In all this habaloo of Native Indian issues I don't think the biggest problem is being addressed- the overt racism that manifested itself out of what started out as convenience.
Treaties of the past were designed around making life liveable for all concerned but mostly for the influx of settlers coming into the country. The leaders of the day made decisions on behalf of their culture's needs while dealing with the indigenous residents who lived a very different lifestyle ...until the recent decades.
The easiest way to resolve the problems of two groups coming into conflict with one another is to separate them...because that's WAY simpler than finding an actual solution. Moving one group of people away from another one absolved the government of having to deal with real issues which was a very bad idea in the long run. It is always easy for a bigger, more powerful group to say to the smaller one "you can live over there" but in Canada's case it was particularly easy to also say "...and continue to live in the ways you see fit" with the promise of sharing the resources that people needed centuries ago.
But over the years the types of resources have changed and their acquisition is more complex and the two groups of people live more or less the same life styles...the biggest difference is that the reserve Indians are not thriving. They continue to live in cultural isolation and look at us from what is now a self-imposed exile; there is a lot of pressure to be supportive of the reserve 'family' and one of the biggest reasons to stay has to be the legislated security that family has acquired. That family gives you things like a house, car and cel phone that is paid for by the larger 'cousins' on the outside...but only while you’re living on the reserve...you don't have to work to pay for it. That's a hard thing to willingly give up I think.
To us, 'leaving the nest' means growing up and establishing a life independent of one's family...and is common to all cultures to some degree or another. But it's an anomaly for a society to function in that way and if you look at it as an experiment it's not working. To make matters worse, the concept of providing for the family has devolved from sharing the resources so that the entire tribe benefits to squandering money on individuals to greater or lesser degree. In the real world no one says to their children "I will give you each a house to live in and I will pay for it". But this is just one example of what has happened on the reserves and it's created a culture of people who feel entitled to it based on old treaties. It goes beyond that to the point where a chief sees nothing wrong with demanding that the government pays for the upkeep of those homes. Yet the demand by the government and Canadians for an accounting of funds given and spent is viewed as insulting...and racist.
Here on the outside people come from India, China, Germany, France, Ireland, Egypt, Australia, Pakistan, Russia, America, South Africa, Taiwan...everywhere. They are working and living together as Canadians, immigrants or permanent residents. They keep their cultures as close to them as they see fit and understand that their respective races originate in times and places long past and far away. The fact that a majority of any particular race will influence our combined culture is to be expected. Protesting about how your culture is distinct and deserving of special treatment is not only a useless waste of energy but it's overtly racist...and that racism is going to bring out racist feeling from people who weren't particularly aware of racial issues to begin with.
To make matters worse, most people don’t understand that some degree of racism is normal unless you are blind. One look at a person and I can see if we are of the same race or not superficially…does that mean I'm a 'racist'? Race isn't of particular importance to me on a social level but as an artist I do pay attention to superficial details because it’s a big deal to get them right in portraiture.
But so many nasty to absolutely evil people have used superficial physiological distinctions to make judgements, slander, harass, threaten and kill people based on their ethnicity that we have rendered the complexity of it all into a single abused word: racism.
If you want to look at another cultural setup as an experiment there is a worst case scenario to be seen in the Middle East. Leaders of countries that had recently come out of a long war over 50 years ago made decisions under less than ideal times and circumstances; the generosity in taking in refugees strained the resources needed for their own citizens and led to the decision of Britain and her allies to carve out a nation in parts of the world that had their own cultural conflicts. To this day the Middle East is in a constant state of bloody war.
There is a lot of stupidity in all this. We know that nations within nations don't work but cultures among cultures can work when we agree to a common set of laws for all citizens. In the case of the Middle East it’s particularly ironic that the two ethnicities have so much more in common than the average Canadian has with a native Indian. We also know that exceptions to laws for reasons of culture can be made when there is no apparent harm in doing so.
(I think it’s foolish and hypocritical to tell people to expose their head of hair if a culture believes it to be important to keep hair covered. It doesn’t harm anyone if people want to cover their hair yet there are people who try to imagine potential fatalities coming out of it. We ourselves have our own rules on what parts of the body must be covered up or should be held in place!)
There is the Osoyoos band which is one of the exceptions to the rule. Chief Clarence Louie got things turned around and I hope he gets involved in these upcoming talks. I just know we can't figure anything by living in isolation and letting the worst of our people do our thinking and talking for us.