THE ISRAELI DIPLOMAT, orator and polyglot, Abba Eban, is today memorialized in the truism that men and nations behave wisely only once they have exhausted all the other alternatives. In the case of Canada’s exhausted Indian Act policies, the alternatives to a wiser course have been many as well as durable, as we all know. Thus it is with surprise, and enthusiasm even, that the Assembly of First Nations is this week absorbing Canada’s late acceptance of the five “Conditions for the Success of First Nations Education,” enunciated in the AFN’s December 2013 unanimous resolution and enshrined in Finance Minister Flaherty’s 2014 budget. These conditions are as follows:
WHEN THE politician and aspiring poet Nicholas Flood Davin visited Captain Richard H. Pratt’s Carlisle Barracks, in Pennsylvania, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was only weeks along in its operations. Nonetheless, in March of 1879 an enthusiastic endorsement of this American Indian industrial and boarding school reached the desk of the Minister of the Interior, who happened also to be the author’s patron, John A. Macdonald.
Photo: Rupert’s Land Indian Industrial School / later St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, 1901. Library and Archives Canada PA-182251.
WITH VERY few exceptions, the men and women who created and sustained Canada’s Indian Residential School System believed that the policy of “aggressive assimilation”* was benevolent and forward-looking. The absorption of the Indian into Canadian society, necessary to possess land and resources and to build a nation-state, was the desired outcome of policies and the final solution of the Indian Problem envisioned by Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott. The policy of assimilation neither began nor ended with the Indian Residential School System. The program of assimilation continues to this day, for the simple reason that nation-building, from sea to shining sea, continues.
The history of the Haudenosaunee (the people who are building a longhouse) is one of unceasing challenges, from without but often also from within. It was no foregone conclusion that the eventual five constituting nations of the “Iroquois League” would accede to the Peacemaker’s vision of unity. Suspicion and hostility posed an enormous impediment to the cause of peace. The impediment obtains to this day.
Continue reading The Haudenosaunee | Part Three, That Which Divides Us →
You may not be aware, so allow me to begin this discourse by mentioning that Glooscap is the name of a Trickster figure, that curious mythical creature who is part fool, part teacher, and in composition an improbable union of the human and supernatural realms. One is well advised to pay close attention to the Trickster, even if only for the reason that something is certain to be revealed. Continue reading Chief Shirley Clarke, brought to you by the Indian Act →