The Reserve Paradox, Part One: The Same Old Story

We have been fighting for so long that the original misunderstandings and differences that created this conflict have been forgotten. Various tactics have been tried by one side and countered by the other, emotions have taken over from reason; and the passions born of hatred have grown until neither fighter any longer knows, or cares, what the fight is about. The fight has become an end in itself.

In the long run such an attitude can be disastrous, not just for our people, but also for our country. To reverse this unfortunate trend of confrontation, we must examine some of the myths that have contributed to the situation currently faced by Indian people in this country. We must re-examine the basic philosophies inherent in any discussion with white society, or white individuals.[1]

Such were the words spoken by Harold Cardinal in the mid-1970s regarding relations between Aboriginal and non-Native peoples in Canada. Since then, there have been several high-profile confrontations between Aboriginals and non-Natives, at places such as Burnt Church in New Brunswick, Oka in Quebec, Ipperwash and Caledonia in Ontario and Gustafsen Lake in British Columbia. More recently, a new Aboriginal protest movement calling itself the “Idle No More” movement began late in 2012.

According to Idle No More spokeswoman Pam Palmater, Idle No More is a grassroots citizens’ movement that opposes the legislative changes the Stephen Harper government made in 2012 as part of the omnibus legislation it passed last summer. Idle No More believes that many of the changes affecting environmental protections and the governance of Aboriginal communities were made by the Harper government without consulting the Aboriginals who would be affected by them, in violation of the promises the government had made. It also believes that the changes will threaten the water and land that people rely on for their livelihoods, cause all kinds of legal headaches for Aboriginal communities and violate their treaty rights.[2] In response, Idle No More began organizing everything from “teach ins” designed to educate people on the Aboriginal perspective to road blockades to spontaneous dances in public places.[3]

The movement’s actions attracted a great deal of criticism. Some critics claimed that the Aboriginals were trying to blame others for their poverty and refused to take responsibility for their actions. Other critics claimed that they refused to integrate with the modern world, determined to protect their ancient lifestyles and accepting government handouts instead of working for a living.[4] Sun News Reporter Ezra Levant reported on how he was accused by Idle No More protesters of being racist for wanting to be rid of the Indian Act that governed so many parts of Aboriginals’ lives, even though his overarching goal was to free ordinary Native people from the racism of the Act.[5]

The implication here is that the source of Aboriginal poverty, violence and dysfunction is the separate status of Aboriginal people in Canada and their desire to maintain their distinctiveness. The non-Native thinking is that, if Aboriginals were to be rid of their distinct status and the expectations of Treaty handouts while assimilating as full citizens of Canada and taking responsibility for their own actions, then they would be far better off.

But is that really the case? Is the supposed refusal of Aboriginal people to become full parts of Canadian society and leave behind their reserves really the cause of Aboriginal peoples’ problems in Canada? No, it is not. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The reserves that many Aboriginal people now call home are cited as part of the “special treatment” Aboriginal people insist on, but in fact they’re symbols of what can be called the “Reserve Paradox.”

The Reserve Paradox is the fact that the Indian Act, the reserves and other similar tools were originally meant to be tools by which the Canadian government could assimilate Aboriginal people while gaining full title to their land. The bitter irony is that these very efforts to assimilate Aboriginal people and erase their distinct status in Canada have not only failed to achieve their goal, but they are directly responsible for the poverty, corruption and abuse we see in so many communities today. Certainly this was the opinion of Justice John Reilly, an Alberta judge with more than 30 years of experience, who wrote about how colonialism and the residential schools were the major cause of the dysfunction and corruption now seen in Aboriginal society.[6]

However, as time went on a new narrative started to develop among European settlers to Canada, one whereby the supposedly superior Europeans would tame and “civilize” the wild lands…The supposedly backwards, primitive Aboriginal people were doomed to either “civilize” or disappear…

1. Civilizing” Aboriginal People

To understand exactly how this happened, we need to go back to the early 19th century in Canada. Early on, relations between Aboriginals and non-Natives were characterized by a sense of mutual interdependence and “nation to nation” recognition. The Aboriginal nations shared the land with the British Crown, which developed a formalized process for acquiring land through the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Until that time, the land was originally recognized as belonging to the Aboriginals as separate from what was claimed by British European settlers.[7]

However, as time went on a new narrative started to develop among European settlers to Canada, one whereby the supposedly superior Europeans would tame and “civilize” the wild lands and the Aboriginal peoples who dwelled there. The supposedly backwards, primitive Aboriginal people were doomed to either “civilize” or disappear, doomed by their own inferiority when confronted by the apparently superior European cultures.[8]

The displacement and suffering of Aboriginal communities caused by events such as the War of 1812, diseases such as smallpox and the growth in European settlement further strengthened the led to the belief that Aboriginal people were a primitive people doomed to disappear, and that the British government (then responsible for administering the colonies) should assimilate and “civilize” them as settled farmers on the British model. In the 1820s and 1830s, British colonial governments developed a new method to do this. The government would settle the Aboriginals onto “model villages”, the forerunners of the reserves where they would be taught the “proper” way to live through farming. Aboriginal people, in turn, were often requesting the provision of tools and knowledge to help them adjust to the overwhelming changes that they were facing and work out an accommodation to the new.[9] According to their own narrative, the Aboriginals hoped for a peaceful, friendly coexistence with the new arrivals, while continuing to maintain their own autonomy and control over their homelands and resources.[10]

However, it was a sign of things to come that what most Aboriginals were expecting was not what the colonial government had in mind. By the 1860s, when Canada was fully founded, the idea had fully taken root that Aboriginal people would eventually be assimilated. John A. Macdonald asserted that the major aim of the new federal government’s legislation, as expressed in its new Indian Act, was to abolish the “tribal” system of government and assimilate the Aboriginal people in all respects with the rest of the people of the country. Aboriginals were considered wards of the federal government until such time as they chose to assimilate into mainstream society.[11] Of course, the irony was that the process by which Aboriginal identities and statuses were to be erased in fact established the legal distinctions between Aboriginals and non-Natives. It also imposed standards on the Aboriginals that even many European settlers could not hope to meet, namely being literate, debt free and of “high moral character.”[12]

The Canadian government saw the Treaties as a once-and-for-all means of acquiring title to Aboriginal land and extinguishing Aboriginal rights…The Aboriginals did not see it as a means of extinguishing their rights to self-government, which precede the arrival of Europeans, or title to their lands.

2. The Meaning Of The Treaties

“Civilizing” the Aboriginals in Canada’s own territory was one thing. However, the fledgling Dominion was also concerned with expanding into new territory, knowing full well that the United States might try to claim it first. To gain access to these lands, it began signing the numbered Treaties with the Aboriginals who lived there, making promises of assistance and education to help the Aboriginals adjust to the changing times in exchange for access to the Aboriginal lands. Each party had its own interpretations of the Treaties, and the resulting misunderstanding is directly related to much of the misunderstanding and frustration we face even today.

The Canadian government saw the Treaties as a once-and-for-all means of acquiring title to Aboriginal land and extinguishing Aboriginal rights, after which the lands could be opened up for European settlement and development. Treaty promises related to things such as education and assistance in learning how to farm were seen as privileges that Aboriginals could enjoy at the pleasure of the Crown, rather than inherent human rights. The Aboriginals largely overlooked this, because in their experience Treaties could be continually modified and updated to take changing circumstances into account. For them, the Treaties were a way for them to adapt to the changing world within the framework of their own tradition, in exchange for which they would be loyal subjects of the British Crown, respecting its laws and customs. Government negotiators quickly learned to use phrases like ‘as long as the sun shines and the water flows’ when saying how long the treaties would last, and the Aboriginals expected them to live up to their word on this.[13]

The basic understanding of what the Treaties meant was problematic enough, but the Aboriginals and the government negotiators also had very different accounts of the actual content of the Treaties. Cree activist Harold Cardinal, who was one of the main opponents to the federal government’s efforts to abolish the Treaties in its 1969 White Paper, writes that the Treaties were based on a recognition of Aboriginal title to the land that Canada wanted to acquire.[14]

He further noted that much of what the Aboriginals were verbally promised by government negotiators, and that the Aboriginals believed were part and parcel of their Treaty rights, were never written into the written documents that the government now takes as the final and definitive versions of the Treaties. As Cardinal bluntly put it, the plain, literal reading of the Treaties has never meshed with the spirit in which they were signed.[15]

Historical research of the era shows that the Aboriginals often had little advance notice that the government intended to negotiate a Treaty with them and that the Treaties were intended as a safeguard against all of the Aboriginals’ land being seized by non-Native settlers. There was little discussion of massive land surrender in the actual negotiations of the Treaties, much less than there was in the actual written Treaties themselves. Many of the Aboriginals believed that they were only giving up surface rights, and not any subsurface mineral rights that may exist. In some cases, they did not even think they were surrendering any land at all, and that the Treaty they signed was more of a peace treaty.[16]

In other negotiations such as Treaty Eight, the Aboriginals were very hesitant about accepting the government’s initial Treaty offers, and were only convinced by a speech from the lead commissioner who promised that they would continue to be free, and would not have to live on reserves if they did not want to. Many were very leery of living on reserves, and even some of the white missionaries who urged the Aboriginals accept the Treaties in turn felt as though they had been exploited by the government. The missionaries had only urged the Aboriginals to sign because they believed the oral promises of the government would be in the final versions of the Treaties. Many Aboriginal elders state that the Aboriginals who signed Treaty Eight did not believe that their hunting and fishing practices would be restricted, and indeed saw it as a peace treaty, rather than a land cession.[17]

Ovide Mercredi, another Cree activist, explains that Aboriginal Treaties were signed on a basis of equality between distinct peoples to forge a lasting and positive relationship. The Treaties are a means of sharing the land in exchange for recognition of the Aboriginals’ land rights, customs and autonomy. The Aboriginals did not see it as a means of extinguishing their rights to self-government, which precede the arrival of Europeans, or title to their lands.[18] As Dene activist George Erasmus told Jeffrey Simpson, the Aboriginals never meant to give up their sovereignty as nations.[19] Indeed, Harold Cardinal states that many Aboriginals see the Treaties as their equivalent to the English Magna Carta, a critical guarantee of their inherent rights as Aboriginals and as people. They are sacred pacts that cannot be unilaterally abrogated by one of the parties to the agreement, namely the Canadian government.[20] Nor are the reserves the only traditional lands the Aboriginals were meant to maintain their more traditional ways of life on.[21]

These concepts are not as foreign to Canadian or English law as one might think. Michael Asch has pointed out that, in the old English law, the indigenous people of a territory newly acquired by the British Crown did not immediately lose their property or civil rights unless these rights were eventually-and expressly-extinguished by the monarch.

The problem has not been so much with British law as it is with the application of it. Too often, courts have assumed that, unless they lived a lifestyle similar to those of Great Britain, people in territories that the British eventually acquired did not have any inherent rights, as the land was presumed to be “unoccupied” and its inhabitants were too “uncivilized” to have proper legal rights. Aboriginal rights, for all that they are in fact compatible with English legal tradition, were not recognized as such, or were “extinguished” by general legislation that did not specifically mention them.[22] Arguably, this is a violation of those rights.

Even with the government’s promises, some prominent Aboriginal leaders were not convinced of its sincerity. The Cree leader Paskwaw opposed the Canadian surveyors who were coming onto Aboriginal land, seeing it as a sign of subordination to the new arrivals. Big Bear, arguably the most influential of the chiefs on the Prairies, believed that Treaty Six would reduce the Aboriginals’ freedom and autonomy. He initially refused to sign it in 1876, and only signed it in 1882 to get food for his people. Other leaders like Little Pine and Poundmaker had similar fears, lobbying for better terms than they were able to get.[23] As early as 1884, Aboriginals were complaining that they had been cheated, and that the government did not live up to its promises.[24]

To be very blunt, the results could not have been more of a disaster if the federal government had deliberately tried to cause one…Aboriginal leaders like Big Bear were blamed for the problems when they complained.

3. Assimilation And Control

The concerns of Big Bear and his fellows were well-founded. Even as it signed the Treaties, the federal government passed the Indian Act to carry out its goal of “civilizing” the Aboriginals and assimilate them into mainstream society while erasing their indigenous identities. Lands were set aside as reserved for Aboriginal people, but it was not to help them maintain their distinct place in society. Rather, the reserves were meant to be sites where the Aboriginals could be assimilated and “civilized”. As the Aboriginals assimilated, their share of the reserve land could become part of the provincial land regime, until the reserves disappeared altogether along with the Aboriginal identity.[25]

To that end, the Indian Act set up a series of white “Indian agents” on reserves, who were given vast powers to direct the lives of the Aboriginals. The Indian agents acted on government bans of Aboriginal religious ceremonies essential to their culture such as the “Ghost Dance” and the potlatch, bans on the sale of guns and ammunition to Aboriginals, overrode the decisions of the elected band councils the agents had convened to govern the reserve, undermined traditional leaders and controlled access to money, all with the intention of “teaching” them a “civilized” way to live. In the eyes of one commentator, it was a way of forcing white ideas on red men.[26]

To be very blunt, the results could not have been more of a disaster if the federal government had deliberately tried to cause one. Bureaucracy, paternalism and plain incompetence on the part of the Indian agents led to no end of headaches for those Aboriginals who were quite willing and eager to learn farming on Aboriginal reserves. Even when white missionaries, settlers and policemen tried to alert the government to the problem, the government refused to listen. Aboriginal leaders like Big Bear were blamed for the problems when they complained.

When the Aboriginals tried to unite their reserves, they were forcibly separated, even though this uprooted Aboriginal farming efforts and violated their Treaty rights to choose the locations of their reserves. Some Indian agents also undermined Aboriginal efforts to unite by withholding food rations or arresting Aboriginals who entered reserves that they did not live on without the agent’s permission.[27] The destruction of the tribal system, and the occasional withholding of the money due to certain bands (another violation of Treaty promises) were done with the goal of encouraging individualism and self-reliance among the Aboriginals.[28]

Shuswap activist George Manuel noted that all of the power exercised by Indian agents, including the dispensing of welfare, subjecting Aboriginal hunting efforts to provincial game laws, and preventing Aboriginals from farming except as the Indian agents dictated, prevented Aboriginal people from making full use of European innovations while maintaining the integrity of their own cultures. This was a critical factor in the undermining of Aboriginal self-confidence and the functioning of their communities.[29]

Things only got worse as time went on. Very few Aboriginals were interested in assimilating and giving up their rights, and so the government resorted to increasingly harsh and repressive means of control in order to try and force the issue. Indian agents were given the power to select Aboriginal peoples’ marriage partners, dissolve elected band councils, and allotting and leasing reserve lands. Indian agents were even given the power to unilaterally take status away from Aboriginals, expropriating the part of the reserve designated for them and making it of the general land regime, often because non-Natives wanted Aboriginal land for expansion or resource development.[30] As Georges Erasmus noted, Ottawa would also unilaterally reduce reserves in order to make way for new bridges, railways, roads and other industrial projects.[31] Through it all, assimilation remained the ultimate goal, as expressed by government spokesmen in the 1920s and even as late as the 1950s.[32]

Harold Cardinal noted that many Aboriginals began to see the Treaties as one big con job, wherein they were ripped off by the government. They began to feel as though the government supposedly owed them a living, and their sense of responsibility to themselves, their communities and the country were nearly totally lost.[33] George Manuel, in turn, pointed out that even the federal government’s own Hawthorn Report, commissioned in the mid-1960s, pointed out that the restrictions of the Indian Act itself was a major cause of the alcoholism and poverty many Aboriginals felt.[34]

The Aboriginals themselves rarely, if ever, had much say in any of the decisions made by governments and non-Native Indian agents. Even entire communities could end up being relocated by bureaucratic fiat, because government officials felt that the movement would benefit the community, to cut administrative costs or to clear the way for industrial or agricultural development.[35] As noted by Jeffrey Simpson, Aboriginal people were frequently relegated by industrial development to the margins of the economy and society.[36] The effects were traumatic and catastrophic for many Aboriginal communities, with serious consequences for their health, their economies and their social structures. Substance abuse, violence, poverty, social apathy and suicide were frequent results.[37]

The control exerted by Indian agents over the lives and welfare of the Aboriginals and the relocations of communities both caused immense harm to Aboriginal societies, all with the goal of assimilating them and abolishing their reserves and separate status. The most infamous attempt at assimilation, the residential schools, were yet another source of grief for Canadian Aboriginals. In keeping with its self-appointed mission to “civilize” Aboriginal people, the government created a series of residential boarding schools, where students would live as well as study. The intent was that by giving the Aboriginal students a European education and cutting them off from their “savage” cultures, they would be assimilated into mainstream society. The Aboriginals, on the other hand, believed that the schools would be a means for them to adapt to the modern world, learning the skills they needed without abandoning their traditional identities. They also believed that they themselves would be in control of the schools, something they quickly learned wasn’t true.

The residential schools were nothing less than a catastrophe. Underfunded and overcrowded, the church-run schools kept their students in miserable, squalid conditions and had them spend more time doing grunt labour than actually learning anything useful. Children were ripped away from their families and their homes, told that their cultures and identities were “retrograde” and “savage,” all in the name of abolishing their old identities and replacing them with new ones. Students were also viciously beaten for anything from speaking their own languages to bedwetting. The “education” was so bad that, in the words of one critic, it left Aboriginal students “hanging in the middle of two cultures, and he is not a white man and he is not an Indian. They washed away practically everything an Indian needed to help himself, to think the way a human person should in order to survive.”

Predictably, the residential school system was fiercely opposed by the Aboriginals. Many parents angrily criticized the abuses and ineptitude of the schools, even as they tried to prevent their children from going. In turn, the federal government made school attendance mandatory, and Indian agents used such means as the pass system (where Aboriginals could not leave their reserves without a pass) to keep them from interfering with the schools’ activities, and withholding food rations to “persuade” parents to send their children. In 1969, the federal government would take over from the churches, but conditions did not improve much, if it all. Notably, the last of these schools would only be closed in 1996, less than twenty years ago.[38]

George Manuel was blunt in his assessment of the impact of residential schools on Aboriginal people. He stated that the residential schools played a central role in instilling a sense of inferiority and shame among Aboriginal people, including a feeling of loathing for their ancestors and their original culture. As early as 1966, when many schools were still open, the federal government’s own Hawthorn Report observed that the alcoholism was caused by the residential schools and control of Aboriginal peoples’ lives through the Indian Act, even as urban ghettoes sprang up in Canadian cities.[39]

Harold Cardinal noted that the residential schools also caused bitter divisions among communities as the churches competed for students, even as the students themselves were deprived of the critical education that would have enabled them to learn their responsibilities in society and form relationships with their communities. Some Aboriginals became suspicious of education in general, figuring that it was just a way to assimilate them and gradually eliminate their reserves, completing the government’s original goals.[40]

A related phenomenon was the ‘Sixties Scoop’, where Aboriginal children were removed from their families and placed with non-Aboriginal families either as adoptees or in foster care, on the justification that they were better off in the dominant culture than in the extreme poverty of the Aboriginal one. This process continued until it tapered off in the 1980s, when it was finally recognized that the process was “producing individuals who were neither white nor Indian, whose loss of cultural identity led to social dysfunction and was becoming a tradition in itself as it was passed on to the next generation,” as historian Olive Dickason bluntly put it.[41]

Many Aboriginal people would prefer to continue to live in bondage under the Indian Act than relinquish their rights.

4. The Fallout And The 1969 White Paper

These problems persist even today, and have filtered down through the generations. The attempts to assimilate Aboriginal peoples are directly responsible for the alcoholism, imprisonment, domestic abuse, suicide and social breakdown that continue to plague many Aboriginal communities.[42] George Manuel reminds us that traditional lifestyles and beliefs are not the cause of these problems. The real problem has been the fact that non-Native authorities have been continually making the decisions for Aboriginal people, while they’ve had very little say in or control over their own lives. And for those Aboriginals who have tried to move to the cities and assimilate, it often didn’t work due to government actions that were being formed in response to the problems caused by the last set of government actions.[43] Another problem, of course, was the plain racism many Aboriginals encountered in non-Native communities, which obviously didn’t help them integrate into these communities.[44]

As a result of all these actions, and the fallout that has resulted from them, Harold Cardinal notes that many Aboriginals felt as though they didn’t have much control over their own lives.[45] It’s not surprising, when Ovide Mercredi states that many Aboriginal people living on reserves have little trust in their leadership because under the Indian Act band councils are accountable to the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and not to their own people, which has allowed corruption to fester in various areas. The Indian Act provides a series of cradle-to-grave rules governing how Aboriginal lands are governed, and the many things a Minister must approve before a band council can do them.[46] The powers the Minister can exercise are extensive, and allow him or her to override or reject many of the decisions taken by band councils. They persist even to this day.[47]

Far from the image of Aboriginals who laze around waiting for their next bit of government cheese, Harold Cardinal tells the story of Aboriginals who feel stuck in what he calls the ‘welfare trap’, hating it but not feeling as though they had the ability or support to build themselves up out of it. He talks about how the federal government would come up with projects without consulting the Aboriginals they were intended for, and then conclude that the Aboriginals weren’t interested when they rejected the government’s proposals.[48] Georges Erasmus pointed out that, as late as the 1980s, most of the government’s spending on Aboriginals was directed towards welfare, which illustrates just how long the issue has been going on.[49] Eventually, it got to the point that many Aboriginals were concerned that being rid of Indian Affairs’ influence on their lives would mean they were cast adrift as a people. The idea of Aboriginal dependence on welfare only came about because of government policy, not because of any supposed flaws in Aboriginal societies.[50]

The stereotype of the “lazy Indian” has deep roots-historian Daniel Francis notes that it came from Aboriginals refusing to accept the low wages and bad working conditions offered by many employers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, going off to hunt and trap for their food. Because they walked away from jobs they didn’t like, they were deemed “lazy”. Welfare dependency and high unemployment only came about because of the effects of the Indian Act and everything else already described here.[51] Rather than being lazy, the Aboriginals come across as rational actors who are making economic choices based on their own self-interest in preferring the more profitable actions of hunting to the inferior wages and conditions offered by other employers.

One might wonder, then, why we don’t just get rid of the Indian Act, as people have been advocating for so long, given that so many Aboriginals dislike it as much as other Canadians? The reason is because Aboriginals view it as a means of eliminating Aboriginal status altogether. In 1969, the federal government run by a newly-elected Pierre Trudeau issued a “White Paper” that proposed eliminating the Indian Act and the Treaties, based on the belief that the special status the Act and the Treaties recognized for Aboriginals was holding them back. It meshed well with his support for strictly individual rights, without consideration for any sort of distinct legal or constitutional status for any group of people.[52]

Aboriginals like Harold Cardinal, in turn, rebutted that their identities as Aboriginal people were intimately bound up with the Treaties, and distinguishes them from all of the non-Natives who have migrated to Canada over the years.[53] He further pointed out that, in terms of what Trudeau’s White Paper was proposing, Aboriginals were being asked to abandon their very identities and their sense of who they were as people. Indeed, Aboriginal treaty rights are even bound up as a critical part of their religious beliefs, with critical responsibilities accompanying those rights.[54] Ovide Mercredi built on this, stating that the calls for assimilation come across to Aboriginals as telling them they’re inferior and savage.[55]

An Aboriginal person could stop being governed by the Indian Act if he or she agreed to give up his or her Treaty rights and identity as an Aboriginal. This was psychologically painful, to say the least. Indeed, Harold Cardinal noted that many Aboriginal people would prefer to continue to live in bondage under the Indian Act than relinquish their rights.[56] They do not want to see it repealed, because of the concern that the implicit recognition of Aboriginal rights and status would be lost.[57] This sentiment still persists today, as noted by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.[58]

In the face of all this resistance, the Trudeau government was forced to drop the White Paper. Unfortunately, Canada’s Aboriginal people are now stuck in a legal limbo in regards to their rights. While assimilation is no longer a government policy, the Indian Act remains in place because we have not been able to develop an appropriate replacement for it. Most non-Native Canadians continue to support Trudeau’s ideas of strictly individual rights for all Canadians, regardless of their background. This is the reason for their opposition to the Indian Act and their desire to see the Aboriginal reserves abolished, thinking that the distinct status and insistence on maintaining their Treaty rights is the reason for Aboriginal poverty and corruption.

Unfortunately, as historian Christopher Moore noted, they have only seen the Euro-Canadian interpretation of the Treaties, and don’t know about the Aboriginal perspective when they comment on Idle No More and other Aboriginal movements.[59] This is the reason for the Reserve Paradox, the fact that the legislation and reserves were meant to be tools for assimilating Aboriginal people but are now seen as recognition of Aboriginal distinctiveness.

What, then, is the solution to the Reserve Paradox? This will be the subject of Part Two of this essay, examining such problems as land confrontations, violence and racism on both sides of the fence, and the challenges of Canadian citizenship for Aboriginal people.

[1] Harold Cardinal, The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig Pubilishers, 1977. Page 7.

[3] “Edmonton Idle No More protests draw thousands.” CBC News, January 13, 2013. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2013/01/13/edmonton-idle-no-more-west-ed.html See also Gloria Galloway and Oliver Moore, “Idle No More protests, blockades spread across the country.” The Globe and Mail, January 16, 2013. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/idle-no-more-protests-blockades-spread-across-country/article7406990/?page=all See also Amy Van Den Berg, “Idle No More teach-in discussion at Guelph.” The Ontarion, April 11, 2013. http://www.theontarion.com/2013/04/idle-no-more-teach-in-discussion-at-guelph/

[4] For example, see Lorne Gunter, “Theresa Spence shows no interest in taking ownership of issues.” Sun News Network, January 9, 2013. http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/straighttalk/archives/2013/01/20130109-080205.html See also Jonathan Kay, “Native dignity will come only from self-sufficiency, not grand gestures from Ottawa.” National Post, January 11, 2013. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/01/11/jonathan-kay-true-dignity-for-first-nations-will-come-only-from-self-sufficiency-not-grand-gestures-in-ottawa/

[5] Ezra Levant, “Ezra Replies To Idle No More Protests of Sun Media.” Sun News Network, http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/2109435478001.

[6] John Reilly, “First Nations deserve more gratitude and respect.” Calgary Herald, February 2, 2013. http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/Reilly+First+Nations+deserve+more+gratitude+respect/7907920/story.html

[7] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Chapter 9.2 “Indian Sovereignty and the Royal Proclamation of 1763.” Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1996. Archived by Library and Archives Canada, 2006. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211051151/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg22_e.html#73

[8] Patricia McCormack, “Competing Narratives: Barriers Between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian State.” Paper prepared for Indigenous Peoples and the Modern State, Claremont Graduate University, April 5–7, 2002. Pages 3–5.

[9] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Chapter 9.3, “Indian Policy: Protection, Civilization, Assimilation.” http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211051151/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg22_e.html#74 See also Olive Patricia Dickason and David T. McNab, Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples From Earliest Times. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 4thedition, 2009. Page 193.

[10] McCormack, pages 6–7.

[11] Dickason and McNab, page 226.

[12] John L. Tobias, “Protection, Civilization, Assimilation: An Outline History of Canada’s Indian Policy.” The Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology, Volume VI, №2, 1976.

[13] Dickason and McNab, pages 242–244.

[14] Harold Cardinal, The Unjust Society. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre, 1999. Originally published in Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig Publishers, 1969. Pages 24–25.

[15] Ibid., 33–36 and 131.

[16] John Leonard Taylor, “Two Views On The Meaning Of Treaties Six And Seven”, in The Spirit of Alberta Indian Treaties, edited by Richard Price. Montreal, Quebec: Institute For Research On Public Policy, 1980. Pages 9–45. Citations on pages 40–45.

[17] Richard Daniel, “Spirit and Terms of Treaty Eight”, in The Spirit of Alberta Indian Treaties, edited by Richard Price. Montreal, Quebec: Institute For Research On Public Policy, 1980. Pages 47–100. Citations on pages 75–79, 82, 85 and 92–99.

[18] Ovide Mercredi and Mary Ellen Turpel, In The Rapids: Navigating The Future Of First Nations. Toronto, Ontario: Viking Press, 1993. Pages 30–31 and 61–63.

[19] Cited in Jeffrey Simpson, Faultlines: Struggling For A Canadian Vision. Toronto, Ontario: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. Page 191.

[20] Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 24–25.

[21] Richard H. Bartlett, “False Analogy of Indian Reserves to Traditional Lands”, in Richard H. Bartlett, Indian Reserves and Aboriginal Lands in Canada: A Homeland. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan Native Law Centre, 1990. Pages 65–71. Citation on page 65.

[22] Michael Asch, Hone And Native Land: Aboriginal Rights and the Canadian Constitution. Toronto, Ontario: Methuen Press, 1984. Pages 41–54.

[23] Dickason and McNab, pages 266–268.

[24] A. Blair Stonechild, “The Indian View Of The 1885 Uprising”, in 1885 And After: Native Society In Transition, edited by F. Laurie Barron and James B. Waldram. Regina, Saskatchewan: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1996. Pages 155–170. Citation on page 158.

[25] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 9.8, “The Indian Act And Indians: Wards Of The State”. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211051055/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg24_e.html. See also J.L. Tobias, “Indian Reserves In Canada: Indian Homelands Or Devices For Assimilation?” in Native People, Native Lands: Canadian Indians, Inuit and Metis, edited by Bruce Alden Cox. Ottawa, Ontario: Carleton University Press, 1988. Pages 148–157. Citation on page 148. See also Simpson, page 190.

[26] Dickason and McNab, pages 251–257.

[27] Ibid, pages 269–272.

[28] James S. Frideres and Rene R Gadacz, Native Peoples In Canada: Contemporary Conflicts, 3rdEdition. Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice-Hall Canada, Inc., 2005. Page 29.

[29] George Manuel and Michael Posluns, The Fourth World: An Indian Reality. Don Mills, Ontario: Collier Macmillan Canada, Ltd., 1974. Pages 53–55.

[30] Dickason and McNab, pages 288–295. See also J. L. Tobias, 153–154 and Frideres and Gadacz, 30–36.

[31] Simpson, pages 191–192.

[32] Dickason and McNab, page 298.

[33 Cardinal, The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians, page 147.

[34] Manuel, pages 123–125.

[35] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 11.1, “Why Relocations Took Place.” http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211055119/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg34_e.html

[36] Simpson, page 205.

[37] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Chapter 11.4, “The Effects of Relocation.” http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211055149/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg41_e.html#120 and http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211055104/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg42_e.html

[38] The preceding two paragraphs are summarized from Dickason and McNab, pages 305–312. See also the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 10, “Residential Schools”, http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211055641/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg28_e.html, Chapter 10.1.2, “Changing Policies,” http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211055732/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg29_e.html#102, and Chapter 10.3, “Discipline And Abuse.” http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211055821/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg31_e.html. See also Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 72–75.

[39] Manuel, pages 59–68 and 101–102.

[40] Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 50 and 72–75.

[41] Dickason and McNab, page 314.

[42] Mercredi and Turpel, pages 4–5. For more particular examples, see Ken Badger, “Residential School”, based on the testimony of his father, residential school survivor Frank Badger. Paper submitted to the Simon Fraser University “Love Mother Earth” 2009 Weaving Conference. Available online at http://www.sfu.ca/lovemotherearth/08classroom/papers/residential_schools.pdf See also Caroline L. Tait, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Among Aboriginal People in Canada:

Review and Analysis of the Intergenerational Links to Residential Schools. Ottawa, Ontario: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2003. Pages 41 and 60. Available online at http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/fetal-alcohol-syndrome.pdf.

[43] Manuel, pages 161–186.

[44] Georges Erasmus, cited in Simpson, page 199. See also Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages viii, 3–5 and 21–22.

[45] Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 7–8.

[46] Mercredi and Turpel, pages 80–84.

[47] James S. Frideres and René D. Gadacz, Aboriginal Peoples In Canada. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Education Canada, 2005. Page 4.

[48] Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 53–55.

[49] Georges Erasmus, in his contribution to If I Were Prime Minister, compiled and introduced by Mel Hurtig. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig Publishers, 1987. Pages 78–82, citation on pages 79–81.

[50] Cardinal, The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians, page 93.

[51] Daniel Francis, “Inventing the ‘Lazy Indian’”. The Canadian Encyclopedia blog, August 4, 2011. http://blog.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/blog/posts/inventing-the-lazy-indian-by-daniel-francis/

[52] Dickason and McNab, pages 371–372. See also Simpson, pages 208–209.

[53] Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 18–22.

[54] Cardinal, The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians, pages 140–145.

[55] Mercredi and Turpel, pages 108–109.

[56] Cardinal, The Unjust Society, pages 119–120.

[57] Cardinal, The Rebirth of Canada’s Indians, pages 110–111.

[58] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Chapter 9, “The Indian Act.” http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071211051151/http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sg22_e.html#71

[59] Christopher Moore, “Kay on Treaty history: Well-meaning, wrong-headed.” Christopher Moore’s History News blog, January 8, 2013.” http://christophermoorehistory.blogspot.ca/2013/01/kay-on-treaty-history-well-meaning.html

This two-part essay was originally written in July 2013 to comment on the rise of the Idle No More movement and the public reaction to it, to provide a summary of the history of Indigenous rights in Canada, and to comment on the “Reserve Paradox”, the fact that the reserves originally meant to assimilate Indigenous people in Canada have now become a recognition of their rights. At the time of the writing, I understood “Aboriginal” to be the most commonly accepted term of reference for Indigenous people in Canada.

Originally published at www.vivelecanada.ca.

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Passionately devoted to Canadian unity. Fascinated by Canadian politics and history. Striving to understand the mysteries of Canada. Publishes every few weeks.

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