, “When we look at Native–non-Native relations, there is no great difference between the past and the present.”
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Filed under Idle No More, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs

A note to Idle No More: Inclusion and respect will make the fire stronger

By Derek Nepinak, January 2, 2013.  Source: Rabble.ca

Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

In the past several months, I have sensed a growing and powerful energy amongst our people. I began to sense it when we started marching and singing around Winnipeg during the call for a National Inquiry on Murdered or Missing Indigenous Women.

When given the opportunity to speak, I stated that we are witnessing the rise of a people’s movement, where the passion and energy of our people will no longer be harnessed by apathy, political correctness, deference, or a blind trust in provincial or federal politicians to do the right thing. There is a new energy that is now awake and its messaging is spreading quietly amongst our people through the whispers, the prayers and the songs of our young men and women.

Many of you will know this energy as a very old and powerful warrior spirit. It is the warrior spirit of our people that has been quietly burning in the heart of our collective consciousness for thousands of years. Each and every one of us has an opportunity to take from the fire of the spirit and re-kindle our deepest desires for the opportunity to flourish with pride in our existence as indigenous people. Some of us can feel it in the words of the songs, others sense it as the soft energy that makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks when we hear the beating of the drums and the singing of the songs of our people.
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Filed under Idle No More, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs

Photo Essay: March 4 Justice completes 4,400 km trek from Vancouver to Ottawa for Indigenous justice

By Ben Powless, September 6, 2012.  Source: rabble.ca

Note:  Ben Powless is a Mohawk photographer and GJEP ally who works with Indigenous Environmental Network.  All photos are by Ben.

-The GJEP Team

For most of us, a kilometre is a decent distance to walk to just buy groceries. For Leo Baskatawang, four thousand and four hundred kilometres was worth it to go to seek justice for Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Leo, a 32-year-old Masters student, decided earlier this year that something needed to be done. He had watched the coverage of the Crown-First Nations summit in January, and realized that the government was giving short-shrift to Aboriginal issues. “That was the last straw,” he said of the summit.

Marchers set off from Victoria Island to Parliamant Hill after a brief ceremony.

Instead, the young man decided that everyday Canadians needed to be aware of Native issues, and he would walk as far as necessary to be part of raising that awareness. An idea was born. The March 4 Justice began April 23rd, in Vancouver, and concluded 135 days later, 4,400 km walked, in Ottawa on September 4th.

The marchers arrive at Parliament Hill, with copies of the Indian Act chained to them.

The whole time, Leo and others carried copies of the Indian Act behind them on chains, a protest against the archaic legislation’s continuing impacts on Aboriginal Peoples today. Organizers were calling for the repeal of the act, as well as proper Aboriginal government representation, similar to what was outlined in the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ report.

“We’re hoping for public officials to support the need for a televised public debate on the issues,” said Leo. “I’m hoping that once the public is aware of our issues, we can swing the momentum in this country.”

A ceremonial casting-off of the chains of the Indian Act on Parliament Hill.

Along the way, Leo was joined by a number of supporters. Seven young people in total joined the march, with one young woman having to return home earlier because of school.
“It’s been a real journey,” noted Stephanie MacLaurin, from Fort Williams First Nation, near Thunder Bay, who was one of the fellow marchers. “I’m sad to see it end, but its something that needs to be done yearly. I hope to do it again, even though my life has been on hold the last month.”

Much of the organizing and support came from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and people who had found out about the march online often came out to support the walkers in person. “Facebook really connected people – we got most of our support there,” Leo acknowledged.

Many of the supporters of the March 4 Justice across the country found out about the event through social media.

In Ottawa, for the conclusion of the walk, about 60 supporters came out to Parliament Hill after a ceremony at nearby Victoria Island, a longtime gathering place for the Algonquin people. A number of speakers from political parties and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) came out to express their support as well.

Representatives of Liberal Party leader Bob Rae and New Democratic Party Aboriginal Affairs Critic Jean Crowder made statements to the crowd. A representative of AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo also came out to speak in support of the march. Conservative MP Rob Clarke, himself Aboriginal, spoke of his support for the marchers, and his support for the overhaul of the Indian Act.

The unity flag and the community flag from Osnaburgh (Mishkeegogamang First Nation).

Clarke currently has a private member’s bill before Parliament that could see the Indian Act replaced. The bill has been heavily criticized by Aboriginal leaders, partly because he didn’t consult First Nations, who are concerned that it could empower the government to replace the Indian Act unilaterally, and result in funding cuts or other changes.

Laura Gagnon recently moved to Ottawa from Thunder Bay and had heard of the March 4 Justice online, and came out to support the group. “Today is really important because Native people have become non-individualized, put into categories. We have to raise awareness and stop prejudices. As Natives, we’re powerful when we come together, and we’re just going to get stronger.”

Laura Gagnon looks at a tattered copy of the Indian Act dragged across the country.

Summarizing the day, but also the feeling from marching the past few months, Leo told the assembled crowd, “I’ve learned that change isn’t easy. We have to be willing to go for it, to do something for it. We recognized the need for change, and we want others to get up and act.”

For more photos, please click here [7].

Ashley Bottle (left) and Leo Baskatawang, two of the initial marchers.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Independent Media, Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression