Theft of Indian land ... simply not true

>> Saturday, December 18, 2010

...or is it? It all depends on whose version of events you want to go with. This week, a guest editorial in the Midnorth Monitor shared his particular (white, Eurocentric, male) version of the Robinson treaties. I won't post it here, because I'm not too interested in giving that sort of thinking a boost, but here's the link.

And here is my response, which I today submitted to the Midnorth Monitor.

I was interested to read Mr. Best’s perceptions of the Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior treaties; there are many other perceptions and interpretations available, of course, including, even, those on the Canadian government’s own Indian and Northern Affairs site, which offer entirely different depictions of the process and of the violence and hostilities that preceded it. Rather than offering a study of the many different viewpoints of the history of these events, however, I thought I might draw attention to a few key facts.

First of all, if the Natives involved truly, as Mr. Best himself writes “felt they had no other option,” how is it possible that they also “freely” signed the treaty, as he claims? These two claims, obviously, are in complete opposition to each other. Also, he argues that “it was territory that the Indians had never, in any real sense, effectively possessed in the first place.” And here we have a lovely demonstration of the sort of white-guy colonialism that we here in enlightened Canada have supposedly moved beyond in these supposedly post-colonial times.

It is true, of course, that Aboriginal people in Canada and elsewhere around the world, had – and have – different principles when it comes to the ownership of land and resources. In keeping with those principles, land is not subject to ownership but rather to collective and co-operative use. So no, the Aboriginal peoples of this land did not write up deeds, or build fences and put up “No Trespassing” signs. They did not, by colonial standards, “effectively” possess the land. But when are we going to wrap our (white, Eurocentric, male) heads around the fact that our (white, Eurocentric, male) ways are not the only ways? Aboriginal law was centred around principles of collective collaboration and cooperation; we (white, Eurocentric, male) societies favour individualism and adversarial and punitive systems. Mr. Best, apparently, is rather too fond of his (white, Eurocentric, male) principles and systems to consider that perhaps there might be other ways of interpreting history – and even more importantly – other ways of doing and being.

When I look at the horrendous damage our (white, Eurocentric, male) ways cause not only Aboriginal peoples in Canada, but also women, the poor, and many, many others, and the environment as well, I often wonder why we even bother to cling so desperately to our (white, Eurocentric, male) ways. It is time, I think, to consider unclenching our fingers and challenging our (white, Eurocentric, male) ways ....because they are simply not true.

Don't know if they'll print it, but hey...what can it hurt?


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