Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Broken Indian

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The Broken Indian

Please do not weep for me if its out of pity;

Look back and remember I was once proud.

When you see me looking sullen and at my worst;

Please remember I once walked with my head held high.

Where love and compassion once filled my heart;
All I have left today is anger and hatred from years of abuse!

Why is it that my people have never mattered to this country?
I was only born the way the creator chose me to be: with red skin!

But for some reason you thought you could beat it out of me;
You thought that by taking away my language I would no longer be.

You thought by taking away my culture I would cease to exist;
You thought by taking away my children I would disappear!

You thought by taking away my land I would be gone forever;
You thought by making me YOU, that I would no longer be me!

"Get rid of the Indian problem!" Isn't that what you said?
Why? Because I am different from you? Because I am not you?

You may have taken everything from me! You may think you have stolen who I am!

But....the one thing you can never take from me is MY SPIRIT!
I am and will always be
ONKWEHENKWE......MOHAWK!

By Shelley Brant

Monday, April 24, 2006

Caledonia: Potentially Another Oka Or Ipperwash?

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The earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it was. . . . The Country was made without lines of demarcation, and it is no mans business to divide it. . . . I see the white all over the country gaining wealth and see their desire to give us lands which are worthless. . . .The earth and my self are of one mind. The measure of land and the measure of our bodies are the same. Say it us if you can say it, that you were sent by Creative Power to talk to us. Perhaps you think the creator sent you here to destroy us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the creator I might be I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand me fully with reference to my affection to the land. I never said the land was mine do do with as I chose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my land, and accord you the privilage to live on yours.

-Heinmot Tooyalaket (Chief Joseph), Nez Perce

Well there is another Native occupation involving another piece of land taken illegally by the government of Canada. Reminiscent of both the Ipperwash standoff where protester Dudley George was killed by Ontario Provincial Police Sniper Kenneth Dean and of the 1995 Oka crisis where a Quebec Provincial Police Officer was killed.

The latest occupation of lands illegally taken from the Six Nations of the Grand River, by the Federal Government of Canada, is adjacent to the town of Caledonia approximately 30 km south of Hamiliton Ontario. The Clan Mothers of Six Nations and their supporters have taken it upon themselves, as stewards of the land to stop the further development of a planned sub-division on a 40 hectare piece of property that was once leased to the government and then sold without consent of the Six Nations people.

Protesters say that land, known as the Plank Road Tract, is part of the much larger Haldimand Deed, granted by the Crown to Six Nations in 1784 in recognition of their support of the British Crown during the American War of Independence. The deed included land stretching 10 kilometres on either side of the Grand River, from Lake Erie to Dundalk (midway between Owen Sound and Fergus), about 210 kilometres.That initial 950,000 acres was later downgraded by Lieutenant-Governor John Simcoe in 1795 to 275,000 acres. The Haldimand Tract now ends near present-day Elora in Nicol Township.

Six Nations Reserve: Located west of Highway 6 between the Grand River to the north and Indian Line or Regional Road 20 that runs through Hagersville. Six Nations is the most populous reserve in Canada, with a population of about 22,000. Roughly half live on the 18,818-hectare reserve. That's less than 5 per cent of the land originally granted to the Six Nations

Apparently, neither the Federal Government, nor the Ontario Provincial Police have learned a thing from the latter two stand-off's. I say this because approximately 5 days ago as of this writing, the Ontario Provincial Police stormed the peaceful occupation of this 40 hectare piece of land and arrested 16 protesters at approximately 4:30 am on Thursday. All this heavy handed show of force did was to escalate a peaceful occupation over lands that were illegally sold by the government in the first place. Approximately 4 hrs later, what started out as a small occupation of a few people grew to hundreds of people that actually had the Police retreating. They have not learned that when you back Native people into a corner they do not run away , but they stay and fight, from years of frustration and anger that has been allowed to build up from either the action, or the in-action of the Federal government.

All acrossed the province of Ontario there were protests in Solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Six Nations that drew attention of the national and international media. There was a peaceful protest held here on my reserve of Tyendinaga. The main railroad line between the large cities of Toronto and Montreal were blocked for one day in support of the Caledonia occupation and ended peacefully when there was an appearance of talks that were beginning to make progress between all parties at the negotiating table. Near Montreal the Mercier bridge was blocked for 3o minutes by another group of Mohawks , and the Mohawks of Akwesasne near Cornwall protested near the U.S. border and garnered alot of support.

Unfortunately, with land occupations and protests, comes the hidden racism against Native people that Canada can be so famous for. It seems to rear its ugly head once the Natives start to stand up for what they believe in and non-natives get a bit inconvenienced. It seems we can be tolerated until we go against the norm and try to assert and remind the government of our rights and our independance as a people. Stereo-types and ignorance also rear their ugly heads and serve as a reminder of just how ignorant Canadians are still to the plight of the Natives that exist in their own country.

Some Common Myths:

1. Natives don't pay tax.

A very small amount of Native people that work on reserves do not pay income tax. However; the majority of natives that work off reserve pay income tax. The majority of Natives also reside off reserve and therefore are subject to paying all taxes: income tax, property tax, sales tax etc. The people who reside on reserve are only free of paying one sales tax and that is the provincial sales tax.

2. Natives have access to cheap cigarettes and gas.

This may be the case, but it is because of Treaty Rights that were negotiated years and years ago regarding native lands and the goods sold upon them as non-taxable and probably more non-native people take advantage of our tax-free status by coming to reserves and buying our commodities than we do.

3. Natives get everything for free.

This is my favourite one: I and everyone here happen to pay a mortgage on our homes just like everyone else. The Treaties that were negotiated for education and medications were in lieu of priveledges for being placed on postage stamped size reserves, while the government settled what remained of our vast amount of land.

4. The Natives Discovered the land they call theirs.

Natives have existed on these lands for centuries and utilized many of the lands they call home as hunting grounds for centuries before that.

5. Why Should the government live up to Treaties and obligations that were made years ago?

The treaties and agreements that were made with the Native people, no matter how long ago are legally binding no matter when they were made and the Federal government has a Fiduciary responsibility to the Native people. New land claims are being submitted everyday due to the government not following its own policies and laws put in place for the surrendering of Native lands.

Imagine if the situation were reversed and all the non-natives in Canada were placed on reserves today, even smaller then they were promised and left to negotiate for every inch that was taken away illegally. Talks and negotiation have not worked and unfortunately the only thing that gets attention are the actions that end up inconveniencing the non-native people. If talks and negotiation worked then the over 1000 outstanding land claims would be fairly resolved by now.

The only thing the non-natives see are the barricades and not what forced the Native people to that point. The mainstream processes are utilized first and only after years of frustration from not getting anywhere do they ever end in a occupation or protest. Perhaps if the governement was willing to negotiate in good faith as it supposedly seems so willing to do when things become public, and people are inconvenienced, then they would never have to resort those means.

Also at this point in time I would like to declare the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) does not represent me as a Mohawk person. I think this organization is useless to the grass-roots Native people and only serves the politicians.

Rather than lend their support to what is going on in Caledonia, all the Grand Chief had to say was that barricades don't work and negotiation does. I don't know where he has been, nor where he is right now, but it certainly has not, and is not where he is needed. This is the same man that stated that corruption on reserve is an isolated incident. Mr Fontaine its time to get your head out of the sand and deal with reality and the actual people that you claim to represent and see the truth. The politicians that represent our territories and are corrupt (not all of them I do admit) are obviously the same ones telling you that corruption does not exist on reserve, am I right? You are no better: rather then deal with the current problems and help the people you claim to represent, you turn your back on them. Rather then help to seek solutions you are just full of words and in my mind a part of the problem.

So please do not count me in your claim that you represent all Native people within Canada, because as far as I am concerened you and your political organization are no better and in the same category as the Federal Government when it comes to caring about politics and not people.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Violence and Discrimination Still Exists Against Aboriginal Women in 2006

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" I don't get the sense the general public cares much about missing or murdered Aboriginal women. It's all part of the indifference to the lives of Aboriginal People. They don't seem to matter as much as white people"

Journalist Covering the Trial of John Martin Crawford

Convicted of Murdering 3 Aboriginal Women in 1996

One of Canada's largest blemishes on its Human Rights record is its treatment of Aboriginal people and specifically Aboriginal women. In 2004 this was recognized by Amnesty International and a report entitled: Discrimnination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada was compiled, which highlighted the plight of Canada's Aboriginal women.

This report recognizes and highlights clear systemic and personal discrimination by law enforcement officials and also political officials that has taken place over the course of 30 years against Aboriginal women in Canada. It shows that this violence and discrimination of Aboriginal women has changed very little over this 30 year period in Canada and very little little has been done by government or law enforcement officials to change it.

On November 12, 1971 a young Aboriginal woman by the name of Helen Betty Osbourne was abducted and murdered by 4 non-native men from the town of The Pas Manitoba. She was sexually assaulted and then brutally killed. She was a 19 year old Cree student from Northern Manitoba that wanted to become a teacher. It took 15 years to bring only one of her 4 killers to justice.

A Provincial Inquiry into the matter concluded that Canadian auathorities had failed Betty Osbourne. The sloppy and racially biased police investigation was criticized and it was found that police were aware of non-native men preying on Aboriginal women and girls in the town of The Pas, but did nothing about it.

Some 30 years later fate struck the same family when a cousin of Betty Osbourne, named Felicia , failed to return home from school on March 25, 2003, she was 16 years old. Police in Winnepeg failed to treat the initial report of Felicia missing seriously. The family was told that police could not begin a search for her for 48 hrs, depsite the existence of no such policy. The official policy in the case of a missing person is to assess according to the risk to the missing person. Family members trying to find Felicia distributed posters, but none were distributed by the police. The families comments reflect their anger over the obvious mal-treatment they received during such an important investigation into their daughter's disapperance. Basicly they reflect the feelings of a society that continues to systemically and personally discriminate: if it was any other child other than a native child, police would have done everything in their power to find her. In June of 2003 body parts were found that were later identified to be that of Felicia, and to my knowledge, her killer has never been found and brought to justice.

A joint taskforce was formed by the RCMP and the Vancouver city police to investigate the disappearance of 60 women and one trans-gender person, 16 of whom were Aboriginal, from Vancouver British Columbia, over the last 10 years. A British Columbia man named Robert Pickton is currently awaiting trial on 22 murder charges related to the investigation. Police and city officials over the last 10 years have denied that any pattern existed in the disappearance of the women or that women were ever in danger. Only in 2002 after the disappearnce of a 26 year old Aboriginal woman while hitchhiking along a road that connects Prince George and Smithers British Columbia, did media attention focus on the insolved murders and other disappearances along what has been dubbed "the highway of Tears". In 1994 in 2 seperate incidents, 2 15 year old Aboriginal girls were found murdered in Prince George B.C. and the body of another Aboriginal girl that disapperared in 1994 also, was found in April of 1995 in Smithers B.C.

The families and other non-governmental organizations working on their behalf have had to be the ones to launch their own campaigns to bring these isssues to the attention of the police, media and government officials. It is the view of Amnesty International that the role of discrimination is fuelling the violence and also the denial of Aboriginal women from protection and allowing their perpetrators to escape justice.

There is an urgent need for Canadian officials to better understand and address violence against Aboriginal women living within non-native communities in Canada. Sadly, 30 years later women continue to be placed at risk simply because they are Aboriginal.

In the words of the Manitoba Justice Inquiry regarding the murder of Helen Betty Osbourne:

"There is one fundamental fact: her murder was a racist and sexist act. Betty Osbourne would be alive today had she not been an Aboriginal woman."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happpy Valentine's Day!

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Love

Love is a friendship that has caught fire.

It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.

It is loyalty through good and bad.

It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weakness.

Love is content with the present. It hopes for the future and it doesn’t brood over the past.

It’s the day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals.

If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack.

If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough, so search for it, ask God for it, and share it!

Author Unknown

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Workplace Bullying and Harassment......The Norm In Native Communities?

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Beauty and ugliness are everywhere - even in some of the same things. To some a wide open prairie is empty and colorless - but to others it is uncluttered simplicity - the way life itself ought to look.

Physical appeal is high on some lists, but nu tso se dv na, which is cherokee comfort, lasts longer. Whatever is in our hearts is in our sight. To love something or someone makes us see the beauty of it - not the wrong.

It is to our advantage to be gentle in our observations - to see and cultivate the best in who we are and in those around us.

We love quiet; we suffer the mouse to play; when the woods are rustled by the wind, we fear not.......

Indian Chief 1796

We have all heard the stories if we live in a Native Community: stories of corruption, low wages, employees being treated as if they are less than people. The standard unwritten rule: talk about any of it and you will be fired. If you publicize it in any way the leaders of these communities will stop at nothing to ensure that the reasons they fired you were nothing short of being your fault. They will make things up saying things like "they were fired for stealing" or "they didn't know how to do their job" and "this is their way of getting back at us for firing them" but they are lying. They do not stop until both you and your good name have been destroyed.

Often times workplace bullying and harassment is the key event that triggers the reporting of such crimes, only because losing ones job, when one has a family to support is not often an option when jobs are so hard to come by.

Often the person in this situation feels all alone and isolated, and helpless to do anything about such a conspiracy, against leaders that are most often believed over the person that is reporting a crime or some other wrong doing that has taken place while in the employ of the on-reserve government.

We need to stand up and take notice that people in Native communities are being driven to almost desperation because they choose to stand up for what is right and just within their workplaces, often with tragic results for the person that chose to do the right thing, and with no justice or recourse.

My Story:

I know very well from personal experience what happens in these situations because I was the target of bullying and harassment in the workplace at our Band Administration Office for 4 years. I went everwhere trying to get help and reported it to our Band Council who in turn repaid me by doing the same thing....why because I talked about it and they did nothing. What they did do is believe the manager that said I was the one harassing her and never bothered to interview any of the other employees or investigate, because if they would have they would have found out that almost every employee in that building knew what was going on.

I was the subject of the Office Managers abuse, whom it seems could not tolerate another woman in the office that had brains or anything to contribute in a positive manner. I was one of five ladies that was targetted for her rumors, lies, and the discrediting of my work and that was just the beginning. The things that were done to me are unspeakable and yet I refused to let them win by quitting. Why would I when I had done nothing wrong, I was great at my job in the Economic Development Department, I was well liked by the staff and the community and I enjoyed what I did. What I did not enjoy was coming into a poisened work enviroment everday with no support, solution or mechanisms to solve the problem.

Ultimately they ended up hiring a new director whose main role was to harass me into quitting, but I was too stubborn and when they could not make me quit I started to receive daily reprimands.

What did I do to deserve all this you may be asking yourself?

Nothing accept do my job in the beginning and then near the end:

1. I went to a Council meeting on behalf of my cousin whom they were going to fire for telling her boyfriend that she was assaulted physically at work...the kicker was it was at a shelter for abused woman and she was assaulted by another employee that happened to be the Chief's niece. They wanted to fire her for breach of confidentiality and I spoke on her behalf.

2. I was put in a position where I ended up exposing a situation involving sexual harassment that involved at least three councillors and a junior staff member. Later I was told I was set up but who knows. I only tried to do the right thing and not be closed mouth like the rest of the office about the things that were wrong.

3. I ended up, knowing I was gonna be fired by this time, exposing 2 frauds that had occurred in my department and that I subsequently witnessed involving my fomer boss, the whole upper administration and all of the Council at the time....totalling almost 100,000.00

What Happened?

1. I ended up being suspended for 3 days for refusing to put in false paperwork claiming that work had been performed that wasn't.

2. I held a press conference to inform people of what was happening citing the incidents that has taken place without mentioning names. This was part of the reason they used to fire me. Then they threatened to sue the press if any of it was published or shown on t.v.

3. I was given whats called a Proceduaral Fairnes hearing with 3 out of 4 councillors being in a conflict of interest position: there was eight of them including their lawyer, I could not afford the $1000.00 for the day that it would have cost me to have representation. I was allowed no one in the hearing as a support person unless that person was going to speak on my behalf.

4. I was fired, which I already knew would be the outcome, and escorted from the building like a common criminal and not allowed to take my personal belongings from my office.

5. I left with $800.00 in vacation pay and that was it.

6. I searched high and low for a lawyer but could not afford one and therefore to this day have never received any justice.

7. I put in a formal complaint to the Department of Indian Affairs, but was told they do not get involved in work place matters. After they faxed the Chief my complaint that was meant for them and not for Council and of course the Council denied it all.

8. I went to the Ontario Provincial Police with all the proof they needed to lay fraud charges and spent alot of my time laying out the case for them about what had taken place, one of which involved phony contracts for work never performed and money being hid in a contractors personal account amounting to 50,000.00. There was not a word I was saying that could not be backed up by a document to verify it and it was their own documents that held the proof. The second fraud involved a contract which required a new building be built with government funds and the Council chose to renovate an old Quonset Hut rather than build a new building, after being told several times that this was not conduscive to the already signed contract, they went ahead anyway. This was the paperwork that I refused to do showing that a new building was built, when I was suspended. The supervisor that was hired to harass me had another employee do the paperwork and he signed it off, this gentleman was a former lawyer and now works for the Department of Justice of all places. The total of this fraud amounted to approximately $50,000.00 as well.

9. They told me that it was obvious that the whole council and upper administration was involved and seemed more worried about politics than laying any charges and ultimately thats what happened....nothing.

10. About those files the Band Council tried to have me, with the help of the police charged with stolen files. They were more interested in charging me with missing files then they were in a $100,000.00 fraud.

11. They also went after my family firing my father a month later, who had been a Police Officer for 20 years, and Chief of Police for 7 years ( he happened to be investigating the fraud at the time) and attempted to have my mother set up and fired from the community owned corporation she works for.

This is a fraction of the things that happened over the 5 years I was employed with the Band Administration Office, but probably some of the most important.

Oh and did I mention that at the time I was a single mother and I still am to this day.

When I reviewed my workplace file I found dozens of letters and memos from the Office Manager accusing me of things that I had never done, I also had never received a copy of these memos to be able to dispute them. I was still having things placed on my file one year afterI had ceased to work for the Band Administration Office.

With the rise of workplace violence, Native communites are almost sure to be next in line as they are prime breeding grounds for this type of violence. Bullying and harassment can occurr on a daily basis and there are very few if any mechanisms in place to address these issues. If you are not be sexually harassed or being discriminated against in some way then there is little you can do about this psychological violence.

BULLYING IS VIOLENCE:

Violence is the use of force or power by the perpetrator (the person doing the violence) against another, i.e. the victim. This use of force or power is made up of a range of behaviours or actions that may be physical (affecting the body) and/or psychological (affecting the mind). The result of this force or power may impact on the well being or health of the victim; for example, injury, death psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation for the victim.

Profile of a Bully

Adult bullies, like their schoolyard counterparts, tend to be insecure people with poor or non-existent social skills and little empathy. They turn this insecurity outwards, finding satisfaction in their ability to attack and diminish the capable people around them.

A workplace bully subjects the target to unjustified criticism and trivial fault-finding. In addition, he or she humiliates the target, especially in front of others, and ignores, overrules, isolates and excludes the target.

If the bully is the target's superior, he or she may: set the target up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or deadlines, or denying necessary information and resources; either overload the target with work or take all work away (sometimes replacing proper work with demeaning jobs); or increase responsibility while removing authority.

Regardless of specific tactics, the intimidation is driven by the bully's need to control others.

WHAT IS WORKPLACE VIOLENCE?

Overt violence and aggression includes verbal and emotional abuse or threats and physical attacks to an individual or to property by another individual or group. Covert, or hidden violence is also a form of bullying in the workplace. Covert bullying is not in the form of physical attack but also causes emotional damage to the worker. The impact of violence on a victim depends on the severity of the violence, his or her personal experiences, skills and personality.

Violent (overt) Acts Include:

1. Verbal abuse in person or over the telephone, Physical or sexual assault.

2. Written abuse

3. Threats, Ganging up, bullying and intimidation.

4. Malicious damage to the property of staff, customers or the business.

Covert Acts Include:

1. Repeated refusal of ongoing education/Training.

2. Withholding important information needed to complete a job.

3. Continual allocation of low grade or inappropriate work (inequity).

4. Repeated sporadic rostering.

THE EFFECTS OF BULLYING:

No one works at their best if they feel hurt, angry, vulnerable and powerless. Bullying can have a variety of physical and psychological effects on people. Commonly reported effects are:

1. Stress, anxiety and tension.

2. Feelings of social isolation at work.

3. Loss of confidence and self esteem.

4. Loss or deterioration of personal relationships.

5. Headaches, backaches, stomach cramps, depression.

6. Deterioration of work performance.

EFFECTS ON THE INDIVIDUAL :

The effects of bullying can be psychological and financial and include:

1. Anti social behaviour, impact on family/relationships.

2. Stress-related illnesses and headaches

3. Anxiety, depression; self blame.

4. Stomach disorders and skin rashes.

5. Disempowerment

6. Lethargy and sleep disturbance.

7. Anger; irritability.

8. Loss of concentration.

9. Loss of self esteem, lowered self confidence.

10. Loss of income; loss of potential income.

11. Panic attacks

12. Reluctance to go to work.

13. Uncertainty of self.

14. Actively seeking other positions.

15. Post traumatic stress disorder.

16. Pressure to take jobs below his/her capacity.

This is just one example of what goes on in the work-place in Native communities, the stories are endless although you will rarely see them published because of the fear and intimidation. A huge one is the threat to sue, but I say you can't be sued for telling the truth.

Unfortunately Canada has no laws to deal with this kind of violence in the work-place, laws such as whistle blowing and bullying and mental harassment need to be addressed and included to protect all workers that are vulnerable to this kind of abuse.

The U.S. has state a Federal Laws which protect whistle blowers in a ceratain capacity, but thats not good enough. Also there is an awareness campaign regarding workplace bullying and harassment takign place in the U.S. and workplaces are starting to recognize the detrimental effects of this kind of violence.

Fight Workplace Violence Now! Break The Silence!