Friday, November 27, 2009

Baby Steps

I am convinced more than ever that history will favour those who advocate political and economic freedom for First Nations.
The Nisga'a property rights step is a small one, but I believe it will erode the will of the Native leaders who will not be able to silence the band members who want change.
I think sheer numbers will achieve this. As more FNs leave reserves and see the outside world, they will want to come back to their community to see changes and will become increasingly jaded at leaders as they deny them.
I see a new generation of indigenous youth who are respectful of their traditions and past, but who refuse to take the lack of opportunity and the corruption of the old boys club on reserves.
As more bands clean up their act and these stories get to mainstream attention, more reserves will know there is a better way forward.
Ever notice how most of the big shot Aboriginal leaders don't leave permanently on reserves? Yes, they probably spend most of their time on reserves, but do they live there? Probably not. They believe they are advocating for their people, but in reality, they have one foot in each world and if they had to choose, they would probably stay in the colonial world. Why? Because of the jobs, income, mobility, and opportunity.
No one predict how the demographics will go completely, but I believe things will come down to a heavily urbanized FN population and an increasingly dissatisfied, but younger and more demanding, on-reserve population. They will want to have the best of both worlds. They respect their traditional homelands, yet want the prosperity and cleaner politics of the mainstream. From there, I predict, will emerge a critical class of people open to changes, including property rights, in order to have reasons to stay.
I hope this newer class works with the government and mainstream society, but there are no guarantees they will.
This is why indigenous youth need to be engaged and encouraged in expressing themselves. Unfortunately, militant groups like Wasase are taking over this role, but these organizations are about tuning yourself away from modernity and towards antagonistic rhetoric.
My greatest fear are the urban Aboriginals who have never really experienced reserve life and visit a few times a year and get angry at any discussion about Aboriginal accountability. I met one such youth at a conference in Calgary. They are eager to show their "Indian" credentials to everyone, they hate the Flanagans and Widdowsons of the world they they think they are supposed to, and they respond to any discussion of FN governance issue in the same negative kneejerk fashion.
These people are disconnected from the reserve people who see corruption every day, want change, and are listening to accountability advocates. They are also generally moderate and conciliatory.
If I am correct, these "two-row wampum belt" (one foot in reserve and one in urban setting) urban activist Indians are going to be the greatest threat to political and economic freedom for First Nations.
I could be all wrong, but I am interested to see how things go.. My experience as a policy analyst who travels to reserves convinces me of the basic truthfulness of the descriptions.

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