Many of you will share my sentiment that yesterday's gathering between the First Nation Leaders and "The Crown" was a silly display of bullshit.
Aboriginal Youth Are NOT a Commodity
Why are so many of us emotionally charged up and upset about yesterday's meeting? Maybe it is because we all feel a sense of urgency when it comes to addressing the inequities present in so many first nations communities. Maybe its because the government chooses to focus on the 'economic potential' of Aboriginal youth, as opposed to actually giving a shit about their humanness. I don't know bout you, but I felt like Stephen Harper was talking about Aboriginal youth, and people as if they were another resource to Canada. Inanimate objects, whose sole purpose of existing are to increase the economic competitiveness of one of the wealthiest nations in the world. He said it is our responsibility as First Nations people to develop our economic potential (code word for raping mother earth). It is our sole purpose, for the betterment of all of Canada, that we all become fully engrained participants of the economy, so that Canada can be competitive on the global stage
It was my hope, and that of many other young Aboriginals I know, that this gathering would finally elicit a commitment from the Government and the First Nations people to stop moving backwards in terms of how they Legislate and deal with the 'Indian Problem' in Canada. In this regard, Stephen Harper, and even our National Chief Shawn Atleo, have failed. These leaders are doing a political dance, and while I get it that such processes must be taken slowly, this response is not good enough for our young people. The Crown may want to address issues in an 'incremental' way. They may want to tout their own horn an talk about specific examples of successful communities, and then pat themselves on the back for how great they are. But no amount of political jargon is gonna take away the hurt we feel when our sister goes missing and no government bats an eye. No amount of political reasoning will make us feel any better when we are forced to bury our children, because we found them hanging by a rope last week.
I have a problem with the paternalistic imperialism that was oozing out of several statements made yesterday. The Governor General referring to the Treaties as the greatest moment between First Peoples and the Colonizers (I mean Settlers). Stephen Harper, in his typical cold manner, referring to helping Aboriginal people because it would be a benefit to the Canadian Economy. Even the Conservative Cabinet Ministers (Indian Affairs and Health) put forward a calculated, cold, self-lauding message. Glaringly absent from any of their comments was acknowledgement of the damage that has happened as a result of many Government funded natural resource extraction initiatives in recent years. Glaringly absent was the acknowledgement that over 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing and the government has yet to respond appropriately. Glaringly absent was the acknowledgement that, although commitments have been made for 'incremental changes' in regards to the racist assimilation policy called the Indian Act, our children and youth continue to kill themselves at at least twice the rate (and in some communities 8X higher) of the rest of Canada.
The Chiefs Spoke
I do appreciate a lot of what was said when it came to the First Nation leaders speaking. I do not agree with the approach of Mr Atleo (National Chief) has taken. I do not agree with the overall structure and election processes within the Assembly of First Nations, and even some Aboriginal communities. I do not believe that this man has enough of a fire under his ass. I know that we cannot have our leaders, crying and screaming and tantrumming in the media because our youth and women are treated as less than human. We cannot do this because we must broker, and mediate, between what the public sees out of our leaders, and maintaining enough communication with Big Daddy Canada to ensure that we can at least recieve SOME assistance in providing resources and opportunities to our kids.
Like many of you(th), I had very high expectations that we would have some strong statements and commitments that would have come out of such a 'historic' gathering between the Crown and us First people's. But I still feel very much like more of the same racism was present in the Crown's responses and presentations. I have been calmed down by a few, that have reminded me that my expectations are too high, and I must be realistic. And so, realistically speaking: It is a start. I am thankful that a dialogue has begun, 6 years into being elected into his seat as Prime Minister, finally, he has decided to sit with our First Nations leaders. I would be lying if I told you that I was not dissapointed. But at that level, the grandiose, governer-general, nation to nation level, I don't know that I should have expected much more.
Or Should We?
Or should we expect more? Should we expect our political and community leadership to speak strongly, and passionately about issues on a human level first? Should we expect our prime minister to be a champion of justice and speak directly to the millions of Aboriginal youth who do not see a future for themselves? Should we expect our leaders to make a shit storm when our kids are killing themselves out of isolation, fear and hopelessness every single day?
Should young people organize themselves? To some degree (AYO as an example) we have already begun to do so. But what are the next steps for you? For youth?
I am not sure...But its a start.