Friday, November 27, 2009
Native Rights; Are they hard done by?
I had an interesting discussion yesterday from a friend's status update on facebook that read as such:
"In regards to Native Rights - When will government stop taking land that is not theirs to take? ... When will governments & those in power stop taking away from the indigeous their rights to be treated in the same manner as white & given the same treatment ..."
When I started this conversation, I must admit, I was less knowledgable about the topic of what Native's rights are in Canada. I did a bit of research on the topic and came back with a better understanding of the basic allowances afforded to Native people.
I'm not here to argue who has it better, because that is a matter of perception. Similarily, if you would ask a person who lived in a socialized system of government vs. a highly capitalized system, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, and your perception of what you valued would determine your view.
BUT, I do want to address something else on the subject. But before I get there, indulge me...
I like History. I have always loved history, its facts and dates and how it replays itself again and again. It is important to me to see where we as humans have come from, and why we got here. So, when I look at basic things in history like maps and how they are drawn up, and how they have altered in history, it makes sense.
Let's take Europe for example. The maps and borders of Europe have changed literally dozens of times in the past 50 years. Empires such as the Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungarian, Prussian, Germanic, have come and gone, being defeated along the way. After each war or deciding battle, the defeated nation or empire surrenders, and its people must live according to the new rules of the land determined by the victor. Thus the saying, "To the Victor go to spoils" Basic understanding, correct?
So, what is the difference between this and how the Canadian government treat Natives? The Natives were defeated 400 years ago. They have assimilated into the nations of British North America, Upper and Lower Canada, and finally Canada. Generations of natives have been born into being Canadian, as their title of First Nation dictates.
However, I don't know any other nation of people defeated that enjoys better opportunities than what is afforded to Card Carrying Natives in Canada. From birth, they have a better opportunity to free education, tax benefits, and socialized benefits that the average Canadian DOESN'T have. Yet, we are all considered Canadians, being born in the same country, under the same government with the same laws. I would think that if you are in Canada, you live as a CANADIAN. And this goes to other people who live here and still retain their heritage. If you live in our country, you live by our government's laws.
If you look at how other nations treat the defeated countries, there would be uproar if they received similar benefits that they themselves did NOT receive.
Now, should we feel ashamed at how the Natives were treated by our forefathers?
There is no doubt that our greed and conquest ruined the lives and lifestyle of their once proud nations of people. But this is not just reserved for us. This happened hundreds of other places in the world of the treatment of others by conquoring nations.
However, it is in the past, and it cannot be changed. No amount of apology or social aid will help that fact, and I'm tired of having to hear about it. And this isn't just reserved for Natives, this is reserved for any other people that feels that they have been treated badly in the past.
Get over it.
That attitude of "woe is me" is a defeatist attitude, and you only sabatoge yourelf with it. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with remembering your past and history, and honouring your past. However, don't allow it to affect your place in society, and your happiness in that place.
Atrosities happen to many. To the nations conquored by the Romans, to the nations that were oppressed by the Christians conquoring "in the name of God", to blacks that were involved by the slave trades, to the Jews who were displaced in Europe and to many countless others that are too many to name. It happens. It is horrible and certainly a black mark, but it is not isolated to simply one being, other than the HUMAN BEING.
So, if you want to make a difference, here's a tip...
Start with your own people and make a change. Education and knowledge is free in this country, but it starts with the idea that you want it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink. To those who want it, you will see it in their lifestyles.
I know many natives that carry on very successful lives, and I also see the drunken native complaining that he is discriminated against. I think it is all based on your perception.
I will leave you with a story that I think applies to this perfectly...
There was a set of twins born to a very abusive father and mother. Their childhood was marred with things that children should never have to see, or be around. Drugs, Alcohol, and Abuses of other kinds surrounded them. When they grew into young men, they both were in councelling trying to deal with their past. The difference was, one twin was highly successful, and the other was desolate. In trying to understand why each of them were the way they were, the Psychologist asked a question as to why they each turned out the way they did.
And to the amazement of the shrink, they both delivered the EXACT SAME REPLY.
This was amazing, for the one twin had kids, and found true love with his wife. He had a great career, was well educated and lived a life of balance. The other twin was just the opposite, dropping out of school, running into problems with abuse and the law, and had many unsuccessful relationships.
How could this be? How could they have the same answer for 2 TOTALLY different livestyles?
Do you want to know what their answer was?
They answered the question, "Why do you think you turned out the way you have?" with this response....
"What choice did I have? Just look at my parents..."