Cana­dian First Na­tions not a con­quered peo­ple un­der treaty sys­tem

Moose Jaw - - News - By

One of the fi­nan­cial barons in the Cana­dian oil patch was re­cently vent­ing his frus­tra­tions over the in­abil­ity to get oil pipe­lines built.

On this busi­ness tele­vi­sion pro­gram, he was one of a long line of oil patch peo­ple jus­ti­fi­ably up­set that Canada has not built a pipe­line to move in­creased oil pro­duc­tion to mar­ket.

He was list­ing the rea­sons why the pipe­line is needed and the losses to in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment roy­al­ties, when he made a com­ment that showed a to­tal ig­no­rance of Cana­dian his­tory.

To para­phrase, he said no con­quer­ing na­tion has ever con­sulted the con­quered na­tion about how to do things. He clearly im­plied he be­lieved First Na­tions peo­ple are a con­quered peo­ple. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth, although large numbers of Cana­dian be­lieve the white man and his cul­ture was the con­queror, and the First Na­tions were the con­quered.

The treaty process used to ob­tain sur­ren­der of lands from the indige­nous res­i­dents, in ex­change for prom­ise of a wel­fare sys­tem to look af­ter these im­pov­er­ished res­i­dents who no longer had bi­son as a re­li­able food source, treated the indige­nous res­i­dents as na­tions of their own, as all treaties do. That is where many Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing this fi­nan­cial mogul on TV, do not un­der­stand his­tory. The white cul­ture and the First Na­tions cul­ture agreed to share the coun­try.

Some ob­servers may wish the white man had con­quered the indige­nous res­i­dents. It might make life sim­pler for non-indige­nous res­i­dents. But that did not hap­pen.

If you think the white man made a bad deal, look back at the times. White lead­ers were cer­tain their “su­pe­rior” cul­ture and Chris­tian val­ues would soon be adopted by the “in­fe­rior” peo­ple sign­ing the treaties.

To en­sure they adopted “su­pe­rior” cul­ture and Chris­tian val­ues, white lead­ers en­cour­aged mis­sion­ar­ies, took chil­dren from their par­ents and sent them to res­i­den­tial schools for ed­u­ca­tion in white ways and Chris­tian val­ues, where the young­sters suf­fered all man­ner of psy­cho­log­i­cal, phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse. The young­sters weren’t al­lowed to speak their lan­guage. The par­ents on the re­serves weren’t al­lowed to have tra­di­tional cer­e­monies of their cul­ture. Agri­cul­ture was en­cour­aged on the re­serves. In cases where indige­nous farm­ers be­came too suc­cess­ful, pres­sure from lo­cal farm­ers ended their ac­cess to off-re­serve mar­kets.

Un­til the 1960s, no­body was al­lowed off the re­serve for a visit or busi­ness, un­less they had a pass from the In­dian agent. The First Na­tions were treated like a con­quered peo­ple.

In re­cent decades, well-ed­u­cated First Na­tions lead­ers have used ne­go­ti­a­tions and the courts to seek a re-dress for wrongs, for lands taken af­ter treaties were signed.

And they have as­serted rights avail­able to an­other na­tion within Canada as laid out in treaties.

The ques­tions arise: Where will this end? What do the First Na­tions want?

No one knows where ne­go­ti­a­tions or courts will take us, es­pe­cially when some politi­cians and sup­port­ers still view the First Na­tions as a con­quered peo­ple. In the ex­treme, non-indige­nous peo­ple will pay a roy­alty to the indige­nous peo­ple for the right to use and ex­ploit their sur­ren­dered lands. We will live in in­ter­est­ing times.

Ron Wal­ter can be reached at ron­[email protected]­

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