Canada: Where only the Natives drink the brown water

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Northern Cree & Friends: Canadian

“Life Must Go On“; ‘Vol. 5: Long Winter Nights‘ (2006)


Canada’s National Aboriginal Day is on June 21st, it’s something our Government gave them a few years ago so Native Groups would stop threatening to blow shit up and blocking our railways. Like most of Canada’s Grand Plans regarding Natives — this one was a 1996 initiative sponsored by the Liberal Party of Canada — it hasn’t worked.

So Natives are having their own Day this summer, and they’ve decided to call it a “National Day Of Protest“, because 200 years of negotiations with the Canadian government has left Natives in Canada with the highest levels of Alcoholism, Suicide and Drug Addiction in North America. In Canada, if you’re a Native on a Reserve, you count yourself lucky to have brown water coming out of your taps

Canada didn’t have a War Of Extinction with the First Nations, all three of our Governments — French then British then Canadian — signed Treaties with the People of the Mohawk, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Huron, Blackfoot, Bella Coola and all the other First Nations. All three Governments made promises to the First Nations, so Canada didn’t need a War Of Extinction with the First Nations like they had in America, we had The Reserves and Bureaucracy and The Residential Schools.

Natives didn’t become “People” under the Canadian Constitution (British North America Act) until 1960. Until then they couldn’t vote in Canadian elections without giving up their Treaty Claims, whatever they may be. Until 1985 a Native Woman lost her Official Native Status if she married a non-Native… lets read that again: If an Iroquois Woman married a non-Native that meant she was no longer a Native in the Eyes of the Federal Canadian Government. In 1985, when Bill C-35 became law, an Iroquois Woman could remain a Native after marriage to a non-Native… but her children and grandchildren were never again to be considered Native. Native Men, meanwhile, could pass on their Status to their children regardless of the mothers Status. Starting to get an idea as to how Bureauracy can erase a People?

Being “Status” means you’re considered to be an “Indian”, a “First Nations People”, an “Aboriginal”, an “Other” by the Canadian Government. It means being “Registered as an Indian under the Indian Act”. Being an “Indian” on a Federally Operated Reserve means never being able to own the land your home sits on, which means you can’t get a mortgage to improve your home, which means relying on a Bureaucracy hundreds or thousands of miles away to fix the fucking hole in your roof. Not having a mortgage means never getting a bank loan to start a small business, being an Indian on a Reserve means Third World Poverty and people on the Outside looking at you with contempt for not being able to pick yourself up with your bootstraps — which the government promised three budgets ago to supply you with last year.

Being “Indian” in Canada means no one will take your shit seriously. No one pays any attention because when You say “it’s our religion” the only thing Canadians see is a fucking Indian holding a feather and waving it at some smoke, and what the fuck is Sweet Grass anyway? Nothing about who Natives are or what they believe makes it into Our consciousness because we’ve been looking at them for 400 years as “just a bunch of fucking loin cloth wearing, raw meat eating, dancing in circles Indians”. But they’re not Indians. They haven’t been in India for 50,000 years. They’re as much an Indian as someone from Scotland. They are Cree, Ojibwa, and they’re not even that. We crushed their language when we forced them into schools where their teachers abused them physically and mentally and sexually. We didn’t send them to school to learn, we sent them to school so they’d forget and every time one of them stands up and says “hey, wait a fucking minute, I’m not an Indian at all… I have a heritage and ancestry going back 15,000 years on this land that you’re trying to deny” we shake our heads and ask “why can’t they just be civil?” and ignore them even more.

And land claims? Who fucking cares about some piece of paper written 200 years ago and signed by a bunch of people who are all dead, their ancestors are all dead, and the people who could trace their blood back to the Signers wouldn’t piss on the Treaties to put out the fire. Who fucking cares about a piece of paper signed so long ago promising, guaranteeing, that their descendants today could be prosperous and practice their religion on their land… promises written down on some irrelevant piece of fading paper like… I don’t know, like a Constitution or Habeas Corpus or a Papal Decree or the Magna Carta or a promise from one King and Queen to the King and Queen of another people. Honestly, who takes those things seriously?

And they’re so fucking poor. Why should we take their demands seriously if they can’t even afford running water? The Federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development gives Natives — gives them — $7 Billion Dollars every year. What more do those greedy bastard Natives want? Some kind of accountability within the Reserve System to prevent all that money from disappearing into a black hole of bureaucracy? Some kind of Federal Oversight Committee with serious powers willing to examine the Native Band System to see why that money never makes it to the Natives it was intended to help? The reserves Canada built for them are kept away from Civilization, there are no roads to many of them, then we deny them the funding to build waste and safe water treatment plants. We force natives to obey the rules they signed on to and we keep them on the reserves as a condition to federal support, but our governments ignore the rules they signed which should give Natives full control over that land. We keep them on reserves where a child considers herself lucky if she has a plastic bag to huff solvents out of. Right now, under the current system run by the Canadian and Provincial Governments, almost every Reserve in Canada has water — in 2007 — contaminated with e-coli. Right now, under the current system, more Native kids go uneducated than any other group in North America. Right now we tell them to stand up after hacking their fucking legs off.

It’s easy for Us to blame inept and corrupt Native Leadership for the atrocities on Reserves, and for the disproportionate level of Native homelessness in Canada’s cities, but that ineptness was bred into the system by generations of Canadian Governments and the corruption came from Native Leaders who believed and bought into a Federal System which had at its heart the assimilation and colonization of First Nations people. Most Bands have wanted to negotiate — in good faith — with Federal and Provincial Governments, but have been screwed over time and time again. So after the Canadian Armed Forces were called out to break up a protest in Quebec, and after an unarmed Native Protester — Dudley George — was shot dead by an Ontario Provincial Tactical Police Sniper just a few years ago, and after fifteen consecutive years of promises of a “New System” and a “New Way” of dealing with Land Claims and Reserve Issues and Rampant Abuse, why should anyone be surprised if — why should anyone be surprised when — Natives blockade a railway, or take over a Housing Project being built on “Contested Land”?

So there’s going to be a Day Of National Protest by Natives living in Canada — which is one of the Eight Richest countries on Earth, and one of the only Trillion Dollar Economies out There. And there have been threats of violence by fringe Native organizations, but there have been many more calls for a peaceful expression of just how truly fucked most Natives have it here. There are Native Bands which are thriving in Canada, and making their lives better by using The System. But, despite the best efforts of a lot of Native and non-Native people, they’re still the exception. British Columbia is in the process of turning over a chunk of their Province the size of Britain to Natives, and the Supreme Court of Canada has made several rulings over the past five years which have helped Natives regain some of their Treaty Rights but, again, 200 years after negotiations started, this is the exception, not the Rule.

In terms of Native Rights in Canada a recent Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling may give some insight into the dichotomy of the situation. Until a few days ago a Native woman’s children lost their Status if they had a non-Native father. But, thanks to a ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia on June 16, 2007, in a case brought forward by Sharon McIvor — a professor on the Lower Nicola First Nations Reserve in British Columbia — her children may soon be considered Native — if they win the inevitable appeals. The magnitude of this Judgement may only be secondary to women gaining the right to vote. If this Judgement survives the Canadian Supreme Court the number of “Status Natives” in Canada — according to the Federal Definition — could nearly triple. So while it’s taken about 200 years for all Natives in Canada to once again be Natives in Canada, the Canadian Government is about to have three times the people in a system that is nearly completely dysfunctional at current levels.


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About Gabriel

I’ve lived in more than fifty places. I've been paid to pick stones out of fields, take backstage photos of Britney Spears, and report on Internet privacy issues. My photos have been published in several newspapers, and a couple of magazines.
This entry was posted in Canada, Canadian Charter of Rights, Canadian News, Canadian Politics, CSN:AFU Aboot Canada, Native Issues, Ottawa, Protest. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Canada: Where only the Natives drink the brown water

  1. darkentries says:

    that was a shit hot post man…

  2. Gabriel says:

    Thanks dude… tell your friends. On the National Day of Protest I’m either going to be at the reserve just down the road (the one that was invaded by the Canadian Armed Forces over a protest aboot a golf course expansion) or on Parliament Hill where there should be a large protest… it should be pretty intense.

    The head of the Ontario Provincial Police Force has already said his force will be out in Full. I’m not sure if anyone really knows right now what’s going to happen. “National Aboriginal Day”, which was yesterday, brought out some real anger in Quebec where a reserve was tagged with “White Power” symbols.

  3. Gabriel says:

    The National Day of Protest is next week… June 29th. I missed yesterday’s Aboriginal Day thing… at the one I covered back in 1997 (for SVN for some reason) two Native Dudes gave me the finger as I was taking their photo, but very nonchalantly. I didn’t notice until I got the photos developed. Very funny. When I get a new scanner it’s one I’ll put up on the new photo page.

    How’s it going on getting me that Nicole deBoer autograph?

  4. She ain’t a guest this year. How about the skinny chick from the new Battlestar?

  5. Pingback: CSN:AFU Week 19 In Review « …cultural snafu.

  6. Anita Marie says:

    Down here in the States The Government certainly did screw with the Tribes alright- not to mention it’s still going on with the help of some of our less then enlightened members of socieity.

    On the other hand some of our State Reps are members of the local tribes – what can I say besides go Team…

    Right now though the group to kick around are the Mexicans…who are now refered to as ‘Illegals’…it just never ends, does it?

    By the way, loved the Article
    anita marie

  7. Gabriel says:

    Thanks Anita. How America is dealing with the immigration — lets call it “difficulties” — has been interesting to watch from a relatively safe distance.

    As a political issue the Republicans are, in the long term anyway, kissing their careers goodbye in exchange for a short term nod to people who would or could only vote for them anyway. But President Bush actually seems to have a decent grasp on how to — not fix, but at least get things moving in the right direction… meanwhile the Democrats seem lost on the whole issue.

    Obviously Canada gets a tiny fraction of the “illegal immigrants” that America gets but there are similar issues here regarding the pay and work conditions for “foreign” seasonal workers… interestingly, just recently a group of — very legal — Mexican field workers were unionized in Manitoba without their approval by a bunch of people who thought they were doing the workers a favour.

    “Mexican migrant workers at a Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, fruit and vegetable farm will soon find out if they can unionize, even though many now say they were misled into signing union cards.” — CBC, January, 2007.

    Basically the workers are concerned that a “union”, even one that’s forced on them, will get salaries increased which means most of these guys will lose their jobs, and they’re even afraid the Mexican government will prevent them from coming back here because they’ve “rocked the boat”. The farms where these guys work have razor-thin margins already.

    According to CBC News, aboot 18,000 “foreign agricultural workers” come to Canada every year under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

  8. Anita Marie says:

    Hi Gabriel
    I’d like to watch this from a distance too-this entire isuue is out of control.

    Acutally down here if the “foreign agricultural workers” organized they’d get things like health care and better pay, and when you’re looking at the bottom line- that’s just NOT something you as ,an employer, want to have.

    When we heard about a ‘guest worker’ program in Washington state hiring ‘guest workers’ from Mexico we found out that some of the detention centers had increased the bed count by a HUGE number- (which I can get for you if you want.)

    So I guess there was going to be a sweep but not to worry, because ‘legals’ were on the way. And they’ll be working for even less then you were paying the other guys.

    The second part of this issue IS race- which you’ve handled very well in your article.

    I”m a Democrat myself and no, we haven’t handled this issue AT ALL but we’re supposed to be the “big tent’ crew…which is a joke because we’ve been running Republican light since Clinton was in Office.

    That’s why you haven’t seen anyone get they’re act together- there is no act. We’re trying to find a way to act like ” Big Brother ”


  9. tracy says:

    right on, sister right on

  10. Gabriel... says:

    Holy crap Anita, I never replied to your response. I must have gotten caught up in Native Protest Day Fever or something…

    The “detention centre” issue is a fascinating one, are you saying the government was sweeping up illegals with the intention of replacing them with cheaper legals?

    There is such an economic boom in Alberta right now because of the oil fields that there’s an incredible shortage of service sector workers (ie: restaurant workers like McDonald’s cooks, Pizza delivery dudes) that people are being offered $20/hour with full benefits to flip burgers. And there’s still an incredible shortage of workers. Employment migration patterns inside Canada have actually changed because of this.

    So what Alberta has done is opened a recruitment centre on university and college campuses in Mexico, and there are now courses being offered on these campuses on Canada.

    What they’ve also done is allowed restaurants to bring in workers from SE Asia on specific contracts… basically, if I own a Boston Pizza, I can go to SE Asia, sign up ten workers to a three-year contract, and bring them to Alberta. However, if the workers break the contract they get sent back immediately.

    It hasn’t been around long enough to see any trends, but obviously it has the ability to create a subclass who can be treated in whatever manner the Boss wants, but as soon as the Worker complains they’re on the next flight home.

    It’s not Alberta-specific, and it’s still an experiment, but… wow.

    Tracy: Thanks for dropping by, feel free to comment anytime.

  11. Anita Marie says:

    Hey there Gabriel,

    That’s exactly right…you boot out one group for another. Plus certain areas are tageted in Washington for ‘sweeps’. So things are very interesting in various counites.

    The Guest Worker Program is a joke, pretty much you come to the States ( in our case ) work and you keep your mouth shut and if and I mean IF you’re lucky you MIGHT get to stay.

    It’s got nothing to do with becoming a citizen, it’s all about cheap disposable labor.

  12. Matt says:

    Without getting rude , if equality is what is asked then maybe they should pull their own weight ! One to ride on another’s coat tails does not deserve the luxuries the leader acquires . If the natives want their land then they should have it . And everything that came with it . Drink the brown water , shit over a log , use moss instead of maxi pads , make clothes from animal hides , speak in mother tongue etc . But don’t ask me for a fuckin thing ! If you do I’ll beat you down like the fuckin half breed peace of shit you are ! Basically FUCK ALL YOU INDIANS !

  13. Donna Meness Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Nation says:

    5 great tips every Canadian should aspire to:


    “It’s always been about the land. Which is why it’s so important to look at the history.




    Click to access 00000121.pdf

    For further reading

    A lot of good writing exists about the oppression of Indigenous peoples and their resistance to the colonialism of the Canadian state. Here are a few we recommend:

    Howard Adams, Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View

    Taiaiake Alfred, Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom

    Todd Gordon, Imperialist Canada, Chapter 2

    Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

    Leanne Simpson and Kiera L. Ladner (editors), This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades

    Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996)

    Citizens Plus (the 1970 Red Paper)

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