Attawapiskat

The title of this post is a Cree Indian word meaning, “If white man and red man co-operate, we can really f**k things up!”  Attawapiskat is really the name of an Indian reservation on the western shore of James Bay, in Northern Ontario.  It’s so far north, you can barely see The Harem Master’s back door.

In colonial times things were often done that we are now not proud of, nor happy with the results.  The white men gathered all the Indians, who had made a subsistence living from hunting and fishing, and said, “In return for stealing all your land, you have to live on this reservation, but we will take care of you.”  For over a hundred years the government has thrown money at them, actually, a lot of money, but last year we found that sending money wasn’t the same as *taking care of them*.

Stories leaked to the press about Indians living in squalor, in moldy shacks, and tents, up where temperatures can get down to minus forty.  It doesn’t matter whether Celsius or Fahrenheit, at that level, they’re the same thing.  The white men stuck them on swampy ground.  They have no reliable water supply.  They have no sewage system.  People, especially children, are getting sick from contaminated water.

This is a little town of less than 2000 people.  White men taught the Indians how to live in a town like the white men do.  White men gave them money to support themselves, but white men didn’t teach them how to manage the money.  This is like Jeff Foxworthy talking about giving money to rednecks.  You just know that they’re going to buy a fancy belt-buckle, and an Elvis, Jack Daniels decanter.

In the five years from 2006 to 2011, the Federal Government gave ninety million dollars to the band.  Besides that income, they are receiving royalties from the recently opened Canadian diamond mines, so why are so many living in crappy conditions?  The government has tied its own hands.  All monies are paid to the band, and the government is forced to remain at arm’s length, and cannot tell them how to administrate it.

This town of 2000 has three chiefs, or mayors, each earning $100,000/year.  The tiny town has 18 councillors, each earning (well, let’s say receiving) $90,000/year, as well as other well-paid bureaucrats.  It’s unknown how many are in it, but the school board is also fully paid.  There’s a funny story about the school board.  The school also was full of mould, and derelict, so it was pulled down….and replaced with an arena.  And, now that they’ve got a new arena, they bought a Resurfice ice-machine, made in nearby Elmira, for it.  With all the extras, this machine cost $96,089.55, but it cost almost that much again, to have it shipped north.  It got trucked to Cochrane, sent by train to Moosonee, and sent by barge to the town.  The band already has a 1997 model in the arena they now plan to pull down.  They claim that income from bingo games paid for the new machine, more government money from a Southern Ontario casino paid to get it to Moosonee, and the barge company hauled it for free.

Despite the outrageous shipping-included costs of everything, these people are status Indians.  They pay no taxes, no income tax, no sales tax!  Their $100,000/yr. is like our $200,000/yr.  Other than the few local streets, they are two hundred miles from the nearest road, and yet there are a number of beautiful big sport-utes in evidence.  $40,000 to buy and $50,000 to ship, and gasoline at $4/liter to run them.  The government sent an investigator north to have a look at the situation, but he was perceived as a white man, interfering in Indian affairs, and was forced to leave.  He reported what little he found to a Federal judge, who finally ruled that there were no financial improprieties.

People were outraged; surely there are improprieties – but it’s the hands-off regulation again.  Within their community, they are allowed to make their own rules.  If they want to select three chiefs, if they want to pay them, and the bureaucrats, and the school board, if they want to tear down the school and put up an arena c/w brand-new ice machine, that’s their business.

I wrote recently about a man who asked if it was moral to kill pigs, just so that we could eat bacon.  Here is another place where it seems to be a good idea to ask the question, “Is it moral to revise the statute, so that the government can step in and take care of those who cannot take care of themselves and those they are responsible for?”  It’s the thin edge of the wedge.  I don’t trust white bureaucrats any more than Indians do.  President Ronald Reagan said the most dangerous words were, “I’m from the government.  I’m here to help.”  And yet, can we stand by and do nothing?

This situation spills over into other social areas.  Charities say that they are having increased trouble collecting funds for worthy causes.  Canada sent $25 million to Haiti after the earthquake and still the people have no homes, no food, no safe source of water.  What we do see is even more politicians driving Cadillac Escalades past the shanty-towns.  What we see is Somali war-lords taking Red Cross food before it reaches the people who need it.  I feel extremely sorry for the northern Cree, the common Haitians and the poverty-stricken Somalis, but why should I donate, when I see that my money will not help those in need?

It took several hundred years in England and Europe to establish the concepts of social equality and concern for others.  We can only hope that other sections of the world learn faster.  The Canadian troops have returned from Afghanistan.  BrainRants is still there with folks who are trying to teach them better manners, but it’s a long road.  We can’t even get rid of three petty warlords chiefs in Ontario, how can we change the entire middle-east?  Far too many outside North America think in hierarchies, first me, then my family, then my clan, then my village, then my valley.  Equality, democracy and concern for others are a long way down the scale.  It’s sad, but it’s a fact of global life, that we can only hope and try to change.

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10 thoughts on “Attawapiskat

  1. lowerarchy says:

    Thanks mate for this excellent piece which has opened my eyes to this problem. The situation seems crazy and I’m not surprised you despair when it all appears so intractable. I was planning to write on hierarchies today so your article is both timely and valuable to me. As I said before, we appear to be thinking along some of the same lines.
    Regards, Dave

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    • Archon's Den says:

      I’ve never done enough research to discover what drives the Us vs. Them, competition instead of co-operation, state of mind. I know it’s almost universal, hard to eradicate, and perhaps most pernicious in the arena of religion and morals. It’s sad. We could do so much better if more of us worked in concert.

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      • lowerarchy says:

        Agreed. Being online can make it easy to argue when I’d probably find more common ground with others if I was there in person. It’s something I need to bear in mind. Regards mate

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  2. Barely see my back door huh? Wow, they are up north alright! Do they have a pet reindeer with a bright and shiny nose?

    Attawapiskat is not the only reserve with proplems. The solutions though, have to come from the people themselves. Governmental involvement will only cost the taxpayers a bundle and complicate matters even more.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      A little literary licence for the sake of humour. They’re not quite 53 degrees north. All shiny noses come from alcoholic overindulgence. White man’s guilt drives people to think white man can and should solve the problem, but you’re right. This is theirs to deal with unless and until they ask Great White Father for help.

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  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    Down here in the former colonies we are trapped in the same moral angst, except the warlords have ventured well past fishing for fish and now troll for suckers in their own casinos. Their evolution foreshadows what your Cree might become. The “native Americans” as they understandably prefer to be called persist in their tribal affiliations even as they have become otherwise indistinguishable from the rest of us. The great majority of them look like the rest of us and talk like the rest of us – you couldn’t pick them out of a lineup. There is apparently no amount of ancestral blood too small to qualify as a tribal member. Federal subsidies include cheap food, medical care and licenses to sell tax-free tobacco and casino chips. License plates from Oklahoma across the border sport titles like “Ottawa Nation”.

    My politics have drifted leftward over the past couple of years, but this is one area that makes my mind rebel in that respect, just for the reasons you describe so well. There ought to be some reasonable stopping point where we declare our guilt assuaged, stop the flow of checks and invite our wards to join the Irish Americans, the Black Americans, the Polish Americans, the Jewish Americans, the Italian Americans, the Japanese Americans, the Chinese Americans and the Vietnamese Americans in one big tribe. And get rid of the damn Indian license plates.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      I’d let the licences go. My recent post shows it’s okay to be proud of your heritage. I just don’t agree with special treatment because your ancestors got shortchanged two hundred years ago. Times have changed. Change with them or shut up!

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      • Jim Wheeler says:

        If a Native American license plate is simply a matter of ethnic identity, fine, but so far as I can tell from the internet such plates are “issued by the tribe” and then recognized by the state and federal governments. Color me paranoid but I can’t help but think theirs are cheaper. Maybe somebody can enlighten us on the subject?

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  4. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Archon, I really enjoyed reading this. I have many thoughts on this kind of subject – it was very thought provoking. Good, Good job!

    Like

  5. Archon's Den says:

    I know! Do we do more harm than good if we interfere? Ask the Iraqis, or the Afghanis. We’ve already seriously modified their way of life, but historical change would have done that eventually, anyway. Should we try even harder to mould them in “Our Image” because we think it’s the *right* one?

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