For some time now I have been amazed at the way the Canadian Government treats our first Nation and aboriginal peoples.
Let’s just go back a short way in history, a couple of hundred years or so would do, and see what we have done.
For thousands of years the peoples of North American survived very nicely in conditions that were really not much of a problem to them. They had their ways of feeding themselves, and surviving the weather and the seasons that were very efficient. To prove that we just have to see that for thousands of years they survived.
Largely their food supplies came to them in the form of roving herds of beasties (or fish and whales on the coasts), and those beasties provided them with their houses, clothes, tools and food. Water was plentiful, clean and full of fish. Certainly some of the watering holes would be a mess after a herd of beasties had passed through, but nature has a way of solving that problem on it’s own very quickly. On the coasts fish and whales were plentiful, trees were used for buildings and clothes and tools and in other words the local and readily available resources were used in traditional ways that worked.
To sum this all up, there really wasn’t a problem with their way of life in that it worked very well for them for as I say thousands of years. Yes there were wars amongst the nations but not fake or mystical religious wars, rather wars of envy of location, housing, animals, crops, women, or power struggles or simply amalgamation, and let’s not criticizes that as it has been historic all over the world. They believed then and still do in the creator who had different names in the different languages but in essence was the same creator, a kind and gentle “being”, for want of a better word, who asked little of his people but that they look after the land for him.
But then along came the settlers from the old countries who knew best how to live, which of course is why they were looking for better lands to plunder having ruined their own lands.
The arrogance of these early arrivers that their way of business, living and religion was best and therefore had to be adopted by the “ignorant savages” still boggles my mind, but it was of course a product of that time.
Or was it?
Have we moved on?
We bought them strange diseases, deceit, destruction of their lands, huge reduction of their beasties, poisoning of their water, removal of trees and worst of all an insistence that our form of housing in a specific static place, thus removing their ability to move when and if they needed to and had done so for centuries.
Is today any different?
We still tell them what to do, when and how, and it is our way as non-aboriginals that we force them to accept, still completely and arrogantly assuming that our way is the best; that the deals we made with them in the form of treaties were made by others and therefore not to be taken seriously; that we have herded them into and onto reservations and taken away their traditional ways of surviving; that we have plundered and continue to plunder their lands, turned their water poisonous; forced them to accept a form of housing that isn’t even sustainable in the cities; having bought them disease we make them sicker with our presumptuous form of medicine which works in a way that is totally foreign to their ways. Treating symptoms with money driven drugs instead of treating the cause of the symptoms which is what they had done for centuries doesn’t serve them anymore than it serves the rest of us. The claim that new diseases need these drugs is of course self-serving as we bought them these diseases and then removed their ability to treat them their way.
I listen to committee meetings in both houses and am amazed that this government is trying to shift the blame for the current state of affairs firmly onto the ‘incapable’ first nations instead of acknowledging that their way of life was damaged so badly and that we are not allowing our historically competent aboriginals to decide for themselves what they want to do. We still insist after a couple of centuries of failure that we know best. A look at our inner cities with their ever growing homeless peoples would show that this claim is false. Slums, overcrowding, disease, poverty, mentally sick, alcoholism, drug use, broken buildings crumbling instead of being refurbished to use by the poor and sick and homeless all show how successful we are.
I believe it is time we woke up to the fact that we do not know best, that we are murdering this land called Canada along with is original peoples and we do not have that right.
It is too late to undo the wrong we have done, fake and insincere apologies will not work, but it is not too late to support and allow the aboriginals of our country to live their own way at their own pace and if we are smart we will learn from them how to treat this land and indeed this planet so our children and grandchildren will have a habitable place on which to live.
“Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” … a Cree Indian prophecy