Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Is This Who We Have Become?

" Native American isn't blood. It is what is in the heart. The love for the land, the respect for it, those who inhabit it, and the respect and acknowledgement of the spirits and elders. That is what it is to be Indian."

White Feather, Navajo Medicine Man

Have we forgotten who we are? Has leadership and power become so important to us that we have to oppress others so that we can feel superior and powerful? Have we forgotten that we have a respsonsibilty to the next 7 generations and beyond? What is the legacy we are leaving those generations? One of hurt, pain and suffering at he hands of our own people: the people who call themselves the leaders of our communities: this is the legacy we will be leaving behind for our children and their children.

Our communities are suffering in silence, it's people being beat down like an abused woman until there is nothing left of them: no spirit, no life and no hope. Silently accepting this is the way things are and that things will never change. Its a defeatest atttitude: when you don't expect or hope for anything different, things will always stay the same.

In almost every community accrossed Canada and the US the stories are the same: the facts may be different, the faces different, but the dynamics of what goes on inside those communities are the same. Some of the stories are so tragic that it makes one wonder how these things can go on and people can suffer like this today. They suffer because there is nowhere for them to turn or this is what they have been made to believe anyway: that we have to handle things ourselves and accept no outside assistance from anyone else. Unfortuantely there is nothing within these communities to address the real problems that exist: that of the governing bodies and the oppression and persecution of its own people.

Some of the common ways that oppression works in these communities are:

1. If I speak about what is going on then I won't get a house (or mortgage for one) my kids won't get money to go to college, I will be given a hard time whenever i need to access services or denied them altogether.

2. I better have proof of what is going on because if I don't I will get sued.

3. I can't speak up because i don't have proof just my word.

4. If I speak up then they will slander my name and destroy my reputation.

5. If I speak up they will use the law or the police to make sure I get charged with something.

6. If I speak up about anything I am labelled a "dissendent" or "trouble-maker".

7. If I write about anything my goverment doesn't like then they will either threaten to sue me or make sure its not printed by threatening the people that are going to print it.

8. If I speak up in a council meeting about something they don't like then I am disrupting and they threaten to call the police.

9. If I happen to work for them then I am expected to never criticize or talk openly about things that are being done either illegally or just plain wrong, cause I will not have a job left if I do, and when I go to get my next job they will make sure my new employer knows what a trouble maker I am.

10. If I report them to any governement or outside agency then I am labelled a liar and a troublemaker so that they will not believe the things I have reported.

How is it that these things can occur? The councils or elected bodies in most of these Native communities make the final decisions in all matters including all the vital services that are available within them and they can withhold them at their pleasure. They are also most of the time: the employers of the police, and have the ability to spend community money as they see fit.

The common misnomer is to put in a new government, but unfortunately the faces change, but the dynamics don't. This unhealthy way of governing by fear and intimidation is so entrenched in these communities and people are so afraid to speak out that the chance for effective change rarely gets off the ground.

The strength for change has to come from within the Native people themselves and this will not happen until they are empowered enough to say "NO MORE" and until they know that they do not stand alone.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How Can This Happen In 2005?

If anyone has ever experienced any fear at all that they will be persecuted, denied services, harassed, bullied, slandered, or demoralized in some way while living in a Native community then you have experienced oppression and its effects opertating at its very best. Oppression takes away from us basic rights and freedoms that are enjoyed by others in mainstream society, free of fear and encumbrances. Not in Canada you say? All you have to do is live within a Native community whether it be in Canada or the U.S. to know that these things are regular occurrences and the norm for how people live in each day in fear and silence.
The Webster's Dictionary defines oppression as the following:
Main Entry: op·pres·sionPronunciation: &-'pre-sh&nFunction: noun: an unjust or excessive exercise of power: as a : unlawful, wrongful, or corrupt exercise of authority by a public official acting under color of authority that causes a person harm b : dishonest, unfair, wrongful, or burdensome conduct by corporate directors or majority shareholders that entitles minority shareholders to compel involuntary dissolution of the corporation c : inequality of bargaining power resulting in one party's lack of ability to negotiate or exercise meaningful choice —see also UNCONSCIONABILITY —op·pres·sive /&-'pre-siv/ adjective
We all hear about how people in other countries have been oppressed for years and when we do we think of countries like Iraq under dictators like Sadamm Hussein. We also know as native people that the federal governments have oppressed us for centuries in both Canada and the U.S. because it gets talked about and discussed all the time.
What rarely gets discussed is what goes on within Native communities themselves: the fact that our own people are now being oppressed by our own people via the chosen governments or Band Councils of each community. We expend all our energies and resources to fight for whats rightfully ours and so it should be. But what is more important to address right now is the healthiness of the people within our individual communities and the oppression that exists within their boundaries.
We have regional native political organizations and we have national political organizations in Canada that want to deny that this is taking place within our communities, rather then address these issues and seek a resolution of them. We have the Department of Indian Affairs who prefer to turn a blind eye to what really goes unless you can provide them with some sort of proof and even then all the Band Council has to do is deny these things take place and they are believed. Then we have the community goverments or Band Councils themselves who prefer to punish and ostriscize their own people rather then admit or be accountable for any wrongdoing on their part.
How can this be happening in 2005? It is because there are no mechanisms or help in place for people living within these communites to stop it. Each community and its people are left to struggle on their own to seek resolution of these types of problems from the very people that are opressing them: the Band Councils. These people are fed up, angry, and at their wits end and thats why you may often see violence within these communites, because that is the only way people seem to listen to their plight and will stand up and take notice of what is happening to them. These people are driven to violence by a system that has turned their backs on them and left them to live without the very rights and freedoms enjoyed by all Canadians and Us citizens.
The main right that is denied to the people living within a native community is freedom of speech. Speak out about the wrong doing going within one of these communities and you wil be punished in some way by any of the above methods i talked about at the beginning of this post. the next right that is denied is often freedom of association. Associate with the people that have now been labelled "dissidents" within their communites and suffer the same punishments. Don't write about it either cause the councils will threaten to sue you and of course use your own community money to do this like it was their own: I believe this is called censorship. The last time i looked all people were entitled to these freedoms within Canadian and American society, but then they are not led my fear and intimidation tactics either. When was the last time any other Canadian citizen was labelled a "dissident" for speaking their opinion and criticizing the federal goverment and for trying to effect positive change?
We will never attain self-goverment in a healthy manner or any type of unity among our people until we solve the severe problems that are so prevelant among them. These problems are never talked about, are hidden and are never addressed. The Federal goverment can throw all the money it wants at these communities but money can't solve abuse and opression at the hands of Tyraniccal Band Councils.
We have to walk before we can run: we have to start from the bottom up and not the top down and this comes in the form of healing and adressing the abuse that occurs daily within these communities. Until this is done don't expect anything but a band-aid calling itself progress while people still suffer in silence.
How do i know all this you may ask? Well i live it daily and i have also personally experienced everyone of the fear and punishment tactics that i have explained above. I also see the loss of the freedoms that I have spoken about take its tole on the members of my community that want so badly to speak out but who are afraid. The best tactic these days is the threat of a lawsuit against you while they use our money like a bottomless money pit and know fully that you do not have the resources to fight back.
The only way any of this will change is by unification of the people in these communities, not political unification but individual people from community to community. We have to strive to help each other at the grass roots level because counting on anyone else does not work and you will be waiting for a longtime for help that is never gonna come. These are common problems among all native communites in both Canada and the Us, so lets put our heads together as individuals and figure out a way to solve them, rather then stuggle alone and in silence.