Thursday, September 10, 2009

The need for polling in First Nations

In my job as a policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, I help distribute and conduct analysis on surveys for our Aboriginal Governance Index. We ask questions about all areas of band governance, economic development and service delivery. One thing we are looking into is gauging opinions on abstract questions. One area I want to explore are notions of individual rights and opinions about the limits on government. We could even ask band members how they feel about how regional grand chiefs or even the national chief of the AFN is selected.
One thing that has always bothered me are grand statements made by indigenous leaders and academics about how different First Nations are from everyone else. We need culture-specific programming for everything. Aboriginal philosophers assert that there is an "Aboriginal way of knowing" or Aboriginal epistemologies (study of knowledge).
I don't doubt that First Nations have different opinions and values than perhaps other Canadians. They have a different understanding of Canadian history; there is no doubt.
However, I am not as convinced that their commitment to individual rights, their basic beliefs about government, are as different as they are made out to be. I believe First Nations would also show support for individual property rights on-reserve, if given the opportunity to voice their opinions.
This is why I believe there need to be more polls done of on-reserve First Nation populations to discover these things. Let's settle some of these issues of whether Natives have different values once and for all.

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