Thoughts on Idle No More and Theresa Spence


Simply put, what appears to central to the FN position goes beyond defending the fiscal management issue. That’s low lying fruit that will trigger the proper legal response. But I’m not sure what is really stake here even has a legal/political framework at any level in Canada. When the rhetoric of the movement is “INM”, it says a statement that the whole FN-Settler relationship is sick and broken for a thousand reasons that goes back well beyond Confederation, etc. I’m 100% sure Spence et al would not put their lives on the line to play chicken with the GOC over whether or not FN leaders were or ‘corrupt’ in some way.

I see a real source of debate in all of this in that on one hand FNs want the IA destroyed because it is a classic paternal, legal instrument that the British used in the empire to assimilate an indigenous population. Yet, FNs don’t want the IA removed to the extent that it forever eliminates their identity as a totally distinct society (to accidentally borrow a phrase). The path both sides agreed upon in the treaties forever hurt the continuity of FNs yet it created a new country. Was it worth it? The difficulty as many FN scholars etc see it lies in trying to move forward in the present by somehow disconnecting the paternal agenda but maintain the country’s recognition of FN as other nations so they can participate in the industrial/capitalist system with 100%, FN to Canada autonomy . That should be easy, right? It’s a part of the Curse of Development, like Jim Handy says.

How do we actually solve these problems? I see this like a family that’s tiptoeing around someone’s decades long cycle of addiction. Surely each member of that family has issues that must change but only one person is responsible for cresting the problem. There are outside observers who see the roots of the problem, and might try to speak out. But the while family has to admit the real problem and want to change. In our case, I am growing more and more convinced there needs to be a radical reawakening about the folly of our country’s colonial past in a way that 100% allows FNs to set the agenda at a discussion table. I can’t see any way around that. I’m not meaning the GOC needs to capitulate, but the absolute one issue in all colonized societies is recovering a tangible sense of autonomy, agency, and cultural dignity.

I believe the tangible answers to the questions will and can come later, after a deeper change of mindset in the political/educational arenas. I think the last thing FNs need is more oversight, but not because i think FNs don’t value or need fiscal accountability (all bureaucracy rightly does) but because the nature of the “oversight” relationship since day one has been intentionally destructive to the existence of the FNs. In that way, FNs are not like provinces that don’t have a severe existential crisis every time the PMO passes some shady omnibus bill.

Indeed, the West does rest upon a projection of power, and thats been the source of the problem since c1500! Its fundamental to say the European West has displaced the folks living on other continents. We all know the history is clear (enough) that all the major systems comprising what we call globalization are the result of Western hegemony over everyone else they ‘discovered’. 

But in the current discussion, what good is our study of History if we don’t actually hear its lessons?

To wit:

A major change here in N/America in the relationship between the historically dominant and marginalized societies must reject the current neocolonial system of GOC handouts and unfair administrative constraints determined by cyclical amendments to the IA. Again: increasing accountability etc will not solve the problems so long as the status quo prevails. And stubbornly requiring FNs to admit to accounting failings is like what social workers call blaming the victim amid the learned helplessness of living on the government purse for a life that has zero easy explanations and blame. For example, if a homeless person steals from s grocery store, wouldn’t it awfully callous and uninformed of us to point our fingers and say, “well, if you want to succeed in this world, son, you have to play by the rules. Now heres a fine and some jail time. Get a job!”

Same same. 

The whole arrangement between GOC and FN is dirty and if we were to measure the dirt on each side since c1876, who do you think will be blushing the most?

For a constructive imagining of the future GOC-FN relationship? If anyone really knew that, in any post-colonial setting, we wouldn’t have these long conversations. But because the bulk of postcolonial theorists underline the loss of agency among indigenous societies as the number one negative effect of imperialism everywhere, most in that camp talk about restoring agency as the number one goal for the future. After that, we all admit, it becomes a big head scratch of how to proceed. The idea of changing land ownership to fee simple is currently a main move with interesting consequences to the communal vs individual ownership of land, like you mentioned. Ya, in that way, the lives of FNs are forever changed. They might (must) have to accept some alterations to their essential anthropology to move forward. This is already happening in the moves by FNs to operate like European Nation-states and not completely like their unaltered traditions. Again, this phenomenon occurs in all postcolonial settings: changes to identity in a variety of ways have created a host of contradictions. 

In my mind and from various experiences over the years on the front lines (non-profits) and overseas (tuition for Abdul), the first steps forward even then will not immediately solve the problems and paradoxes set in motion by the Atlantic Slave Trade, its do-gooder son Colonialism, and its demanding, self-centered spawn, Development. Haha! But doing whatever we can to on one hand heal the shame of FNs and healing the Eurocentric myopia of the West must be the first step. On a fairly local scale, didn’t the civil rights movement try to speak to the great masses at the center that thought they were doing the best for their world by segregation but really were just perpetuating a disturbing relationship inherited from a previous bygone age?

Same same.

Both sides (but for somewhat different reasons) are tired of the handouts and top down arrangements built so long ago. And, for INM, who really knows what will arise in the near to distant future… That is why the major AFN and similar organizations are so elated that INM is a ‘grassroots’ movement, the outcome of populous driven change is messy, democratic, uncontrollable, and likes to fall on other precedents of public dissent that to some have been “illegal” but to others “liberating” — perhaps its just the kind of force the FN-GOC situation needs? FNs think so!