By Johnny Hawke
The Mushkegowuk Community of Attawapiskat is making headlines in the media where they have declared a state of emergency regarding their housing crisis where any response has only provided shelter for the massive public opinions on tax payer’s rights,corruption, third party management, accountability, sovereignty, and civil disobedience, while the real issue of housing gets left out in the cold.
I am not going to repost the overwhelming news articles that is already out there or rebut the misconceptions on this issue which has been flooding broadcast, print and social media but to question our Nations approach on asserting our autonomy when these kinds of circumstances appear to flare up.
First I would like to give respect to this community by acknowledging their strength of living in these third world conditions. In no way am I disrespecting our brothers and sisters by posing these critical observations as I’m personally not physically helping this specific crisis other then adding my view point in the usual “in solidarity” fad created by social media.
Some may think it is not my place to make such comments because I am doing so from the comfort of my own home but I feel reflecting on this issue can help our collective resurgence movement by exposing such illusions for those of us who are not only internet warriors but who also genuinely engage in actions to assert our way of life and who recognize that all of our communities are in an emergency crisis.
The Illusion of Third Party Management
The Canadian Government has sent in an accountant to enforce Third Party Management in response to this crisis in Attawapiskat where the leadership of the community has kicked out this modern day Indian Agent. Third-party management is when the federal government forces a band to turn over control of its cash and day-to-day operations to an independent manager. This has happened due to concerns of the Bands alleged mismanagements practices in response to their request of government assistance.
While I applaud the action this Band has taken in banishing the accountant from their community we must not make the mistake in believing that our communities are free of the era of the Indian Agent or are not currently under Third Party Management. By physically not having a government agent within our communities managing our finances does not mean we are not in third party management.
Chief and Council are accountable to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and not to our peoples. Chief and Councils still need permission from the Canadian State to conduct the majority of its own affairs. All Bands goverend by the Indian Act are actually in third party management.
If Indian Act governed Chiefs forbid the imposition of Third Party Management and kick out Government agents let us not fool ourselves. We either banish the Indian Act system and authority of Canada out of our communities as a whole or fall victim to “band-aid” solutions where the leaders of this type of “band-aid” revolution is and continues to be the oppressor.
I know we need to force Canada itself to be accountable to treaty obligations but when we call on them to do this when we are in a vulnerable situation we can only expect them to take advantage of the situation and have us make further surrenders.
Mismanagement in our communities will always happen in this current system we are governed by because it is the intention of the system. The way of life most of our people are trying to emulate is that of our advesaries, which is based upon competition, profit, resource exploitation, individualism. The government wants the “Indian Problem”gone and making us in their own image is a way of doing this, rather then the old failed way of straight up killing us.
Our communities expect the benefits of living in a society that nurtures the social wellbeing of the people and environment and retaining our distinct culture and rights but expect “our fairs share” where we want to live like the popular global, overconsuming capitalist society. Mismanagement will always be present unless we return to ways that are more managable for the earth and its peoples.
Any resources that are allocated within most of our communites are directed to everything but developing a sustainable economy.We continue to respond to crisis in our communities by allocating funds to our housing, educational, social, cultural, infrustructure services where these crisis are not the effect of coruption and undefunding but because we have no economy and relationship with our territories which would provide for these things.
Accountability and Transparency
This crisis has caused the usual uproar from Canadian Tax Payers, their Governments and Anishinabek people demanding accountability and transparency from both the Canadian Government and Indian Band leaderships which is setting a precedent for the imposition of the Governments proposed Bill C-7, the First Nation Accountability Act.
The imposition of the Indian Act and any government policies breaches our Nation to Nation Agreements we have with the Crown which are based on non-interference and co-existence whereas these acts are illegal by Canada’s own constitution. Bill C-7 will demand Indian Bands to publish their finances and if these demands are not met, treaty entitlements also known as band funding will be withheld.
While mismanagement and corruption is a reality in our communities it is only our own responsibility and right to implement structures to provide Accountability and Transparency to our own people in a way that does not compromise our autonomy. Canada and the tax payers have no business in our business other then paying the rent and abiding by our agreements. Any imposition of laws that suppresses our people’s freedom only accomplishes the same thing to the Canadian tax payer. It is only through respecting our sovereignty that they themselves can remain as a free people.
A majority of Chiefs including the leaderships representing Attawapiskat have stated they have no problem with giving in to the tax payers and government demands by making their financial information available. Bands Finances are accessible anyways for any tax payer through Access to Information where the Canadian Tax Payers Federation have already accessed finance information from Aboriginal Affairs but added their own numbers to the data and gave a fictional report to the media.
If Bill C-7 is implemented it would create another illusion where this illegal act is already imposed. Any adoption of the First Nations Accountability Act by Band Councils and the continued access to information to any of our business discredits any claims of sovereignty and is illegal.
If tax payers demand the books to be opened, those books first need to be the history books. While opening the “books” to the tax payers would in fact help to educated them in how much they are in still arrears and how their governments are the true beneficiaries to tax payer’s funds and how they the tax payer’s benefit more from the distribution of our treaty entitlements, I still oppose any adoption of laws enforced by these governments over our nations.
We only want to be treated equal
Another thing that has come up in this crisis and in our collective demands, which I have to question, is when our people say; we want to be treated equally, we want our fair share of the resources and our own independence. I feel we need to reevaluate who we are and what we are trying to achieve because when we only want to be treated equal and our fair share of the resources then we are seeking a final colonization and assimilation of who we are.
The resources that are allocated to our Nations do not even translate to what was agreed upon in the treaties and any benefits that are given are the profits that are made from industry which is destroying our territories and our distinct way of life.
The way any industrialized country like Canada operates is by exploiting all the resources in a territory and when everything dries up, the town withers and dies and people leave. This is a suggested solution for many Canadians for the people of Attawapiskat, to finally assimilate into Canadian culture and move away from their Country. If this is the case then Canada should follow their own advice and by the rough economic times they are experiencing, they should be the first ones to get up and move away from our Continent.
The majority of our people want only to be treated just like everyone else but fail to realize we are in fact already treated so. The majority of the world’s population is being oppressed and do not have control over their own affairs. As well the majority of our Anishinabek people are no longer distinct, our communities are the same flag waving, hockey loving, beer guzzling, Jersey Shore watching, SUV driving, bling blingin, overweight, diabetic, attention deficit disorder, hyper active, hyper sexed, oil and facebook addicted, Tim Horton culture. The only difference is we watch american idol and snooki on a flat screens in our substandard houses where this popular culture helps to passify our warrior spirit from getting up to reclaim our resources so we can have proper living conditions.
I am confused to what our people want, we want to have everything our oppressors have but we want to still claim our distinct Anishinabek “way of life” which is in direct conflict of what most of our people are emulating. This leads me to my next frustration.
Chiefs seem to make threats of Civil Disobedience in the media when we are not getting “our fair share” and do not state if they will be the ones initiating this approach and usually distance themselves from any major assertive actions taken by their own people.
Headlines of Attawapiskat have caused noise makers and Chiefs across our territories to hijack Attawapiskat’s media attention for their own campaigns. While their issues are similar and relevant and these actions would unite our people forcing Canada to deal with us properly, I doubt that Chiefs do not really want to resist capitalism which is the cause of our collective injustice or are dedicated to engage in anything revolutionary, otherwise they would already be doing so.
Any calls to “protest” from these Chiefs then sounds very similar to what I have been hearing from the majority of people within the Occupy Movement, which is not anything revolutionary but just a reform of policies within the capitalist system, fighting for “our fair share” in the system that keeps us oppresed.
The very terms some of these Chiefs use exemplify their mindset and one of these words is Civil Disobedience. This is the wrong term to be using to assert ourselves because by accepting this term and placing it on ourselves we then accept the expectations and consequences of whose society we are being civil and obedient in. When we engage in any action where we assert our Sovereignty and defend our Nations and Territories it is just that, an assertion of our way of life. We are not the ones participating in Civil Disobedience; Canada is the only party guilty of this term by their own definition.
The Peaceful Protest has also come to be the current standard approach by our communities engaging in what they call “civil disobedience” which have led many misconceptions for our people. Many of our peaceful protests condemn the use of weapons for defense but claim we are our own Nations. Many of these protests start out as peaceful marches, and glorified powwows but when it ends up pissing off the aggressor and our people start getting attacked the peaceful people call in reinforcements and then expect the shunned warrior societies to come to their defense which then discredits their rhetoric. Some say that peaceful protest does work for instance the HST Tax protests in Ontario Kanada. This gave a false image that victory was achieved by peaceful protest, where it appeared the HST was not implemented on our Nations. In reality we still pay taxes under other names and policies and what wouldv’e happen if our people peacfully brought the economy and traffic to a hault for more than one day? The idea od the peaceful protest is when “younger brother” goes and pisses of the neighborhood bullies and gets his ask kicked and then “older brother” has to come in a fight off the bullies.
There are grassroots Anishinabek people who live and have died or are dying for our distinct Anishinabek way of life and who are not about to engage in “civil disobedience” or “peaceful protests” for policy reform of to increase the funds that will only go to a system of mismanagement that destroys our territories and keeps us oppressed.
The Marginalization of the Crisis
As long as we keep up the “Day of Action” protests, write in our blog rants, lobby for more funds, continue this “Band-Aid”Resistance, we will continue to blind ourselves from the real issue. If the real cause of our wounds is dealt with by a “band-aid” we can expect to see the same issues “flare up” again next winter, next quarter or at the next throne speech in an endless circle of dependency.
The Community of Attawapiskat is not unique there are many of our Anishinabek Communities throughout Turtle Island that are facing similar crisis. While most arm chair quarterbacks sit back in the comfort of our own homes and complacency of our oppression, fighting every single issue that hits the headlines by posting links or writing blogs such as this, the opportunity to make revolutionary change is awaiting as we continue to work within the unsustainable environment that we are dependent on.
The solutions to our injustices are right in front of us but are we ready to resist the things keeping us oppressed? If we have a distinct culture that has provided for our well being for millennia and demand our adversaries to respect our ways, why not trying to find solutions within the things we speak and fight so hard for?
I may not be contributing to helping the crisis in Attawapiskat but will be enforcing my own rhetoric to help contribute to the collective movement as my own community is about to accept a land settlement offer where they will be putting a “band-aid” on their own individual emergencies. I will be resisting a pay off and continue the fight so my children can have a sustainable future accessing a sustainable economy to my territory. I am aware that all our communities are in emergencies, under third party, are subjected to war and some of us will not be fooled by band-aid solutions.
Comics in this rant have been used with permission by Kaneinkeha:ka Artist Adam W. Martin. Website
Adam W. Martin is Kanienkeha:Ka from Six Nations of Grand River currently living in Regina, SK. He also contributes to Eagle Feather News which posts a pdf version of their newspaper which can be viewed online as well as Windspeaker. His comics are also available online at Rank Comix and I suggest you take a look at his own site, to see his other style of artwork.