[Editor's Note: the following letter was sent to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer on Feb. 2, 2013 and appeared in full in the Wed. Feb. 6th edition on P. A9 "Feedback".]
Letters to Editor
Autumn Macdonald <email@example.com>
Quesnel Cariboo Observer
188 Carson Ave,
February 2, 2013
4633 Barkerville Highway
Re: Ignore, Idle No More, Observer, Jan. 30, 2013
Wright is wrong on all the claimed assumptions and prejudices contained in his criticism of the Idle No More movement.
His advice to MP Dick Harris to ignore the issues brought forth by the movement is short sighted and based upon ignorance of both the Harper government’s intent regarding their recent Omnibus bill (designed to destroy Canadian sovereignty over our resources) and the history of land claims in the province of B.C.
Wright is also dead wrong in attempting to portray the INM movement as a strictly partisan effort on the part of Canada’s grassroots First Nations as his assessment clearly overlooks too many historic facts surrounding the reasons why Idle No More has finally and suddenly burst forth and has been taken up by nations around the world.
In many ways INM has become a touchstone and symbol of the ongoing repression and exploitation of indigenous peoples everywhere whose lands and rights have been ignored, abused, exploited and illegally extinquished without any due process of law, all the while being tacitly approved of and covered up by a vested corporate media complicit throughout the whole unjust process.
For thousands of years the First Nations people of B.C. subsisted in a land of plenty. Matthew Baillie Begbie, the first Chief Justice of the United Colony of British Columbia and the Province alluding to this matter once stated, “All Indians in B.C. are entirely self-supported and self-supporting.”
When the European settlers arrived here the First Nations economy was boundless and booming. There were no government “hand outs”; nonspecified federal budget percentages allotted to First Nations, no government created “band councils” and definitely no “620 something reserves in this land” as Wright rightly remarks.
Truth be known there was only one reserve when James Douglas established a settlement at Fort Victoria for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 and that reserve was a territory vaster than the combined land mass of California, Oregon and Washington and known today as British Columbia.
The First Nations, being the actual civilized people of the day, and also believing that there was more than enough land and resources for everyone to share in, were respectful and generous enough to welcome the white settlers to establish their settlements within their inherent territory. Today of course, looking back, we can see the results of their misplaced faith and good will in the colonialists of their day.
Rather than touting the corporate agenda of the “red apple” Chief Louie who, like Wright and countless others, is in denial of the facts surrounding First Nations land claims, honest people earnestly seeking the facts would be well advised to listen to the words of Chief Arthur Manuel of the Sushwap nation who, in a recent talk on the Idle No More movement spoke about the obvious discrepancies that exist due to the lack of good faith in any government, be it provincial or federal, in resolving the vital land question issue. (Chief Manuel’s talk is on Youtube and can be googled)
Chief Manuel tells us that in the beginning prior to the arrival of the white settlers the native people possessed 100% of the land base. Then, after the colonial governments, both provincial and federal, illegally forced the First Nations onto minute portions of the land base they ended up with 0.36% of the land and the settlers with 99.64%. To go from 100% ownership to less than 1% was the colonial governments’ way of dealing with land claims which first began in 1866.
Bearing in mind what the First Nations unwittingly and unwillingly gave up to the colonialists and considering the fact that the federal goverment was responsible for the creation of the “band council” system that so many non-natives are now accusing of financial mismanagement, I find it difficult to sympathize in any way with Wright’s misguided assertions about how “his money” is being spent on First Nations.
We must never forget that the bulk of the 99.64% of First Nations territory has never been conquered by war or ceded to any subsequent government be it provincial or federal. A such, by natural law, it still belongs to the First Nations and until that fundamental problem is resolved in an amicable and just manner all other suppositions surrounding fiduciary costs to taxpayers is pointless and unproductive when discussing either land claims or fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer monies.
In conjunction with all this is the grim reality that these federally created bands in B.C. are now in debt to the banking cartel to the tune of 500 million dollars thanks to these prolonged and ongoing land claims negotiations that have been dragging on for the past 147 years.
Wright’s family may have been here for the past 225 years but relative to the past 10,000 years of uninterrupted occupancy by First Nations it pales into insignificance and serves no useful purpose in any serious discussion of First Nations land claims or the Idle No More movement.
Maybe, instead of subtle bashing of the First Nations, a little extrapolation is in order here so that those who feel so hard done by via their tax dollars can visualize the problem better. Imagine if we, the settlers, were to exchange places with the First Nations and all the newcomers to this land went to live on that 0.36% of reserve land and all the original inhabitants relocated to their former holdings. How well would Mr. Wright and the rest of the settlers fare in terms of economic survival? Would that 0.36 % provide for all their wants and needs?
The Mayan calendar has ended and a new beginning is upon us. I suggest to all the Wrights of the world that the Idle No More movement is just the start of an initiation process that will see both Indigenous First Nations and people of all races from around the world coming together and working to advance a way of stewardship and ownership and respect for our common Earth Mother that will allow us all to live in peace and harmony and plenty.
Arthur and Shastah Topham