COLUMN: Jessica Iron Joseph — Jan. 3, 2014

Jessica
Jessica Iron Joseph
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Jessica Iron Joseph

Recently I got into a disagreement with a man who suggested I ought to be thankful towards the federal government (being an Indian) for its generosity and not be so judgmental and negative.

Here’s where the man and I differed in opinion: I don’t see Aboriginal people as charity cases, no matter how bad their situation is. Those who view Aboriginal people this way reveal far more about their own prejudices and lack of education than anything else.

It almost always goes back to the treaties, and in this case, it most certainly does. Two nations agreed to live side by side. First Nations people agreed to share the land and resources, and in exchange, the government promised to help them advance their societies. Considering that the way of life for First Nations people was fundamentally altered with the unnecessary slaughter of buffalo, and the government feared an uprising with First Nations joining in the Metis resistance, it was an agreement that seemingly would benefit both sides.

Unfortunately, the negotiations themselves were terribly flawed from the outset. There were many items that I’m sure were lost in translation, as many terms and concepts do not easily transfer or exist in both languages. Not to mention, the treaty documents themselves were copied in only one language, and why wouldn’t they be automatically biased in favor of the writer?

Many of the promises First Nations people were given have been documented, not necessarily in the treaties, but in other historical documents. There are also oral histories of First Nations people that have been passed down from generation to generation which contradict what was documented. If they had been written today, and I was one of the writers, there would be a lot fewer inconsistencies, and I think the resulting documents would reflect far more balance of the rights and benefits conferred to both sides. I’m only saying that to illustrate how unevenly and unfairly they were recorded.

First Nations people never agreed to being conquered, and the courts agree they have never been conquered. They did not cede, release, surrender or yield up land, as the treaties may state. They agreed to share. They also agreed to their share of the profits of those lands and resources. They did not agree to the exploitation of lands to the point of destruction. They have always been protectors of the land, and this is why you see many Aboriginal people now arguing for the health of Mother Earth. However, they are also joined by people on the other side of the treaties who are also concerned about the state of the environment, and that is a wonderful example that demonstrates how two nations can work together in a manner that benefits all.

Fair, sustainable, renewable practices are one thing, with equitable wealth disbursement among both nations. Preoccupation with greed and utter disregard for the environment and everything in it is a completely different story.

How the taxation system works and applies to Canadians was not something First Nations people had any say in. Neither did they have any say in the amount of money that gets transferred to First Nations people.

The federal government spends roughly $8 billion on First Nations people (In a budget of about $255 billion), so roughly three per cent of the total federal budget is allotted to Aboriginal people. Not all of this will actually reach Aboriginal people because a significant chunk will be tied up in administration costs. What's left of the money is not sufficient and keeps most people on reserve at or below the poverty line. Aboriginal people in urban settings have even more limited access to these funds.

Did First Nations people ask to be dependent on the federal government? No. Absolutely not. That’s why the treaties were created in the first place, because First Nations people saw their lives changing, and they embraced the change, and the new people in their territory. They wanted a good relationship with the settlers, and found a solution that would help both groups prosper, side by side in a huge country that could easily provide enough wealth for everyone to be happy and comfortable together.

Aboriginal people have not received their fair share of the agreement, and have instead suffered under genocidal policies and laws that have been forced upon them. And by fair share, I don’t just mean financially. Aboriginal communities should be thriving, healthy and prosperous, and run by Aboriginals, as the nations they were acknowledged to be at the signing of the treaties.

For a rudimentary comparison, take one look at your nearest city, and then stop for a few minutes at the nearest reserve. If you can spot all the differences between them, you’ll see how the treaty agreements have not been honored and upheld.

The treaty agreements are living, breathing agreements that never ended, and will be here for the rest of time. They were made in ceremony, with the Creator, First Nations people and the first Canadians for that initial generation and the generations to come. They were not simple contracts where land was bought and sold. They are ongoing agreements, forever contracts.

If you live and work in this country, you’re benefitting from the treaties. So long as you continue to live here, you and your family will continue to benefit. And that’s your treaty right. Aboriginal people have always wanted a peaceful relationship with Canadians. However, they have not benefited in all the ways they were promised, and therefore many changes need to be made.

I realize this column will probably annoy a lot of people, and I will probably have a full inbox following its publish date. I do not and will not apologize for words that need to be said. When people say ignorant things to me, I’m not afraid to speak up. I also don’t believe pussy-footing around topics to stroke egos helps anyone. It’s not easy to have these discussions, but that was the point of me writing for this newspaper to begin with, to have those difficult discussions. They are desperately needed.

Within healthy parameters, debates are a wonderful thing. People may not always agree, but the second you close your mind to another view or perspective you lose the opportunity for growth.

For all those who are interested, a wonderful resource on the topic of treaties is a book by Harold Johnson called “Two Families: Treaties and Government.”

snazzyjess@hotmail.com

Organizations: First Nations

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Recent comments

  • russell
    January 10, 2014 - 16:30

    Iam indigenous My peoples' my lands have been occupied illeagally for decades by a goverment and society which tires to rob me of my identity and lands.They have attempted genocide on my people and culture in order to control, dominate and exploit my lands for profit,in order fund their attempt to control, dominate and exploit the human species. My people have a suicide rate 10 times the national average.My people make up 40% of the prisoners incarcerated and only 3% of the population in what is now called Canada.Over 100 communites of my fellow indigenous people in canada can't drink the water that comes from their taps because it is toxic. I am subjected to racism and stereotyped as being lazy, stupid, inferior, ungrateful, hostile, drunk, dont pay taxes, and i get everything givin to me. my lands are being occupied by a public which remains ingnorant or silent about the injustice I live with every moment od every day. I am silenced or minimized in the occupy movement frequently as my issues of injustice transcend into mere financil concerns. I am Indingenous and I am the "un-%"

  • Ronin (YOUR SON)!!!!
    January 08, 2014 - 15:53

    love u mom at school right now reading your column for current events in social studies!!!! XOXOXO Love:Ronin

  • Bertha Tallio
    January 07, 2014 - 19:19

    Thank you! It is wonderful to read a well written article!

  • Nancy
    January 07, 2014 - 13:09

    Bravo! Well done. It is wonderful to see the next generation speaking the truth. There will be many who listen and understand for unity is the key to moving forward in a good way. This Is a new time - a time of renewal for all the nations to work to gether to make things happen in a good and balanced way that follows the teachings of unity. The original peoples of Turtle Island will lead the way. Ekosi

  • Margot Keeler
    January 07, 2014 - 03:47

    Dear Jessica, As a teacher I have been involved in treaty education workshops so this is not the first time I have encountered this information but we have a long way to go as a nation (or nations perhaps,) before we find our way to equity. Sometimes I quail before the task. I'm glad you don't. The work you do is immensely important and from what I read you do it well. Please believe that there are people of every race in Canada who applaud you and who need you to give voice to things that they didn't know or don't know how to articulate.

  • Gerry Gagnon
    January 06, 2014 - 22:52

    In the Treaties, Indians are clearly 'subjects of the Crown', like all Canadian citizens. There is NO mention of 'partnership' in the Treaties: "And the undersigned Chiefs, on their own behalf and on behalf of all other Indians inhabiting the tract within ceded, do hereby solemnly promise and engage to strictly observe this treaty, and also to conduct and BEHAVE THEMSELVES AS GOOD AND LOYAL SUBJECTS of Her Majesty the Queen." --Treaty 2 http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028664/1100100028665#tphp Or: "And the undersigned Chiefs and Headmen, on their own behalf and on behalf of all other Indians inhabiting the tract within ceded, do hereby solemnly promise and engage to strictly observe this treaty, and also to CONDUCT AND BEHAVE THEMSELVES AS GOOD AND LOYAL SUBJECTS OF HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN." --Treaty 4 http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028689/1100100028690 Or: "And the undersigned Blackfeet, Blood, Piegan and Sarcee Head Chiefs and Minor Chiefs, and Stony Chiefs and Councillors on their own behalf and on behalf of all other Indians inhabiting the Tract within ceded DO HEREBY SOLEMNLY PROMISE and engage TO STRICTLY OBSERVE THIS TREATY, and also TO CONDUCT AND BEHAVE THEMSELVES AS GOOD AND LOYAL SUBJECTS of Her Majesty the Queen." --Treaty 7 http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028793/1100100028803

  • Gerry Gagnon
    January 06, 2014 - 22:42

    "Nothing is so pernicious as the profoundly racist notion that somehow indigenous peoples are genetically endowed with a special relationship, a spiritual kinship with nature that makes them superior caretakers of the land Europeans took from them. Like so many racist myths, there are just too many historical examples to cite that would discredit it. "Easter Island was arguably the most notorious one, where 20,000 people committed 'ecocide' by deforestation and over-hunting. Australian Aborigines, meanwhile, exterminated 85% of the mega fauna of the continent before the British even weighed anchor at Botany Bay, and American Indians probably annihilated the horse before it was re-introduced by the Spanish. "Given the time it took to cut down a mature Douglas Fir with a stone axe, one is moved to speculate that it was their primitive technology, not an inherent love for nature, which constrained coastal aboriginals from clearing more. Soil microbiologist Peter Salonius has pointed out that by the time of European contact, Amerindians from mid-continent south had established an unsustainable society moving toward collapse, whose sustenance was increasingly from soil-depleting cultivation agriculture. "And a biologist with Environment Canada maintains that “unless there is strong evidence that a code of ethics existed which dictated restraint, I suggest that evidence is extremely weak that aboriginal societies necessarily exercised any form of wildlife management. I think evidence instead overwhelmingly supports the hypothesis that aboriginal culture did not wipe out the food they depended on, due to limitations in technology and population numbers.” But more relevant to our concerns is not what 'natives' once did but what they are doing now. He relates the following experiences: "The profligate killing of caribou by 'natives' for their tongues. The decimation of Greenland seabird colonies by Inuit due to hunting during the breeding season and wanton disturbance at sensitive colonies. The depletion of key beluga stocks in the Canadian Arctic. The insistence of opening a Bowhead Whale hunt in the eastern arctic by Inuit despite the scientific evidence that this population is in critical condition. The wildlife “halo effect” around 'native' communities in North America where virtually no game can be found. Large-scale killing of Bald and Golden Eagles in North America by 'natives' under the guise of fulfilling “cultural needs”. Widespread killing of colonial waterbirds in Manitoba by 'natives' and 'Metis' since these birds are seen as competitors in commercial fisheries. The general ignorance of large wildlife populations by aboriginal elders and young people simply because they were “not important” as a food source. "He is careful to qualify his experiences with the observation that all societies, 'native' and non-native, have pushed their environment to the wall, and all have their good and bad apples. Nonetheless, the environmental record of Aboriginal economic development projects is less than promising. "Case in point. The Alaska 'Native' Claims Settlement Act had given the various 'native' corporations across the state ownership of lands they selected from federal holdings. The total in Southeast Alaska came to more than 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares). Advised by timber economists, the 'native' regional corporations and villages picked out mainly lands with productive big-tree forests. Then, they began to level them and sell the raw logs to Asian markets, almost matching the pulp mills’ rate of timber consumption. So much for the precious Tongas National Forest. "Ontario researcher Brishen Hoff has cited several Canadian examples of Aboriginal eco-vandalism... The Zhiibaahaasing "First Nation", also on Manitoulin Island, decided to make a quick buck by dumping an estimated 1.75 million used tires, creating a massive fire hazard and costing taxpayers a $4 million clean-up bill... "Another dimension of Aboriginal negative environmental impact is their alarming population explosion. "First Nations" are now experiencing a birth rate 1.5 times the Canadian average and have seen their population grow by 20% between 2001-6. With a higher population, they will deplete more resources and multiply their footprint... "It is ironic that perhaps the most serious racist group in Canada are not some extremists wearing white robes and burning crosses, but a federal government that chooses not to collect taxes from 'natives', Inuit and 'Metis'. "However, the revenue that governments fail to collect from aboriginals pales in comparison to the reckless abandon in which they spend on their behalf. Eighty percent of the Department of Indian Affairs $8 billion annual expenditure is transferred directly to 'native' bands, and it is the Chiefs and their band councils who decide how they are disbursed and how programs are developed. Given this inherent politicization of band administration, it is not surprising that media accounts of corruption and mismanagement of reserve funds have been reflected in 'native' complaints to the Department. "In 1999, the Department received 300 allegations about 108 bands, ranging from nepotism to mismanagement, and even at that the federal auditor found their data to be “incomplete”; while in 2003, there were 297 such allegations. It is little wonder, then, that governments can throw $10 billion a year at Aboriginal poverty without result, or spend $3.8 billion on 'native' housing in the past decade and still see people living in run-down units. It is frightening to think that the “Wise Stewards” who are running the reserves are the same ones who will be partnering billion-dollar economic developments that will despoil our boreal forests. "One might ask then, how is the money that Ottawa has spent on aboriginal affairs substantially different than the money it has wasted on African development aid? In both cases, it has been in the billions; in both cases, it has been essentially without strings -- that is, the recipients have been unaccountable for its use. In both cases, it has not been conditional on any kind of family planning---in fact, it has provoked a fertility boom. And in both cases, the aid money has been filtered through corrupt political leadership that intercepts it before it reaches the intended beneficiaries. There is another similarity, too---the corrupt tribal dictators hide behind and depend upon 'white' Canadian political correctness not to blow the whistle and put an end to the game. Others prefer just to shift all responsibility onto a legacy of white colonialism. "The Myth of Wise Aboriginal Stewardship is just a contemporary make-over of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s myth of the Noble Savage, a superior being untainted by our corrupt European vices. That caricature of aboriginals is just as preposterous and harmful now as it was the, in the eighteenth century. Just as inaccurate however would a representation of Aboriginals as more careless of the land than European North Americans... "All of the foregoing was merely an attempt to make 'natives' accountable for their record of eco-vandalism, as one would do with the multinationals. It is to humanize them, rather than demonize them -- or, as the politically correct have done, deify them. "The sad fact is, people of various cultures and times, for various reasons, have not been able to acknowledge limits. And just because they can sing, dance and beat drums should not give them license to trespass those limits." Brishen Hoff deserves credit for the research re. the Aboriginal environmental track record in this article. --Tim Murray, "Canada The Sinking Lifeboat" *********************************** http://sinkinglifeboat.blogspot.ca/2008/03/myth-of-wise-aboriginal-stewardship.html

  • Gerry Gagnon
    January 06, 2014 - 22:37

    Since the talk is about Treaties: TREATY 4: "The Cree and Saulteaux Tribes {"and Stonie Tribe...and Assiniboine Tribe"} of Indians, and all other the Indians inhabiting the district hereinafter described and defined, do hereby CEDE, RELEASE, SURRENDER AND YIELD UP TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DOMINION OF CANADA, for Her Majesty the Queen, and Her successors FOREVER, ALL THEIR RIGHTS, TITLES AND PRIVILEGES WHATSOEVER, TO THE LANDS INCLUDED within the following limits... {There follows a lengthy description of the territory ceded, released, surrendered, etc. --Gerry} Also ALL THEIR RIGHTS, TITLES AND PRIVILEGES WHATSOEVER TO ALL OTHER LANDS wheresoever situated within Her Majesty's North-West Territories, or any of them. To have and to hold the same to Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors FOR EVER." http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028689/1100100028690 *************** *************** TREATY 6: "The Plain and Woods Cree Tribes of Indians, and all other the Indians inhabiting the district hereinafter described and defined, do hereby CEDE, RELEASE, SURRENDER and YIELD UP to the Government of the Dominion of Canada, for Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors FOREVER, ALL THEIR RIGHTS, TITLES and PRIVILEGES, whatsoever, to the LANDS included within the following limits..." {There follows a lengthy descriptio n of the territory ceded, released, surrendered, etc. --Gerry} "And also their rights, titles and privileges whatsoever to ALL OTHER LANDS wherever situated in the North-West Territories, or IN ANY OTHER PROVINCE OR PORTION OF HER MAJESTY'S DOMINIONS, SITUATED AND BEING WITHIN THE DOMINION OF CANADA. "The tract comprised within the lines above described EMBRACING AN AREA OF 120,000 SQUARE MILES, be the same more or less. "To have and to hold the same to Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors FOREVER..." http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028710/1100100028783

  • sheila gladue
    January 06, 2014 - 22:30

    awe man i LOVE it u sure told him!!!!

  • Gerry Gagnon
    January 06, 2014 - 22:19

    "At nearly all the important points, the chiefs and more intelligent men who were present at the making of treaty last year asked for extended explanations of its terms, in order that those of their bands who had failed to grasp its true meaning might be enlightened, and that those who were coming into treaty for the first time might fully understand what they were doing. In the course of the councils held for this purpose, it was possible to eradicate any little misunderstanding that had arisen in the minds of the more intelligent, and GREAT PAINS WERE TAKEN TO GIVE SUCH EXPLANATIONS AS SEEMED MOST LIKELY TO PREVENT ANY POSSIBILITY OF MISUNDERSTANDINGS IN FUTURE..." "Report of Commissioner for Treaty No. 8", DEPARTMENT OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, December 11, 1900 {CAPS added --Gerry} http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028813/1100100028853#chp4

  • Gerard Gillis
    January 06, 2014 - 21:12

    The whole truth and nothing but the truth!! An excellent well written article!!!

  • Gerard Gillis
    January 06, 2014 - 21:10

    The whole truth and nothing but the truth!! An excellent well written article!!!

  • darren pratt
    January 06, 2014 - 20:43

    thnx for being so honest and true....spoken like a true leader...so good luk in life and may the creator bless ur heart and soul...ur friend me :)

  • Joan Mckenzie
    January 06, 2014 - 11:22

    Very Well Said and Written!

  • Melissa Isaac
    January 05, 2014 - 23:41

    Jessica, this is the first time I have come across a piece of writing that calmly and directly articulates what I and many other aboriginal Canadians have been unable to say for years. Thank you. I am looking forward to much more reading.

  • Anthony Johnston
    January 05, 2014 - 22:18

    Wonderfully stated Jessica. Keep writing and speaking.

  • Ida Swan
    January 05, 2014 - 21:13

    Well said, Jessica. I thank you for providing excellent information to the many readers who need to understand the treaty relationship. I enjoy reading your comments. It is very refreshing to read a column that reflects FN perspectives and understandings. Keep up the good job.

  • Douglas Newman
    January 05, 2014 - 20:51

    Thank you so much for your excellent article. I very much appreciate learning the truth of how Canada *really* came into being. As a non-aboriginal, I discover that the more I learn, the more I see that we are all *of* this land. A part *of* Mother Nature. And when the greedy extraction industries pollute and destroy just for money, We The People, need to defend our Earth Mother. It is the right thing to do! Although I cannot apologize to you for the slights and personal attacks made against you by other non-aboriginal people, I can express how sad I am to hear of it happening. There is so much misunderstanding about our two conjoined nations. Your article goes a long way toward exposing the truth so that we may all see it. Again, thank you.

  • lee bell
    January 05, 2014 - 19:48

    very interesting - read it, love it, an very proud of this article. your right about too much ignorance an miss-interpretations regarding treaties. this land was not given or sold to the Europeans - they came with nothing but what they possessed on that ship of the theirs - they had no knowledge of survival in our land , They forced genocide on our people with sword in one had an bible in the other. I too speak my mind when I come into contact with ignorance , an I do say what needs to be said , however; the difference between you and I is , you have education an I don't . I know my history from stories told an life smarts - I really appreciate that there is some one like you out there to protect our people, an that you are so young . I do wish that there well be a lot of young people reading this article an taking note of the writer . Your an inspiration an I see you going places with your knowledge , continue on your path an stay strong , the creator is an well look after you on your path to protecting what is rightfully ours to date. An no, we are not free loaders of the government , we are the landlords of this land an always will be. The biggest welfare receipents are sitting in London, France . when they say that we have our hands out all the time , they need to think again. With the good grace of the creator - we lent a helping hand an look what they did. Mother Earth is very sick at the hands of the non-natives development. We are left standing on highways an road sides to get attention from the destructors. I see the billions of dollars that well be prospered with what they have in mind and that is all they are about MONEY. So with this I well like to say "KEEP UP WITH YOUR STUDIES AN THE GOOD WORK" I well always keep you in my prayers an in my heart. hum metokiyape -wombidee sapa meya

  • Dennis
    January 05, 2014 - 15:47

    Interesting article unfortunately it's not true I've read all the treaties regarding Saskatchewan. There is 5 they are nott living breathing entities it's a legal binding contract that has never been changed since they were written. First Nations have been granted many more things not addressed in the treaties but the treaties themselves have been changed. This movement is only about cash an attempt at getting a better deal. It doesn't do one goddamn thing to address social problems or education or racism. It's a cash grab plain and simple. Sorry but money won't solve any of these issues. Especially money for nothing. Without education and employment nothing will ever change.

    • G Houle
      January 05, 2014 - 20:14

      You cannot change the treaties they were signed in 1871, they are inducted into the constitution know as Aboriginal Law and Title..Read it you may learn something. It is always the ignorance of people such as this who spread unknown facts that do not make it true.

    • Patrick Heavenfire
      January 06, 2014 - 12:53

      Can I use this for my essay in my class?. . .just kidding. You have wondrous insight, and expressing in an editorial that a lot of people read is the best way of opening eyes. I commend your courage to share the truth with the little society that it reaches. We need more individuals like yourself.

  • Lillian McNab
    January 05, 2014 - 15:40

    100% RIGHT and I agree to say it the way it is!

  • Delia Harper
    January 05, 2014 - 13:24

    Thanks for the article. We need to stand up to the ignorance of non First Nations who don't see our point of view.

  • richard
    January 05, 2014 - 12:08

    Your article is quite interesting. The only thing I might add, is that the Canadians in power never meant to honor the treaties. Powerful people know the pen is mightier than the sword and use this to stay in power and gain more power. They are masters at deception, divide & conquer, and a host of other means to retain power. They are the few, but rule and control the world and its resources. They can never be reasoned with, their entire existence is about power and control. Thanks for your writing, it means the masses are waking up.

  • Wanda Hauck
    January 05, 2014 - 12:07

    Unbelievable!!!! growing up in the foster system of white peoples homes I learned racism of my own culture and people, but learning all this as I age I make sure to let my children know the truth and not be ashamed of who they are. I hated being Native and was made to feel second class. I cant even connect with Natives because city and Res Natives are totally different and I feel prejudice from my own people and im not a white person so where do people like me fit in. im glad to finally learn the truth and wonder what I can do to help. I can finally be proud of who I am (not prejudiced either) I see people not race or religion but still feel the sting of being Native even considered an apple.Thank you for discussing those difficult topics because its time people opened up their eyes to the truth and work to the future promised all Canadians

  • Helene Youmans
    January 05, 2014 - 11:55

    This is the first time that the treaties done by our former elders (white and native) have been so well explained. At 77 I am learning something new, what a wonderful feeling. Now this should be explained to each and every Canadian both white and native and others and maybe then we can understand each other better. Thank you for your wonderful way of telling it the way it is. Happy New Year

  • Chris Bransfield
    January 05, 2014 - 11:47

    That was beautiful.... so positive. I will definitely check out that book.

  • Paula
    January 05, 2014 - 10:39

    Thanks for speaking the truth. I noticed most of the positive comments were from articulate and educated first nations people. I wonder how long it will take before the ignorant racist half -baked and semi -literate defensive comments start.

  • chris norman
    January 05, 2014 - 10:00

    History has been written by the conquerors, and the treaties were written in their favour to allow them to continually oppress the people. If they were so concerned about equality of life and living side by side learning from one another, it has never reared it's head in my life time. The treaties and the corruption of the tribal elders as they were indoctrinated into the governmental way of doing things is what has created poverty. Ensure the survival of the next seven generations...if we truly lived side by side this would be understood by now, and poverty wouldn't exist. If history told the truth we would see a much different world today, remember that. History favours the psychotic, they do and say what they like for they have conquered all. But they lie, they steal, they murder, rape and molest children. And in turn invoke these same cycles of abuse on those they conquer. History is like their bible, full of contradiction and deceit. That brings the world to it's knees while they take all to live in luxury leaving the rest in confusion of interpretation. Since the bible can be proved wrong, history likewise...the only thing that keeps them in power is brutality and neglect. Have you ever tried talking to the average canadian about the genocide and child molestation they inherit by simply being a part of this canadian patriotic system? By all rights if they wanted to live side by side in harmony and peace more then half of the entire continent should be given back. If I may quote Nelson Mandela "Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

  • John
    January 05, 2014 - 05:45

    Well written. It really shows you know your history and have done your homework. Very nice to see people standing up for their people.

  • The Rev. Canon Dr. Murray Still
    January 05, 2014 - 01:26

    Many thanks for your well written column Jennifer. You have a good grasp on the nature of treaties and how they were understood as "nation" to "nation." Certain promises were made to First Nations and those treaties were understood to be in place as the grass continued to grow and the rivers flowed. Both are still happening. I read an interesting book on the treaties, written by an Indigenous lawyer. "Breathing Life into the Stone Fort Treaty: An Anishinabe Understanding of Treaty One," by Aimee Craft. I once heard John Ralston Saul say that as Canadians we are all "treaty" people and we should recognize and understand the importance of the First Nations history and how we are shaped by it. I am a First Nations treaty Indian from Peguis First Naiton and living in Winnipeg. In the Anglican Church of Canada, we are on a healing journey from the dark experience of Residential Schools. We have a very long way to go, but progress is being made. We now have our own National Indigenous Anglican Bishop in Mark MacDonald, and a new diocese in northern Ontario with Lydia Mamakwa as its Indigenous bishop. We have also raised up other Indigenous bishops over time...Charlie Arthurson in northern Saskatchewan, Adam Halkett in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Barbara Andrews in B.C. and Sue Moxley in Nova Scotia. We have changed the structure of our church to accommodate our Sacred Circles and Council of Indigenous People and we are looking at area missions with Area bishops in Manitoba and B.C. The federal government and the churches all issued their apologies and litigation resulted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Reconciliation is a long way off, but if we can start with a correct understanding of our own history in our school curricula and a deliberate effort to see each other, Indigenous and non-Indigenous as equals, we will go a long way toward reconciliation. Only then will we all truly be Treaty People.

  • catharine Volpe
    January 04, 2014 - 23:24

    Thankyou for speaking the truth.. Proud Of you..

  • Donna
    January 04, 2014 - 23:18

    Well written article Jessica, two thumbs up.

  • Anthony Williams
    January 04, 2014 - 21:47

    Very well written.

  • Stewart Martin
    January 04, 2014 - 21:18

    Absolutely wonderful article. I don't believe in pussy footing around issues either to stroke egos. These things must be said unless we want ignorance to be a part of our lives forever. Treaty education is needed in schools. That is the time to start the education process. You should consider doing teach ins and speaking on Treaty. We all benefit when we understand each other. I love to educate people and I love being educated by people like you. Keep up the good work. Stewart Martin President - Local 48 Metis Nation Saskatchewan. P.S. if there is a way to subscribe me to your column please do it.

  • Stewart Martin
    January 04, 2014 - 21:17

    Absolutely wonderful article. I don't believe in pussy footing around issues either to stroke egos. These things must be said unless we want ignorance to be a part of our lives forever. Treaty education is needed in schools. That is the time to start the education process. You should consider doing teach ins and speaking on Treaty. We all benefit when we understand each other. I love to educate people and I love being educated by people like you. Keep up the good work. Stewart Martin President - Local 48 Metis Nation Saskatchewan. P.S. if there is a way to subscribe me to your column please do it.

  • Colin
    January 04, 2014 - 21:10

    May I use a comment for my book?

  • Jerry G
    January 04, 2014 - 21:07

    This Article was very well written. It doesn't leave any stones unturned and hits the nail right on the head...Thanx for re affirming my beliefs...

  • Sharon
    January 04, 2014 - 20:55

    Will said Jessica.....

  • Christopher Beach
    January 04, 2014 - 20:37

    I am a educator in Manitoba and have recently retired from the Winnipeg School Division. I am also the the writer of the book, "Indian Joe Blow". I am a registered Indian from the Lake Manitoba IR. Many of my co-werkers have been under the impression that I do not pay taxes. They do not realize that tax exemption only applies to Indians who live and work on reservations. Most working Aboeiginal people cannot find employment on reserve because the unemployment rate is over 90 percent. Thus they must seek employment off reserve and pay the same amount of taxes as any other people who live in this great country. All my life, I also have paid my fair share of taxes. Also, the treaties that were signed, many non-Aboriginals seem to believe that it was some how a legal bill of sale to the land. When, as you have written, it was an agreement to share the land and resources. Thank you so very much for standing up and setting the record straight.

  • Alison ballentyne
    January 04, 2014 - 19:41

    Well written, well said, and so true!! Thank you!

  • Mike Durocher
    January 04, 2014 - 17:26

    So well said Jessica. Yes, all Treaties signed with First Nations were dealt as Nation to Nation. What was agreed upon were oral agreements made into notes, minutes of meetings between the two or more parties. These notes were returned to Ottawa where written forms of the treaties were drafted then returned a year or more later to be signed by all involved. This is where changes were made in favour if the Queen and Canada. This is where the fraud originated. Hence these agreements could be deemed null and void because of the high handedness of the government against First Nations.

  • Terri Lavallee
    January 04, 2014 - 16:28

    I totally agree with Lori Campbell.

  • Myrna Durocher
    January 04, 2014 - 16:16

    I really enjoyed reading your article Jess :) Ignore the negative!

  • Terry Ledoux
    January 04, 2014 - 16:11

    Thank you for writing this article. Many people do not understand the Treaties at all, and are very biased especially when they're living under the absurd notion of "white privilege"...to me, the British were the most aggressive colonizers and wherever they went and established colonies, they created mayhem...many cultures and peoples were destroyed all in the name of colonization. They used manipulative tactics which include genocide, starvation, disease, and war to kill off the Aboriginal peoples just to "conquer" and steal their lands.

  • Terry Ledoux
    January 04, 2014 - 16:10

    Thank you for writing this article. Many people do not understand the Treaties at all, and are very biased especially when they're living under the absurd notion of "white privilege"...to me, the British were the most aggressive colonizers and wherever they went and established colonies, they created mayhem...many cultures and peoples were destroyed all in the name of colonization. They used manipulative tactics which include genocide, starvation, disease, and war to kill off the Aboriginal peoples just to "conquer" and steal their lands.

  • russell
    January 04, 2014 - 16:05

    Iam indigenous My peoples' my lands have been occupied illeagally for decades by a goverment and society which tires to rob me of my identity and lands.They have attempted genocide on my people and culture in order to control, dominate and exploit my lands for profit,in order fund their attempt to control, dominate and exploit the human species. My people have a suicide rate 10 times the national average.My people make up 40% of the prisoners incarcerated and only 3% of the population in what is now called Canada.Over 100 communites of my fellow indigenous people in canada can't drink the water that comes from their taps because it is toxic. I am subjected to racism and stereotyped as being lazy, stupid, inferior, ungrateful, hostile, drunk, dont pay taxes, and i get everything givin to me. my lands are being occupied by a public which remains ingnorant or silent about the injustice I live with every moment od every day. I am silenced or minimized in the occupy movement frequently as my issues of injustice transcend into mere financil concerns. I am Indingenous and I am the "un-%"

  • albert king
    January 04, 2014 - 10:36

    Thank you for the columns that you write. I look forward to reading you well written articles. I am trying to read what you say with an open mind.

  • David G McRae
    January 03, 2014 - 17:05

    Thank you Jessica , for such a much needed column on a topic that the whole country needs to be enlightened on. You were quite right in disagreeing with that person and his suggestions.

  • Greg Lanick
    January 03, 2014 - 14:17

    I disagree with most of wht you just said. I'm not of European anscestory. I moved to North America fifteen years ago. I've studied the issues around "Aboriginal Affairs". I'm sorry, from where I'm standing, your people were conquered. Deal with it. Is your life so bad? Is there anything stopping aboriginal people from making something of themselves? Put your money where your mouth is and go get a job and become a functional member of the current society (Canada).

    • Lori Campbell
      January 04, 2014 - 11:42

      Greg, perhaps your intelligence has held you back in understanding Canadian history. Unlike the USA, Colonizers in Canada chose not to have wars with the Aboriginal people and decided to make nation to nation treaties. It is too bad the Canadian government does not require a national history test for foreigners before we allow them in.

    • jeromy desj
      January 04, 2014 - 14:09

      you moved here 15 years ago? and you know whats going on i beg to differ i am a 33 year old native american was born here in canada ,i grew up in cities not the reserve i had to grow up beside people that never did nor never will understand what we went and are going through.80% of the people who taught me in school held a grudge against me i was singled out and in trouble for alot less then the average student and this continued until i moved home when i was about 13 and when to school with other native students and for the first time native teachers.starting to see native teachers in white schools but not so often.what im getting at is we as a people couldnt vote until the 70s so if your not allowed to vote your not allowed to own a business outside of the reserve or your not allowed to get a fair education until recently , so we are hundreds of years behind society still today.we have very few lawyers and even fewer judges. with that said i left home and returned to the cities to make my fortune and make a name for myself, unfortunately armed with a grade 12 ,drivers licence, no criminal record,i could not find a job to take care of my family infact if i went on welfare my family would atleast have the bills paid,but i would rather work for my kids then sit on welfare.so i continued and still with 8 years experience ,gr 12,licence,and my c pic i could not get a job in 2011 for more than 12$ per hour so the only way is start my own business it is the only way i can work and be paid even close to fairly and look after my family .i have my company i work everday and i had 20,000 cash and icould not find a bank that would help me buy a home and put an end to renting.so now with a business i still cant get what most canadians have,unfortunately we natives do not have wealthy family that can co-sign any loan maybe for a car but i dont want a brand new car i want a home so i dont have to pay 2000 rent so my family can live mildly comfortable.i work hard i created something out of nothing, the terrible part is i am still not trusted by most whites because i have long hair, i am looked at like they are afraid and not until i speak to them do they understand i am a good hearted hard working man..i am tired of ignorant people saying we should work for what we get , the sad part is i will continue to work hard with my own company and may never achieve what a 18 year old white kid with a 30$ an hour job that his uncle got him, i know because i saw it with my own eyes i seen an 19 year old get a 400,000 home for a wedding gift. i am not saying these people dont deserve all they were given,im just saying they had hundreds of years to create wealth my company native owned and operated is only 1 and a half years old give us some time to catch up atleast before you judge and say we as a people are lazy.

    • Micheal Langan
      January 04, 2014 - 21:33

      Greg, it seems you haven't done any research at all. It's quite hilarious you talk about "studied" but show a lack of any type of this activity/ educational process. "Is there anything stopping aboriginal people from making something of themselves?" Greg, If you would of done any studying towards these issues, you would of already know the answer to this. " Put your money where your mouth is and go get a job and become a functional member of the current society." Greg, your talk and words are generalizing an entire population with this very UN-educated comment. GREG! Get and education on these issues, you're making yourself look like and idiot.

    • Joseph Vicaire
      January 04, 2014 - 22:02

      Go back where yu come from yur too ignorant for Canada.

    • Pearl
      January 05, 2014 - 06:14

      It is best not to argue with ignorant immigrants like Greg. Because they obviously don't know what the hell they are talking about.

    • Pearl
      January 05, 2014 - 06:16

      It is best not to argue with ignorant immigrants like Greg. Because they obviously don't know what the hell they are talking about.

    • Rose
      January 05, 2014 - 09:26

      I guess you're not understanding whatever it is you're reading.Your ignorance is an open book now.

    • Anne
      January 05, 2014 - 15:14

      We as a people were " internally colonized" but were never conquered. Greg, open your ears and eyes and learn about First Nations peoples before you make sweeping, uneducated remarks.

    • Lee Deranger
      January 05, 2014 - 17:26

      Greg, if you're interested in learning about the basics (instead of buying into the stereotypes) this is an excellent link to more information: http://apihtawikosisan.com/aboriginal-issue-primers/ I hope you read it, as it is quite educational.

    • Dotty B
      January 05, 2014 - 19:44

      Thank you Michael Langan. I agree Greg has no idea what he's talking about and my first thought was...WHAT AN IDIOT!

    • Gary Schoenfeldt
      January 06, 2014 - 22:28

      Greg, unless your "studies" have reached their conclusion, I suggest that Lee Deranger's advice (and suggested reading materials)should be taken in the spirit in which it was given. As the descendent of 5 generations of settlers, I have spent 60 years trying to get the history straight and I still feel that I only have learned a fraction of what I need to know in order to fully appreciate my own treaty rights. Jessica's article is lucid, straightforward and easily understood. It could make a handsome introduction or preface to any history book on the topic.

    • gordE
      January 07, 2014 - 13:39

      I appreciate your insightfulness to our historical and contemporary relationship with Canadian society. In reference to Mr. Greg Lanick, welcome to our land, first of all," sorry", we did not welcome you to this land at Canadian Immigration, but you are now part of the Canadian melting pot(mosaic) and cultural assimilation(Multiculturalism). You are just another ethnic, special interest, and newly landed immigrant to this continent. You need to conform and embrace your new identity. The Indigenous peoples of this country are not a part of the Canadian concept of multiculturalism and most definitely not just another ethnic and interest groups as others. Just saying.