Posts tagged ‘Aboriginal’

Anishinaabe Teachings are within reach

What are “teachings”?

It’s a simple enough question that has a vast array of answers.

Some Anishinaabeg people think a teaching is a form of unsolicited, mystic wisdom. You sign up for a weekend event or conference, someone will no doubt provide you with some teachings.

Some think teachings are what a knowledgeable speaker says at a pow-wow. Some think it is anything that is said in a ceremony. If you go to enough ceremonies – you’ll have your share of teachings. While many others think it is history or individual knowledge given in the “oral tradition”.

Some will go so far as saying that teachings are anything that an Elder says. Well, there are just as many definitions of “Elder” as there are for “teachings”. Some think The Elder is KISS’ worst studio album.

The teachings that I’m speaking of don’t come from any unsolicited, mystic wisdom. The teachings that I’m writing about don’t come from individual knowledge or someone’s life stories.

The teachings that I’m speaking of are a specific set of indigenous knowledge. In this case, Anishinaabe indigenous knowledge.

These teachings have specific wording in the Anishinaabemowin language. These teachings don’t change. Sure, words can evolve over time and can be translated – but their meaning is always the same when they are given. These teachings have an origin and a specific story of their own. They also have corresponding traditional songs. Beautiful songs. Each teachings has a specific place among a multitude of places. They also have innumerable specific purposes. The teachings that I’m speaking of don’t come at random.

Believed me, these are quite different from the teachings you receive from your local Elder around the pow-wow campfire.

I’ll draw a parallel from Christianity.

Jesus Christ has teachings. Those teachings come from the Holy Bible – which is the source of Christian wisdom and contain a specific set of teachings from the Christian Lord.

But if I were to say that: Jesus came to me in a dream last night – and said that we must all wear yellow socks in honour of the crucifixion. In that dream, Jesus himself lifted his golden robe and showed me his yellow socks – which were soothing his sacred wounds. He said: “Wearing these yellow socks should be part of your ritual stigmata.” He spoke to me in ancient Arimaic, which I fully understand and speak in my dreams.

Most Christians would say “B*llsh*t!” – no matter how believable I am while I testify with my arms to the sky. And rightly so.

But when an “Elder” comes forward, honourarium paid for by the band office, and provides our communities with “teachings” – we gather in droves, like he or she is distributing loaves and fishes.

No matter how many “Elders”, “teachers”, “shamans”, “mystics”, “traditional people” and “consultants” you consult – there is only one true source of our original, Anishinaabeg teachings. The Midewiwin Lodge.

The Midewiwin, the “way of the heart”, is a society that was given the role to teach, practice and preserve the traditional knowledge and original spiritual way of the Anishinaabe people.  The Midewiwin is the source of our Creation Story, the story of Waynaboozhoo, our Clan System and the Seven Grandfather Teachings.  The Midewiwin hold these teachings in trust for all Anishinaabe people. In fact, our teachings tell us that the Spirit of this Lodge, Mide-mnidoo, was provided to the Anishinaabeg by the Creator to look after us and provide us with a sense of closeness and kinship to G’zhemnidoo.

We have something else in common with Christians. Anishinaabe teachings are indeed written down – contrary to the many people out there that think everything Indian people are taught comes down in the so-called oral tradition.

The wigwaas (birchbark) scrolls are an incredible record of Anishinaabe indigenous knowledge. I’ve seen these scrolls with my own eyes, and held them with my own hands. They are an incredible record of our Creation story, our history as well as our vibrant, Spiritual past and sacred teachings. Some scrolls, corresponding teachings and songs are a record of our original instructions given to us directly from the Creator. We may lack a Moses but we have our very own Anishinaabe ten commandments! Well actually, a great deal more than ten.

The Anishinaabe are no different that any other indigenous nation. Many other nations have traditional societies that look after their traditional knowledge and teachings. The best example is the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) people. The source of their knowledge is the Longhouse. No one can purport to provide Mohawk teachings or Oneida wisdom without being a sanctioned member of the Longhouse. If they did, they’d be quickly called on it: “B*llsh*t!”

Unfortunately, for the Anishinaabe, our traditional knowledge is very old and is long lost in almost every single one of our communities. Our history and prophesies tell us that the Midewiwin foreseen what would happen to our people and our ancestors chose to hide our ways and keep them secret. Unfortunately, that also worked against us. Our ways and knowledge were simply were forgotten. Our indigenous knowledge and traditional societies have long since been taken away from us and labeled as devil-worship. The Midewiwin have been replaced by more civilized values and Christianity.

However, as more and more Anishinaabe people are regaining their identity – they are seeking to learn more about their traditional ways. Some are choosing to return to those ways entirely. Sadly, a great many people – confused by the melting pot of “Aboriginal” knowledge – are swept up by new age and pow-wow spirituality. Other Anishinaabe people choose to live a hybrid life attending a plethora of ceremonies, fasting, sweat lodges, sun dances, rain dances, and round dances belonging to other nations. However, this makes them quite healthy and happy and it provides many people with fulfillment in their lives. Many are oblivious to the fact that their practices are borrowed from other nations.

However, within reach – and right under their noses – is true, Anishinaabe knowledge.

Still, many people simply don’t want to put in the work it requires to earn this knowledge. Many feel the Midewiwin are a secret society, or a selfish, protective cult holding this knowledge for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All Anishinaabe people are entitled to this knowledge and are welcome to study all the Spirit will offer. However, it requires time, effort, a commitment to the society and a commitment to living a good and just life. As our Grand Chief Bawdwaywidun has always said – if you want to know: “Come to the Lodge.”

Everyday should be Earth Day for Anishinaabe

According to Anishinaabe teachings, at the time of Creation, human-kind was given a number of sacred and indispensable gifts from the Creator.

We were all given the sacred gift of life providing us the opportunity to live life to the fullest in a good way – mno-bimaadziwin.  We were all given the sacred gift of water – our lifeblood – which nurtures us even before we are born.  Our teachings tell us this beautiful, clean water is forever flowing to us directly from the Spirit World.

One of the most sacred gifts that was given to human-kind – intellect – was given for a specific purpose: so we can be environmentalists.

Let me explain.

God created heaven and earth in seven days.  This is a Christian metaphor for millions and millions of years of evolution.  Our teachings tell us that Creation is ongoing and will never complete.  The Creator who we call G’zhemnidoo, will always be a creator.  At one point, the Creator felt the need to create human-kind and place us on the physical Earth.  To which there was a specific purpose and a specific instruction:  To look after Earth and all her bounty.  To speak for what needed speaking.  To be stewards and caretakers of Mother Earth.  This formed part of a sacred covenant between G’zhemnidoo and human-kind.

Sixty-five million years later, through many stages of mammalian and primate evolution – the hominid species emerged.

However, something made us different than other animals.  We were able to adapt and survive with more than just basic instinct.  We were able to work collectively.  We were able to make and use tools.  We were able to develop complex language and communication.  This sacred gift of intellect was the means in which human-kind was to abide those sacred instructions to be stewards of Mother Earth.

From the time when were able to dance around a fire, or keep warm by wrapping ourselves in animal skins – it didn’t take much longer to become the most dominant species on the planet.

However, that same gift of intellect ultimately made us the greatest enemy of Mother Earth.

It began by using our abilities to wage war with one another.  To hunt animals to extinction.  To burn, cut down and develop entire forests.  To live collectively in cities and eliminating our waste on the land and into the water.  It has only be in the past two hundred years – which started by burning coal to create steam – that we’ve hurt our Mother in the most grievous way with little to no accountability and thought to long-term consequences.

We’ve celebrated the gift of intellect with progress, innovation and industrialization leading to unsustainability, pollution and climate change.

As citizens of the Earth, we need to return to our original instructions.  We don’t need to turn in our car, go back to living in a wigwaam, dance around a fire or keep warm by wrapping ourselves in animal skins.

However, we do need to celebrate the gift of intellect with progress, innovation and industrialization of our sacred duty to be stewards of the Earth.

We must take our great minds – within our Nation and around the world – and use our intellect to achieve progress towards environmental sustainability.  To find more innovative ways of protecting our Earth.  To industrialize the protection of Mother Earth through corporate responsibility, significant reductions in carbon emissions and sensible and effective environmental legislation and regulations.

For the Anishinaabe, everyday should be Earth Day.  An important part of our original instructions were to speak for what needed speaking.  We need to be role models for the rest of society by taking our environmental responsibilities and sacred duty seriously.

We also need to take personal responsibility.  Environmental activism begins with ourselves and in our homes.

Take water for example.  Anishinaabe women teach us that protecting the water begins with protecting ourselves.  Nourish your body with plenty of water beginning with that first drink to break your fast in the morning.  Stop filling our bodies with chemicals and processed foods and nourish ourselves with organic and sustainably-harvested foods.  Return to eating traditional foods that are harvested in a responsible way.

I don’t want to preach, but there are plenty of things that we call all do.  Reduce, reuse and recycle.  If your rez doesn’t have a recycling program – demand one.  Develop your own recycling regimen.  Buy products with less packaging.  Reuse various household materials.  Use less energy.  Walk to the corner store instead of taking the truck.

To make a difference, all that is required is some personal motivation, some common sense and a little intellect.

John Beaucage to advise on needs of aboriginal youth

By Tanya Talaga
Queen’s Park Bureau, Toronto Star

For the first time, Ontario has appointed a special advisor to the government on the plight of aboriginal youth.

John Beaucage, former grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, will be the aboriginal advisor on child welfare, reporting to Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten.

“This is a very important step and reflective to the significance we place on finding solutions to the very challenging issues that do exist, both in the north but also in our urban centres,” Broten told the Star.

Staggering youth suicide rates in remote northern communities and funding problems among First Nations children’s aid societies will be a focus for Beaucage. His one-year appointment coincides with an ongoing review of the Child and Family Services Act. The review hones in on the situation of aboriginal kids.

It would be a mistake to believe all the problems among First Nations children could be solved in a year, said Beaucage. Children in the north often grow up in Third World conditions, coping with poverty, substance abuse, inferior education and despair. Those problems often follow aboriginals off the reserve and into the cities.

“The problems have been there for a long time,” he said in an interview from Ottawa. “But what I am hoping is there will be a more inclusive process with First Nations leadership and leadership with urban aboriginal people.”

Nearly 21 per cent of Ontario’s 9,000 Crown wards are aboriginal kids or children with First Nations heritage. There are six aboriginal children’s aid societies and many struggle to manage historic funding inequities while taking care of vulnerable kids.

On Wednesday, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies called improved services for aboriginal children one of three priority areas the province needs to tackle now.

A Star investigation last year focused on the troubles of Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services which nearly shut its doors because it could no longer afford to pay its bills. The agency was also confronting a teen suicide crisis – 13 youth in the remote communities dotting the James Bay coastline committed suicide in 2009, all by hanging.

Suicides among First Nations youth is a societal problem with no easy answers. “It is always something there that is lurking”, said Beaucage.

“I have experienced it, I’ve seen it and I would be remiss if I wasn’t able to make some kind of comment on it, speak to elders and to look at the traditional aspects of prevention of these horrible tragedies,” he said.

Broten did step in to help with Payukotayno’s $2.3 million debt. Costs are higher in remote agencies that often service fly-in only communities and have to charter planes in a moments notice to rescue a child in danger.

After the Star series appeared, Broten also provided funding for four suicide prevention workers.

But agencies serving First Nations communities are historically underfunded. An independent review prepared for the government in 2006 showed Payukotayno and Tikinagan Children and Family Services required a baseline funding increase of $24.6 million to give northern kids the same level of care Crown wards in the south receive.
A three-person committee is also studying the funding woes of all of Ontario’s 53 children’s aid societies, 49 of which have recently faced shortfalls.

Terry Waboose, deputy grand chief, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, called Beaucage’s appointment a positive step. “It is vitally important for us, child welfare is a big issue,” he said. “I see this as a positive step.”

Why I’m an angry Native

By Jessica Lee

Right now I’m owning the title/stereotype/image/whatever you conjure up in your mind about “angry Natives” because along with the usual colonial-type affronts to our people and communities, there are some notable racist extremities happening across Canada as of late. Initially I felt like there was just way too much going on to even write a single post about – but I thought to at least round up a few of the points of why I’m so flippin’, screaming, ANGRY that may shed light on what some of you may not be aware of yet. And we also need y’all to do something about this stuff in your communities too:


  • The continuous denial of racism towards Aboriginal people in the education system. A new study from the Canadian Teacher’s Federation interviewed 59 Aboriginal teachers teaching in public schools throughout the country. The teachers reported a disregard for their qualifications and capabilities, a standard lowered expectation from Aboriginal students; and general disparage of the long-lasting effects of colonization.
  • The “Free Native Extraction Service” placed on the (of course taken down now) advertising that it could “get rid of those pesky buggers with extraction services to relocate them to their habitat.” To top it off they actually illegally used a photo in their advertisement from the Native Lens Film “March Point” which I wrote about here some months back – which is, incidentally, a film about environmental justice and what Native youth are doing positively in our communities.
  • Tuberculosis is 185 times higher in the Inuit population than in the rest of Canada. I repeat 185 times the national average – according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.  The recently released data from their Tuberculosis in Canada 2008 publication shows these appalling numbers contributing factors include “inadequate housing, as a result of both overcrowding and construction ill suited to the Arctic climate, and immune systems severely compromised by a general lack of healthy, affordable food’.”
  • Harmonized Sales Tax or HST coming to the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. Not that the government ignoring treaties is news by any stretch of the mind – however this is a big one to throw out the door of rights. The imposition of HST means that instead of seeing 8 per cent provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST or PST) and 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), consumers will pay a combined 13 per cent HST. Yet for the first time since the introduction of the provincial sales tax, HST means status First Nations will be subject to the 8 per cent portion of the tax. This is a total and blatant violation of our treaty rights, not to mention the Canadian Constitution. This is a good article to find out more and you can go here to do something about it.
  • Massive cuts to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, along with other insulting highlights from the Throne Speech, which is essentially an outline of the Canadian federal government’s budget. (Sign the online petition to reinstate funding here.) The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has provided support to residential school survivors and their families for a decade, in addition to funding major projects in communities across the country. My colleagues and friends at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Inuvialuit Regional Corp in the Northwest Territories will have to axe some of their most necessary programs like health promotion and community wellness worker certification. In total it means 134 community projects across Canada will no longer provide culturally-based healing services to Aboriginal people. Oh sure Harper said he was “sorry” for residential schools in 2008, but just last year he said that Canada has no history of colonialism, so I guess this is right in line with the$199 million promised to address the legacy of residential schools not being committed to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. But don’t worry, in this same speech they said that Canada thinks the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a “pressing criminal justice priority.” Uh-huh.
  • All of the racist garbage  and lateral violence people are spewing on the internet and in person about the proposed changes to Indian Status which would restore treaty rights to about 45 000 people. This decision is based mostly off of the Sharon McIvor court case, which addressed the specific gender discrimination of the Indian Act where even after the laws were changed in 1985 to restore status to Native women who lost it if they married a non-Native man, it didn’t extend past the children of those unions.  However the new changes would now extend to grandchildren. I definitely don’t think the government should be able to regulate who is and is not considered “status”, but I don’t anymore appreciate the internalized racism that we are doing to each other by adding extra jumps and hoops to go through within the community for who is really recognized as having rights on reserve and who is not.
  • These are just some of the latest oppressive occurrences against Indigenous people in Canada. On the regular I suppose I’ll also mention since it was International Women’s Day week last week, I didn’t find it any easier to get chastised by white women at the many events I spoke at when I brought up the mostly white academic industrial complex that mainstream feminism still lies in, and really doesn’t appear to care about the origins in Indigenous societies or the realities of Indigenous women for that matter – up until now (well, sort of) since we’re all of a sudden making the media with the thousands of us being murdered and going missing.

But it’s been going on for the last 500+ years, anyways.

Le taux de suicide des jeunes Amérindiens atteint un niveau critique

par Juhie Bhatia
18 fevrier, 2010

Quand les Jeux olympiques d’hiver de 2010 à Vancouver démarreront le mois prochain, un symbole inuit représentera l’événement. Le logo des Jeux est un inukshuk moderne, une sculpture en pierre utilisée par les Inuits du Canada comme des points de repère directionnels, qui, selon les organisateurs, symbolisent l’amitié et l’espoir. Mais l’espoir semble une denrée rare pour beaucoup de jeunes autochtones au Canada. Les suicides atteignent un taux inquiétant, entraînant des situations de crise dans quelques communautés.

Le taux global de suicides a baissé au Canada au cours des années mais pas dans les communautés autochtones, bien que des variations importantes existent entre communautés. Les taux de suicide sont cinq à sept fois plus élevés pour des jeunes de Premières nations que pour les jeunes non autochtones, et les taux pour les jeunes inuits sont parmi les plus élevés du monde, 11 fois la moyenne nationale. Certains supposent que le problème est en fait pire, puisque les statistiques, souvent, n’incluent pas tous les groupes autochtones.

Plusieurs facteurs contribuent [en anglais] peut-être à ces taux élevés, comme l’isolement, la pauvreté et le manque de logements, de soins médicaux, de services sociaux et d’autres services essentiels. Le blog Sweetgrass Coaching, écrit par Richard Bull, blâme [en anglais] aussi la douleur et l’impuissance qui ont résulté de la colonisation :

“On ne peut pas comprendre le suicide autochtone sans examiner la colonisation. Nous, en tant que personnes autochtones, devons nous rendre compte que nous n’avions pas de taux exorbitants de suicide avant l’invasion par les Européens (le “contact” est un mot trop propre pour ce qui s’est vraiment passé).

Quand la société canadienne dit que nous sommes malades c’est comme un meurtrier psychopathe qui se plaint de quelqu’un qu’il a essayé d’étrangler à plusieurs reprises, et qui dit qu’il devrait faire quelque chose pour les marques sur son cou et voir un psychiatre pour ses cauchemars récurrents et son manque de confiance en soi.”

Quelques blogueurs mentionnent en particulier les pensionnats pour les autochtones [en anglais] du Canada, un système financé par l’État et dirigé par des églises qui ont séparé des enfants autochtones de leurs familles et leurs communautés pour les aider à s’assimiler dans les cultures euro-canadiennes. Du XIXème siècle jusqu’aux années 1970, plus de 150 000 enfants autochtones ont été tenus d’aller dans ces écoles chrétiennes. Plus tard, il a été dévoilé que beaucoup de ces enfants ont subi des violences psychologiques et sexuelles. En juin 2008, le Premier ministre Stephen Harper a présenté des excuses pour le système de pensionnats autochtones au nom du gouvernement canadien et de ses citoyens et citoyennes.

Anishinawbe Blog par Bob Goulais écrit [en anglais] que les effets des pensionnats autochtones touchent plusieurs générations et qu’ il faut ne pas les sous-estimer.

“Beaucoup de rescapés et rescapées des pensionnats autochtones et leurs familles n’ont aucune identité à part leur église et ce qu’ils ont appris à l’école. Sans identité et sans acceptation, ils sont bannis, aux marges de société. Bien que cette génération soit peut-être plus tolérante — avec l’accès à plus de programmes sociaux et plusieurs victoires concernant la politique, la loi et les droits — le mal des générations précédentes est fait. Des parents ne savent pas être des parents. Des familles ne savent pas s’aimer…

Pour bien trop de jeunes, le suicide est la solution ultime. Nous le voyons de plus en plus dans les communautés isolées du nord. C’est vraiment le commentaire le plus triste. Je ne peux pas m’imaginer jusqu’à quel point la vie est mauvaise pour qu’un garçon âgé de douze ans se pende à la balançoire du centre de loisirs. Ne pas avoir l’Amour dont il a besoin… ne pas avoir d’espoir. Savoir qu’il n’était pas le premier et qu’il ne sera pas le dernier.”

Pour lutter contre le suicide parmi des jeunes autochtones, le site web Honouring Life Network (Réseau du respect de la vie), financé par Santé Canada, a été lancé en avril 2008. Il contient des ressources pour les jeunes et les éducateurs et éducatrices, un blog [en anglais] et des histoires personnelles des jeunes autochtones, entre autres. Dans cette histoire personnelle un jeune homme parle de la mort de son frère aîné et comment elle l’a amené à envisager de se suicider.

“Au deuxième anniversaire de sa mort, je ne pouvais tout simplement plus supporter qu’il continue à me manquer comme ça. Je me suis levé très tôt le matin et j’ai marché vers l’abri de pique-nique près du lac. Un autre type s’était pendu à cet endroit il n’y avait pas si longtemps. Je sentais comme si le lac était la dernière chose que je voulais voir.

Mon voisin était à dehors à ce moment là et il a commencé à me parler ; j’imagine qu’il a vu que quelque chose n’allait pas. Il n’arrêtait pas de me parler et de me parler encore ; puis il a réveillé mes parents. Je ne leur ai jamais vraiment dit ce que je m’apprêtais à faire, mais quelque part ils s’en doutaient. Cela a été un gros choc pour nous tous et cela nous a réveillé.

Nous sommes alors lancés dans le processus de guérison traditionnelle ; mon père et moi sommes allés à la cabane à suer avec d’autres hommes [ndt : rite traditionnel ]. Je n’en parlerai pas parce que c’est privé. Et ma mère suit le processus aussi en brûlant de la sauge et du foin, ce qui empeste la maison ; mais ça va parce qu’elle est redevenue ma maman comme avant.”

Suicidios entre jóvenes aborígenes llegan a niveles críticos

Por Juhie Bhatia
18 de febrero, 2010

El próximo mes, cuando se inicien las Olimpiadas de Invierno de Vancouver 2010, un símbolo aborígen representará a los juegos. El logo de los juegos es un inukshuk contemporáneo, una escultura en piedra usada por el pueblo inuit de Canadá como monumentos direccionales, que los organizadores dicen que simboliza la amistad y la esperanza. Pero esperanza es algo que parece que les falta a muchos jóvenes aborígenes en Canadá, pues el suicidio sigue ocurriendo en índices alarmantes, lo que está llevando a situaciones críticas en algunas comunidades.

Los índices de suicidios han disminuido en Canadá con el paso de los años, pero no en las comunidades aborígenes, aunque hay una gran variación entre comunidades. Los índices de suicidios son de cinco a siete veces mayores para los jóvenes de las Naciones Originarias que para los jóvenes no aborígenes, y los índices entre los jóvenes inuit (esquimales) están entre los más altos del mundo, 11 veces el promedio nacional. Algunos especulan que realmente el problema es peor, pues las estadísiticas no suelen incluir a todos los grupos aborígenes.

Muchos son los factores que pueden estar contribuyendo con estos altos índices, incluidos aislamiento, pobreza y falta de viviendas adecuadas, servicios de salud, servicios sociales y otros servicios básicos. El blog Sweetgrass Coaching, escrito por Richard Bull, también culpa al dolor y la impotencia resultantes de la colonización:

“No se puede entender el suicidio aborigen sin mirar a la colonización. Nosotros, como pueblo indígena, debemos darnos cuenta de que no teníamos índices altos de suicidios antes de la invasión europea (contacto es una palabra demasiado limpia para lo que pasó en realidad).

Cuando la sociedad canadiense dice que estamos enfermos, es como un asesino sicópata quejándose con alguien que ha tratado de estrangularlo repetidamente de que debería hacer algo respecto de las marcas en el cuello y ver a un psiquiatra acerca de sus pesadillas recurrentes y baja autoestima”.

Específicamente, algunos bloggers señalan a los colegios residentes de Canadá, un sistema de financiación federal administrado por las iglesias que separaron a los niños aborígenes de sus familias y comunidades para ayudarlos a adaptarse a las culturas euro-canadienses. Desde el siglo XIX hasta los años setenta, se exigió a más de 150,000 niños aborígenes a que asistieran a esos colegios cristianos. Después se reveló que muchos de esos niños soportaron maltrato físico, emocional y sexual. En junio de 2008, el Primer Ministro Stephen Harper pidió disculpas en nombre del gobierno canadiense y sus ciudadanos por el sistema de colegios residentes.

El blog Anishinawbe de Bob Goulais dice que no se debe subestimar los efectos multigeneracionales de los colegios residentes.

“Muchos sobrevivientes de los colegios residentes y sus familias no tiene identidad más allá de su iglesia y lo que aprendieron en el colegio. Sin identidad y sin aceptación, están confinados a los márgenes de la sociedad. Aunque esta generación podría tener más aceptación –con acceso a más programas sociales y numerosas victorias políticas, legales y de derechos– el daño de las generaciones pasadas ya está hecho. Los padres no seben cómo ser padres. Las familias no saben cómo Amar…

… Para demasiados jóvenes, el suicidio es la salida suprema. Eso lo vemos más en las remotas comunidades del norte. Verdaderamente, este es el comentario más triste. No puedo imaginar lo mala que debe haber sido la vida para un chico de 12 años como para que se ahorque en el columpio del centro de recreación. No tener el Amor que necesita… no tener esperanzas. Saber que no ha sido el primero y que no será el último”.

Para ayudar a combatir el suicidio entre los jóvenes aborígenes, en abril de 2008 se lanzó el sitio web Honouring Life Network (Red de homenaje a la vida), financiado por Health Canada. Contiene recursos para los jóvenes y los jóvenes trabajadores, un blog e historias personales de los jóvenes aborígenes, entre otras cosas. En esta historia personal un joven habla de cómo la muerte de su hermano mayor lo llevó a considerar acabar con su vida.

“En el segundo aniversario de su muerte, ya no sentía que lo extrañara. Me levanté temprano en la mañana y caminaba al refugio de picnic cerca del lago. Este otro tipo se había ahorcado ahí hace no mucho. Sentía como si quería que el lago fuera lo último que viera.

Pero mi vecino estaba afuera y comenzó a hablarme y creo que se dio cuenta de que algo andaba mal. Me siguió hablando y después despertó a mis padres. En realidad nunca les he dicho lo que iba a hacer pero creo que lo sabían de alguna manera. Fue un gran choque para todos nosotros y nos despertó.

Empezamos a pasar por una curación tradicional; como que mi padre y yo haríamos un sauna con los otros hombres. No voy a hablar acerca de esto porque es privado. Y mi mamá lo hace todo quemando salvia y hierbas, como que hace que la casa apeste pero creo que está bien porque es más como mi mamá de nuevo”.

Ontario natives eye stake in Hydro One expansion

Company formed by 22 first nations seeks ownership role in transmission line project

Bill Curry
Globe and Mail
From the Tuesday, February 16 edition

A collective of aboriginal communities across Ontario is angling to build and manage new electrical transmission lines as part of a major expansion of the power grid.

A group of 22 first nations recently formed the Lake Huron Anishinabek Transmission Co. and named veteran Ontario native leader John Beaucage as chief executive officer. The company is aiming to take an ownership stake in part of Hydro One’s three-year, $2.3-billion plan for 20 new transmission projects. The project is expected to create about 20,000 jobs.

The ownership initiative is one example of a growing push by native leaders across the country to work more closely with Canada’s business community. For decades, native politics has been dominated by disputes with governments over unfulfilled promises going back to the original treaties crafted by European settlers.

Many of those issues remain, but the focus is shifting. “We’re very determined,” said Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day, chair of the company’s board. “We are going to seek to obtain the full benefit of all the major transmission lines in the treaty territory.”

The McGuinty government announced the plan last September, releasing a map showing proposed transmission arteries that would run east from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury with a link to Manitoulin Island; south from Sudbury to the GTA; and a link in the northwest between Nipigon and Wawa.

Smaller lines will also be built as part of the expansion, which aims to bring remote renewable power to the province’s urban centres.

At the time, the announcement promised opportunities for aboriginal participation, but no specifics. Mr. Day said native communities have plenty of people who can do the work, but they’re also talking with non-aboriginal firms to help manage the projects.

A spokesperson for Hydro One confirmed “preliminary” talks are under way with the company and said Hydro One is interested in working with aboriginals on the transmission projects.

Development projects in Ontario, from mining in the north to housing in the south, have been abandoned in recent years due to native protests, but in this case, communities are hoping to secure an ownership role at the outset.

There’s also a new tone coming from the top. After a quiet start, Shawn Atleo, the Assembly of First Nations’ rookie National Chief, is addressing more national events this year – often on economic issues.

Last month, he was the first AFN leader to address the Toronto Board of Trade, where he told a packed room: “We’re open for business.” He’s since delivered this message to similar audiences in Vancouver and Ottawa.

Mr. Atleo’s predecessor, Phil Fontaine, started to make some of these connections during the end of his term and is now running an advisory firm that includes working with the Royal Bank of Canada.

In an interview, Mr. Atleo said the Lake Huron proposal is just the type of approach he’s encouraging: using treaties as the foundation for securing aboriginal co-ownership of development projects.

“It’s that notion that we’re in this together,” he said, citing similar examples happening across the country. “Lurching along from conflict to conflict is a pattern we all agree we need to break.”

Clint Davis, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, a 25-year-old organization that includes Canadian branches of large multinationals like PepsiCo. Inc. and Xerox Corp., said several factors are behind the rise in deal making, including: court rulings requiring consultation with aboriginals; an increased focus by companies on corporate social responsibility; the increased settlement of land claims and the fact that aboriginals and immigrants are the only sources of Canadian population growth.

The Ontario government’s transmission and energy plans will ultimately involve several arrangements with aboriginals, Mr. Davis predicted.

“I think this is just the start,” he said.

Sincerity vs. Disingenuousness

I’ve worked with quite a number of politicians over the years. During that time, I’ve met hundreds of them. I’m convinced, perhaps rather naively, that they all mean well. However, aside from the need for your vote and your money, they are all quite different. Some are brilliant while others are merely able. There are a few that seem so overwhelmed with their responsibility or their own ego, they are downright dim-witted.

For me, I can break down any politician into two categories. Category one: caring and sincere. Category two: disingenuous.

It’s those in category one that keep me motivated and willing to put in the hours throughout the campaign and election day. It’s those individuals in category two that fuels scepticism, even in me.

George Smitherman is a brash man. He’ll offer you a firm handshake and a smile but you’d better get down to business. That doesn’t mean he’s not a kind man either. The last time I seen him, he went out of his way to initiate a quick pleasant conversation with me on Bay Street.

Phil Fontaine is one of the most misunderstood people in politics. Honestly, he is one of the kindest, most sincere, giving person I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I think I still owe him $20 bucks. But Phil’s detractors unfairly paint him as some sort of villain. That’s the furthest from the truth.

Both Phil Fontaine and George Smitherman have two completely different styles and personalities, but are still in category one: they are both caring and sincere.

John Beaucage, my former boss – is untouchable in this category. Kind, caring and sincere and means it.

I’ve recently moved into the riding of Thornhill, which is going to be an intense battleground when a federal election is called later this year. This is a perfect example of sincerity vs. disingenuousness.

Dr. Karen Mock, Liberal candidate for Thornhill

Dr. Karen Mock, Liberal candidate for Thornhill


– is among the most sincere, visionary people I’ve come to know. Her smile, handshake and words mean a lot. She’ll take as much time as she can, just to get to know you and your issues. She polished but personable. I don’t expect these qualities to change in the near future.

Karen is a tireless advocate for anti-racism, human rights and diversity. She was Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation as well as the National Director of League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada. She knows her stuff.

When asked about aboriginal issues, she knows them like the back of her hand. She knows about the growing socio-economic void. She knows, first hand, about racism faced by aboriginal people.

She is the personification of category one: kind, sincere and caring. To see her at work is to be inspired.

PETER KENT – is the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas. He is the former anchor, reporter and correspondent for Global TV News in Toronto. He is polished and, I have to admit, a natural politician. However, having met him on more than a few occasions – he seems rehearsed – but not in an impressive way. It’s like his personality comes from years of TV practice.

A few months back, Jasmine, who just turned twelve, asked him about aboriginal issues at annual Thornhill Village Festival. He barely gave her the time of day and his response was not adequate, even for her. He was obviously not prepared to answer questions on aboriginal issues without a formal briefing from staff complete with prepared questions and answers.

Peter Kent is the personification of category two. On the surface he seems completely disingenuous – with a wink, smile and quick handshake to boot. Just enough to get the donation out of you and send you on your way.

But you can’t expect too much sincerity from the Harper Conservatives. We’ve all heard the words that folks like Harper use when the cameras aren’t on. To borrow a line from Michael Ignatieff, “there have always been two Harpers. The real Harper comes out when he thinks he can’t be heard.”

At least they are not the same kind of words used by Mike Harris, the king of the Conservative disingenuous. “those Fucking Indians…” If John Beaucage is at one end of the sincerity spectrum – Mike Harris is at the absolute other end.

However, not all conservatives are in category two. Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry is one of the hardest working, most genuine politicians I know. I’m happy to call him a friend. He always considers the public good in a positive, productive way.

I truly look forward to the next federal election and working with Dr. Karen Mock in Thornhill. I’ll also do my best to support Anthony Rota back home in Nipissing. Both are excellent examples of caring politicians who are most definitely cabinet material when the Liberals eventually take office. They are the reasons I continue to support the Liberal party and have hope for souls of politicians everywhere.

Diabetes trends not slowing

Diabetes kills.

It’s a disease that kills everyday and it’s been so apparent for so long.  It affects First Nations people far more than it affects non-native people. It affects far more First Nations women than any other demographic.

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal illustrates the alarming numbers of First Nations people with diabetes. It examined 8275 aboriginal people in Saskatchewan between 1980 and 2005. It compared the trends with 82,306 non-native people over the same time period.

The study found that in 2005, 20 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men living in First Nations communities had Type-2 diabetes. That was an increase in 9.5 percent of women and 4.9 per cent in men. These trends are not about the slow down.

It also found that the root causes of diabetes among First Nations are not necessarily genetic or hereditary. It is environmental. It was about the food we eat and the lack of exercise and care we have for our bodies.

In my short lifetime, I’ve seen the disease ravage the bodies of many of my friends, family, Elders and even not-so-Elders. I’ve seen feet amputated, legs amputated and numerous people go blind. I’ve known many people forced to go on dialysis in order to live.

I’ve also seen them die.

I wrote recently about Helen Bobiwash. The certified management accountant from Sudbury took up the sport of triathlon to improve her own health with the hopes of staving off the onset of diabetes which runs in her family. Her mom Alice died of diabetes complications at the ripe age of 73. However, it was back in 2002, that Alice had to bury her son due to complications from diabetes. Rodney Bobiwash was only 42 when he passed on to the Spirit World.

I had only known him briefly and had the pleasure of hanging out with him on occasion when I lived and worked in Toronto back in the late 90s.

Rodney was a class-act. A vibrant young leader who garnered the respect of so many, both on the urban reserve and in the wider First Nation community. He was a tireless advocate of anti-racism and First Nations rights. He was vocal against hate speech. He stood up for human rights and was even an adjudicator for the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Most of all he was a teacher who taught me something new in every one of our few talks together. He was a teacher of so many people like me.

But I never knew the affliction that he endured. Apparently he put on a brave face. He faced incredible hardship, even pain as he took on the disease. He was taken from us far too early.

Today, I have diabetes. I’m approaching my 40s. Damn it… and I missed taking my pills again this morning. I’m not a very good diabetic at all. I’ve got to start looking after myself because, no matter how hard my Loved ones try, only I can do this for myself.

We all need to heed the message of good health, especially our Anishinaabe women. As Anishinaabe men, it’s our traditional role to protect our women and children. Given these latest facts, we all need to do more to prevent diabetes and promote better health in our families and in our communities.

Unlike Helen Bobiwash, I won’t be climbing in for a cold swim, followed by a bike ride and a 10 km run anytime soon. But I will strive to listen to the doctor, exercise and take my pills everyday – so help me God.

So help me, Rodney.

Violence and Trauma in First Nations

I’ve been watching with great interest the story unfolding in Ottawa, where Constable Eric Czapnik, a father of four, was the first Ottawa Police officer to have been killed in the line of duty since 1983. His alleged assailant, Kevin Gregson is a First Nations man and a suspended RCMP officer. He has been charged with first-degree murder.

On the surface, this seems to be violent, senseless killing – apparently with a robbery motive. But there are still many questions to be answered like: who would try to rob a cop? Or why would you commit robbery in front of a cop in a police cruiser? None of this makes sense.

The likely defence here is insanity given that Gregson blamed a past criminal incident on pre-operative brain cysts. He allegedly pulled a knife and threatened a Mormon church official in Regina in 2006 and was given a conditional discharge. He hasn’t been on the job with the RCMP since.

Any crime that takes the life of another needs to be punished severely. Especially if such an action take the life of a police officer. If Gregson is guilty, so be it – native or non-native.

But what intrigues me is that Gregson is Anishinaabe. According to media reports, he describes himself as an “urban native”, meaning he is a First Nations person that lives and grow up in the city.

There is no question that being a First Nations person, the odds have been stacked against him all his life.

Trauma is a significant factor in the evolution of violence. No matter where we grew up, the reserve or the city, First Nations people are far more likely to have experienced some form of childhood trauma. Be it emotional, physical or sexual abuse, family violence, racism or the effects of poverty.

Poverty is endemic in First Nations. In Canada, one in four aboriginal children live in poverty. So many of our little ones are living in third-world conditions without adequate housing or healthy food. Children are going to school hungry. Poverty isn’t just isolated to reserves, either. The statistics are similar for aboriginal people living in urban centres.

Just imagine if one in four non-native children in Ottawa or Toronto were found to be living in poverty. I’m sure a state of emergency would be called and resources would be immediately mobilized to alleviate such a crisis.

The multi-generational effects of residential schools must not be underestimated. There are thousands of brown people with status cards, wondering why they are different. Wondering why they are confused, depressed and sick. People with no culture, no values or no hope. That was all beaten out of our parents and grandparents, yardstick by yardstick.

Many residential school survivors and their families have no identity beyond their church and what they learned in school. With no identity and without acceptance, they are banished to the margins of society. Although this generation might be more accepting – with access to more social programs and numerous political, legal and rights-based victories – the damage from the past generations has been done. Parents don’t know how to be parents. Families don’t know how to Love.

First Nations people are introduced to violence at an early age – in the home. Violence against aboriginal women continues to be a significant social issue that must be dealt with in a serious manner. First Nations youth living in cities are even more susceptible, as aboriginal street gangs are more prevalent and much more violent.

Sadly, violence is a way of life for many First Nations people. Even my relatively quiet, urbanized native community has had its share of violent confrontations and tragic endings. It has affected me and many other people on my reserve.

Addictions is another incredible factor. Alcoholism began as an early epidemic in our communities. No one knew how to handle the fire-water. It became a means to an end –to wash away the troubles of Indian life. Today, in much the same way, the youth in First Nations are dealing with their lack of identity, poverty and troubles through prescription drug abuse.

For far too many youth, suicide is the ultimate way out. We’re seeing that more in more in remote, northern communities. This is truly the saddest commentary. I can’t imagine how bad life must be for a twelve year-old Cree boy to hang himself at the recreation centre swing-set. To not have the Love he needs… to not have hope. To know that he hasn’t been the first and he won’t be the last.

This isn’t a defence of Mr. Gregson, but a reality check. There is no excuse for violence. But I think there is a significant cause and effect relationship between trauma and violence. It seems to be an unending cycle for First Nations. Violence and trauma begets violence and trauma. At some point this cycle must end.

In First Nations, something has to be done about it to protect our future generations.
Right now, there is too much emphasis on rights. Healing, wellness and reconciliation need to be the key goals for this generation and the next. If we fail at these objectives, there will be no hope for nation building and economic sustainability.