Aboriginal leaders say that aboriginal peoples across the country are upset, again, about the lack of money coming their way for economic development. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/02/29/bc-nationsprotest.html
Once again, they are planning road, rail, and anything else they can blockade, to get the attention of Stephen Harper in another effort to get him to honor the 2005 Liberal promise of a 5 year, $5 billion dollar injection to improve the lives of aboriginals across Canada.
Forgive my obvious cynicism, but I’ve seen one too many bands where the chiefs and his friends/family are living in a nice house, with satellite tv, a couple of ATVs, snowmobiles, a few nice pick-ups, eating and living well, while the rest of the reserve looks like a ghetto. I grew up in northern BC and have travelled all over this province and others. And this is a truth that cannot -and should not -be hidden or ignored.
Chiefs and a select few on council, for the most part,control where any money received ends up, as well as who gets it and who doesn’t. Some band leaders put the money to good and pertinent use, and are very successful – some, however, waste the money,and are not. Far too many reserves are rife with drug and alcohol problems, and everyone wonders why. The following link will help you to understand what entitlements being a Status Indian gives you, and how it works. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/aboriginals/faqs.html
It disturbs me to see this continual money grab by these leaders, because little or nothing is done to ensure that money handed over is actually put to good use, and accounted for. Now we see the possibility that the public school system may be paying for an aboriginal school ( second paragraph : http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/bits-and-bites-7/ ) . Once again, the rest of us are forced to pay for the mistakes and wrong-doings of others, when it really wont change a thing. Its a very small band-aid on a leg that’s been hacked off with an axe.
First Nations bands are given money for almost everything, including post-secondary education: a friend of mine who was a status indian – her preferred term of reference – had her entire post secondary schooling paid for, as well as daycare costs, and her transportation. Fully paid. She never once lived on the reserve, was married to a white guy with a great career as an airline pilot,and she openly admitted that she never had anything to do with the band until she found out she could get her schooling paid for. She wasn’t hurting for money by far, and could easily have covered the cost on her own, yet she felt it was her entitlement. There was money to be had for others education, yet in her own words, the band was full of drop-outs and addicts – none working.Very little was ever handed out to better the lives of those living in the band community, and nothing was being done to initiate changes.
Elders have been speaking out everywhere in a vain attempt to be heard, however, internal criticism of a chief from one of the band members is not taken well, and will be stifled or punished. Those who live in the reality that I speak of , will only speak up if their identities are protected.
We must respect a culture so rich in history, but those within the tribes suffering must come forward to speak openly about such abuse of funds and lack of caring. We cannot change it ourselves from the outside looking in without first nations taking the initiative themselves. No amount of money handed out to aboriginals will change how it is controlled and distributed, and those who really need it will continue to suffer at the hands of band government. If they leave the reserve, then occasionally they lose their rights. If they marry out of the band, same thing. For some, it is a catch -22 situation, and makes it even harder to get out of the cycle.
The bands ands reserves that are doing well and conquering the adversities that have plagued them for years, have done so with internal initiatives and education. Resurrection of ancient customs and beliefs have helped to showcase what a rich heritage that for years, went by the wayside.Finding and re-instilling long lost pride in their culture and history has been vital to this success, and has been both demonstrated and cultured by elders and leaders with vision, making it possible to be contributing members of a successful community and develop some self-respect. And that’s something no amount of money can purchase.
Will blockades do anything to endear those cultures to any Canadian, and rally support for this cause ? I doubt it -if anything, guerrilla tactics like this only serve to alienate the instigators and create hostility towards those involved -not unlike the goons associated with the Anti-Poverty Committee in Vancouver.