An examination of Indigenous dependence
Thank you, Pim Wiebel, for this honest and revealing (and courageous) article. I've read Rez Rules and found it interesting and helpful in explaining what chiefs and councils are up against in terms of rez politics (his chapter on the per capita issue is particularly enlightening). For those who haven't yet had a chance to read it, I recommend it (available at libraries), but be aware that there's a mix of honesty AND toeing the narrative line (especially, as Wiebel mentions, with respect to scapegoating residential schools). You can understand why Chief Louie had to do that, and it's even evident in his subtitle: Rez Rules: My Indictment of Canada’s and America’s Systemic Racism Against Indigenous Peoples. He MAY have been genuinely captured by the narrative, but it's more likely he just has to maintain good relationships with his fellow band members. Who can blame him? I think he's trying to push the envelope, but he has to stay alive to continue to make a difference.
He does get quite bold in the following paragraphs relating to residential schools (which I realize is a little off the topic of economics, but I want to make these excerpts available to folks who don't have ready access to the book):
p. 101 (and onward)
"I have talked to many residential school survivors and have found that, of course, not all of their experiences were the same. Some have told me their residential school experience was not as bad as if they’d stayed at home, where there was a lot of alcoholism and kids were left hungry and cold. Some were glad to get away, and some parents were glad to be rid of their responsibilities, actually dragging their kids to the train or cattle truck that would take them away. For the vast majority, however, residential school was the worst experience of their lives.
"Growing up on a Rez where a majority of the adults had suffered residential school abuse, I did not know or understand at the time where their anger, jealousy, and rage were coming from. The constant drinking, the thoughtlessness of parents leaving their kids for days, sometimes weeks, to fend for themselves. Today we look on this lack of parenting skills as the obvious result of the residential school experience: these people could not possibly have picked up such skills, as they were taken from the parents who might have passed them on. The post-traumatic stress is undeniable. Parents today would be arrested if they treated their kids with the kind of neglect that was happening on the reserves in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. . . .
"But although the Canadian and American governments were responsible for the cultural genocide, a question that is seldom asked is, Why didn’t Native leadership or the parents do more to prevent their kids from being taken away? Mohawk journalist and residential school survivor Doug George-Kanentiio addressed this issue following the completion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. The Commission, he wrote, failed in this important area “because it left out the active participation of the Band councils in removing the children from their homes.” He continued:
[This paragraph is George-Kanentiio being quoted:] No Native person, then in authority, has ever been questioned about why they went along with these removals or why they never, to my knowledge, asked what was being done to the children in those schools. In all those bitter months as an inmate at the Mohawk Institute (located on Six Nations land in Brantford, Ontario) no Native official of any kind bothered to investigate our situation. The Cree and Mohawk boys and girls would sit near the windows looking down that manicured driveway for some adult to come to our aide [sic] yet no one did. The last we saw of the Band councils was their hiring of someone to place us on those trains and expect us, as ten-year-olds, to find our way 350 miles from home to the Institute. We wanted to know why the Commission did not hold Native officials culpable … it was disturbing to us that the Mohawk people, the chiefs and others, did nothing to stand in defence of their children, that which is most sacred to any community.
[Back to Clarence Louie’s commentary:]
When I asked my gramma what she remembered about kids being sent to residential school, she said, “I would see some parents dragging their kids crying to the train or bus and pushing their kids away.” I asked, why would parents do that to their kids? My gramma replied, “So they could go drinking.” I know some parents were threatened with jail if they didn’t send their kids to residential school in the early years, but in the later years that was not the case. I know most of my people were poor and had trouble putting food on the table. Some parents wrongly thought their kids would eat better and get a better education in residential/boarding schools.
[me again:] Sorry, this got to be rather a long comment! I had transcribed some of these passages before returning the book to the library last fall, in case I wanted to refer back to them.
Until now, I had no idea that the amount of money paid by hardworking taxpayers to support Indian bands was so enormous. This only raises my level of disagreement over the need for reserves at all.
These people have no pride in asking for and accepting the dough. What a disgrace. Thanks for the eye-opener.
Chief Louie is a good publicist for his corporate-welfare enterprise known as the OIB. He falsely blames residential schools and current government practices for problems on the reserve, but he is pointing indigenous communities toward a self-sufficient future, hopefully without special rights and with the Indian Act no longer existence.
Oh. Well, that's disappointing.