Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
February 18, 2001
Doing Natives no favours
By PETER WORTHINGTON — Sun Media
One doesn't need to be an "expert" on Indians to know something is terribly amiss with Canada's policies regarding Native peoples.
And one doesn't have to be an "expert" (historically they're wrong as often as right) to know the more money we spend on "First Nations" the worse off they are — and the more affluent (corrupt?) some of their leaders, or "chiefs," become.
Part of the problem is that sensible, obvious, solutions are interpreted as racist or bigoted, and so are often left unsaid, even though most Canadians feel neither animosity nor racism toward Indians.
We even take perverse pride that our Indians weren't treated as badly as they were in the U.S. We had no "Indian wars," no shameful "Trail of Tears" as endured by the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole) who were forcibly relocated to the wastelands of Oklahoma in the 1830s, no hounding as was done to the Sioux and other plains Indians; no vendettas as waged against the Apache and Comanche.
If Canada's past policies were akin to benign neglect, today's policies could be called malignant overindulgence. And overindulgence can be more damaging than deprivation.
Doug Fisher is one who doesn't turn a blind eye to the problem, and has noted that since the early 1960s federal spending on Native people has risen from $60 million a year to over $6 billion, plus an added $1.5 billion by provinces. This for roughly 700,000 "registered" Indians on 625 reserves.
The number of Indians eligible for federal largesse has tripled since the 1960s — the lure of dollars bringing many back to the reserves. The result? Record poverty, drug abuse, crime, unemployment, alcoholism and neglect. (A 1996 federal study showed 65% of reserve homes lack bathroom facilities.)
The proposed cure? Throw more money at the problem and refuse to face the reality that unrestricted indulgence robs a people of self-respect, initiative, self-reliance, independence.
Tom Flanagan is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary who writes provocatively for newspapers and influences the Canadian Alliance. His new book, First Nations? Second Thoughts, is a realistic examination of the "prevailing orthodoxy" towards Indians that "enriches a small elite with power and wealth, and confines the rest to poverty."
Our Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional right of Native peoples to self-government and "nation" status in perpetuity. Flanagan challenges the definition of "nation" and warns that unless there's public debate, Canada will be "redefined as a multinational state embracing an archipelago of aboriginal nations that own a third of Canada's land mass, are immune from federal and provincial taxation, are supported by transfer payments from citizens who do pay taxes ... and engage in 'nation to nation' diplomacy with whatever is left of Canada."
This is our future unless Canadians wake up. Flanagan is not anti-Indian. Just the opposite, in the long-term, because right now Indians are ill-served by the elites. Even the emerging Native states in the north, akin to provinces, cannot support themselves and are financed almost solely by Ottawa.
Indians deserve to be treated as other citizens — with the same rights and responsibilities. Put crudely, Flanagan's book seems to advocate that there should be no representation without taxation, reversing the rallying cry of the American Revolution of no taxation without representation.
Treaties signed two centuries ago have little relevance to today, despite the Supreme Court. They were designed for that times, not ours. To presume that Indians can preserve, or return, to a life they once lived is just silly. Few Indians today live, or could live, as their ancestors did. Even the term "First Nations" is rhetoric verging on gibberish. No people have a right to anything simply and only because they were somewhere first. Especially if they can't defend or protect their land.
Indians are make-work in Canada — a cottage industry for bureaucrats and chiefs. Someday, the Department of Indian Affairs will have to be disbanded, the money reinvested among Indian communities to be run as other non-Indian communities. The "nation" idea is misleading and deceptive.
Historically, Indians were in bands, or tribes, and were not a unified "nation," with the possible exception of the Iroquois. And they couldn't wait to turn on each other.
The eventual "solution" is for Indians to become full Canadian citizens with all the opportunities and responsibilities of citizenship. Today's policies exemplify what Flanagan calls the law on unintended consequences: "While trying to help an entire group, we end up helping only a fraction — the least needy members of the group — while actually harming the chances of the majority."
>> Flanagan is not anti-Indian. <<
Isn't he? If he's not against Indians, I'd hate to see someone who is.
>> If Canada's past policies were akin to benign neglect, today's policies could be called malignant overindulgence. And overindulgence can be more damaging than deprivation. <<
That giving people money makes them weak and dependent is a ridiculous claim. White people get tons of government handouts and help every second of the day. For instance, the US government insures all bank accounts to the tune of $100,000. Does having that guarantee make US citizens weak and dependent with their savings? Of course not.
It's one of a near-infinite number of benefits that help rich white people more than poor brown people, but rich white people don't complain about it. Because getting freebies is good when white people like us get them. It's only bad when lazy, good-for-nothing types (i.e., "them") get freebies.
See Indians as Welfare Recipients for more on the subject.
>> Indians deserve to be treated as other citizens — with the same rights and responsibilities. <<
But they're not like other citizens, since they're members of sovereign nations who have signed treaties with the US and Canadian governments. Deal with that fact, not with your wishes.
In America's case, if the government suddenly upheld every treaty it signed, I think Native people would stop "complaining." Then all citizens would have the rights accorded to them by the government.
>> Treaties signed two centuries ago have little relevance to today, despite the Supreme Court. <<
But the Constitution, another document signed two centuries ago, still is relevant? How does that follow? Again, if Flanagan—or Worthington— isn't anti-Indian, I'd hate to see someone who is.
>> No people have a right to anything simply and only because they were somewhere first. <<
Wow, thanks for that news flash. I think I'll go build a home on top of the Lincoln Memorial, Yankee Stadium, or Disneyworld. Whoever was there first, please get out of my way so I don't have any trouble.
See The Essential Facts About Indians Today to disabuse yourself of the notion that Native people didn't have any concept of land ownership.
>> Especially if they can't defend or protect their land. <<
Since Native people did defend and protect their land, this statement is irrelevant.
Natives didn't have nations?
>> Historically, Indians were in bands, or tribes, and were not a unified "nation," with the possible exception of the Iroquois. <<
Perhaps they were a disunified nation—kind of like the United States. The point is they were here first in organized groups, not just as separate individuals.
>> And they couldn't wait to turn on each other. <<
Good thing we know Worthington, like Flanagan, isn't anti-Indian. Otherwise, this statement would seem to imply Indians were vicious and warlike.
If this article is "informative," what does it inform us of? The continuing racism against and stereotyping of Indians? The mainstream view that disadvantaged people are responsible for their own plight, that money can't help them, that they're responsible for helping themselves? And if they don't help themselves, that they're lazy, good-for-nothing bums?
This attitude is called blaming the victim. I don't think we need to be informed of it because it's common to many Americans. Canadians too, I imagine.
Indians as welfare recipients
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