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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(12/8/01)


Jack Chick comic strip Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

The Case for Assimilation (Part 1)

December 8, 2001

Jonathan Kay
National Post
http://www.nationalpost.com

Eight months ago, we set Jonathan Kay, editorials editor of the National Post, the task of investigating Canada's aboriginal problem. The federal government spends more than $7-billion a year on aboriginal programs. Yet suicide, poverty, alcoholism and welfare dependence are rampant on reserves.

---

During the early 1970s, for reasons no one can explain, Americans exhibited a fondness for kangaroo-themed curios. These included kangaroo hatbands, kangaroo-paw bottle openers and kangaroo tennis-racquet covers. Eventually, the trade attracted the ire of environmentalists. The U.S. government shut down kangaroo imports, Australia imposed hunting quotas and the industry went into decline.

"It was the 'greenies,' " says Paul Albrecht, a retired Lutheran pastor from Australia. "It's the same thing with those seals you've got there in Canada. They look cute so no one wants to kill 'em."

Mr. Albrecht grew up on the Hermannsburg mission station, a tiny outpost in the Northern Territory. For 41 years, beginning in 1957, he worked as the mission's pastor, visiting isolated aboriginal communities with doctors, anthropologists and government workers. His mission also ran a kangaroo tannery that employed aboriginal workers.

When the government began limiting the kangaroo hunt, the supply of fur skins dried up and the tannery was forced to start processing cowhides. But the cowhide supply in the area was irregular, and the mission concluded it would be impossible to keep the tannery operational as a full-time processing facility. Instead, the operators helped local aboriginals create a cottage industry. The tannery equipment would be used for tanning, but the work of making wallets, purses and other leather products would be performed and supervised by the aboriginals themselves, without white oversight.

"We had high hopes," Mr. Albrecht told me. "We got a government grant and used it to hire a specialist to show the workers how to work with [the new material]. We even had an exhibition in Sydney beforehand to make sure the products would sell."

But the operation was a failure. Despite evident demand for its products, the Hermannsburg cottage industry closed quickly.

"The skills weren't the problem," says Mr. Albrecht.

"Aborigines learn skills as quickly as any white man. In fact, they learn them quicker because mimicking is the way their culture transmits information. The problem was they didn't have the social structure to support [a self-directed] economy. Some days workers would show up. Other days they wouldn't. Aboriginal culture isn't hierarchical.

"Aboriginals can't tell each other what to do. So the [boss] couldn't make employees keep shifts. People just stayed home and collected unemployment."

It's the sort of story many people tell. Over the past few decades, the governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand have gone to great lengths to promote aboriginal economic development while protecting aboriginal culture. It is impossible. The two aims cannot be reconciled.

"You cannot separate aboriginal cultural life from hunting and gathering," says Ray Evans, an advisor to the Western Mining Corporation who has studied the condition of Australian aboriginals for the past 20 years.

"There is no distinction between the sacred and the secular in aboriginal society. The whole point of the dances and the spiritualism is to increase the success of the hunt. As soon as that hunting life is destroyed — which [begins to] happen when the first rifle or sheep is brought in — the culture is destroyed as well. What remains is a museum diorama. It's tragic, but aboriginal culture is totally incompatible with modernity."

---

For roughly 13,000 years, aboriginal peoples have lived in the land we call Canada. The fact they were able to flourish in our harsh climate reflects an intelligence and resourcefulness that has rightly been the subject of European admiration since first contact. But the cultural practices developed by bands of illiterate hunter-gatherers living a largely nomadic existence have little relevance to a modern society.

At some level, of course, the cultural relativists are correct: No society is objectively "better" than any other, and it is possible to live a fulfilled life without ever learning Windows or watching FOX. But the conquest of the New World by the Old was no accident. It is part of the pattern Jared Diamond explains in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1999 book, Guns, Germs And Steel: The Fates Of Human Societies. Throughout history, he argues, societies able to move from hunting and gathering to organized food production have conquered their neighbours. The food surplus generated by sedentary farming permits the creation of cities and centralized states, as well as the emergence of specialists who develop metallurgy, writing and improved armaments. With rare exceptions, societies that graduate from hunting and gathering never look back.

Prior to their first contact with white men, food production —i.e., farming and animal husbandry — was unknown to almost all aboriginal groups living in what is now Canada. Indian societies were typically comprised of small bands or tribes whose myths and values corresponded to a nomadic life spent hunting animals and foraging for edible plants.

While some Canadian aboriginal groups, the Iroquoian peoples of southern Quebec and Ontario, for example, created temporary farms to supplement the food they found in the wild, none developed cities, writing, advanced metal tools or any religion beyond animism and shaman-mediated sorcery. In terms of economic, military and intellectual development, the societies European explorers found in North America were roughly on a par with what existed in the Fertile Crescent in 8,000 BC.

This does not mean Canada's native peoples are genetically inferior to Europeans: Mr. Diamond makes a convincing case it was an accident of geography and plant speciation that led to Eurasia's advantage in technological development. His experience with indigenous New Guinean tribesmen led him to conclude they are "on the average more intelligent, more alert [and] more expressive [than] the average European." Many Canadian experts have reported to me they have the same impression of our own native peoples. But so far as forward-looking policy goes, that has little relevance.

To protect aboriginal dignity, however, our elites promote the fiction the meeting of Old World and New World was a clash of rough equals. The 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), for instance, argues that the aboriginal bands European settlers encountered were "nations" whose modern claims to land and resources must be negotiated with Ottawa on a "nation-to-nation" basis. "On both sides of the Atlantic," wrote the report's authors, "national groups with long traditions of governing themselves emerged, organizing themselves into different social and political forms according to their traditions and the needs imposed by their environments."

Aboriginal education experts stress similar themes. In an essay contained in a recently published book, Aboriginal Education: Fulfilling the Promise, Brenda Tsioniaon LaFrance argues such education "must not supplant the values and knowledge of aboriginal peoples." Science students, she says, should study "units of the Haudenosaunee teachings of the Four Winds, Thunder, Lightning and Sun, along with overall notions of conservation and ideas stemming from Western science." The study of math should focus on "a survey of aboriginal number systems [as well as] the limits of counting."

By conflating the intellectual traditions of aboriginal societies with those of Europe, we have given credence to the idea that new-world cultural practices are compatible with economic advancement. But this flies in the face of history. Since the industrial revolution, the rural poor have advanced economically by moving to urban employment centres. Except in the case of certain cohesive, literate religious minorities, economic integration has proved impossible without cultural integration. In Canada, government officials and academics seek the former, yet cringe from the latter.

More than cringe, in fact. The Government of Canada's 1969 White Paper, which supported the then-mainstream policy of assimilation, is dismissed by critics as a relic of colonial thinking. Assimilation is spoken of casually as "cultural genocide," a term whose very utterance pre-empts debate and is often cited as the basis for many suits launched by those who attended church- and government-operated residential schools. In academia, careers are being built on the veneration of aboriginal culture. A prominent example is Patrick Macklem of the University of Toronto, whose recently published book, Indigenous Difference and the Constitution of Canada, argues that "aboriginal cultural interests warrant constitutional protection because aboriginal people face unequal challenges."

The situation is no different in other Western countries with indigenous populations. Since 1970, Australia has pursued a policy of "separate development." In New Zealand, the policy is called "biculturalism." The United Nations' Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, produced in 1994, would ban all instances of "ethnocide and cultural genocide," including "any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or identities."

In a bid to keep aboriginal culture in a protective clamshell, government policy has been designed to encourage Indians to remain on their ancestral lands. Registered Indians do not pay taxes on reserve land or on income earned on a reserve. The GST does not apply to on-reserve goods. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development pays for new homes on reserves and the renovation of old ones. All in all, the federal government spends more than $5-billion a year on reserve Indians — about $70,000 per family. Much of the spending is self-directed: About 90% of the cash transfers that flow through the Indian Affairs department are doled out by Indian bands or tribal councils.

The result: tiny Bantustans of poverty, welfare-dependence, disease and social pathology. In some bands, fetal alcohol syndrome, a debilitating neurological disorder that afflicts babies born to binge-drinking mothers, afflicts one in 10 babies. The on-reserve rate of tuberculosis incidence is five times the national average. Close to half of reserve Indians list government transfer payments as their major source of income. According to one researcher, the rate of suicide among aboriginal youth is the highest reported for any culturally identifiable group in the world.

What makes the situation even more tragic is that aboriginal culture is not being preserved in any meaningful way. According to a 1998 Statistics Canada report, only three of the country's 50 indigenous tongues are considered safe from extinction. The welfare trap has caused men to lose their traditional role as food providers, and, thus, their status within a community based on hunter-gatherer traditions. As a result, many have moved to job centres. In 1951, only 7% of aboriginals lived in urban areas. In 1996, the figure was close to 50%. When I attended the Canadian Aboriginal Festival at the SkyDome in Toronto last month, the most popular food provider was Pizza Pizza. The biggest employer in attendance was Casino Rama, a 24/7 casino complex located on the lands of the Chippewas of Mnjikaning First Nation.

We have, in other words, the worst of both worlds. Our Bantustan policy encourages Indians to remain in economically isolated hamlets; but thanks to paved roads, sedentary living, English television, liquor and a necessary government presence on every reserve, these hamlets are not nearly isolated enough to protect aboriginal cultures.

Yet the solution proposed by Canada's academic elite and aboriginal leadership — what University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan calls the "aboriginal orthodoxy" in his recent book First Nations? Second Thoughts — is more of the same. Matthew Coon Come, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, wants bands to have more money and more power, and blames the current nightmare on a campaign of "systemic racism."

As for the authors of the above-mentioned 1996 RCAP report, they tell us that "Only as members of restored nations can [aboriginals] reach their potential in the 21st century." Naturally, this means more government money. The RCAP report calls for up to $40-billion of extra spending over the next 20 years. To lend dignity to these handouts, the report's authors argue they should be made under cover of the aforementioned "nation-to-nation" treaties. The plan calls for Canada's more than 600 bands to coalesce into 60 to 80 self-governing units, each with a population of about 5,000 — an archipelago of quasi-independent rural hamlets that would comprise yet another order of government in Canada. Each nation, according to the report, would run its own "aboriginal economy."

Exactly how isolated rural communities would generate anything close to economic self-sufficiency is never properly explained in the RCAP report. Nor do the authors cite a single precedent from all human history of a hunter-gatherer society maintaining its culture and autonomy in the shadow of a more advanced civilization while, at the same time, attaining economic parity with that civilization. No doubt, the authors draw inspiration from the mainstream literature in Canada, which rapturously describes the benefits of aboriginal autonomy merely by reference to increased self-esteem, empowerment and self-actualization. Some authors speak of self-government as a magic wand. In From Wooden Ploughs to Welfare, Helen Buckley writes that "the magic of self-government" means "more people will be working" and "the costs of welfare, social service, and the rest will go down."

The issue of how one preserves the culture of a nomadic, pre-literate society in the shadow of a sedentary, industrialized economy would not be problematic if Indians really did yearn to revert to a pure form of the primitive hunter-gatherer lifestyle they once practiced. But few do. Across Canada, the cry from aboriginals is not to be left alone to pick berries and follow the caribou herds; they want cash, and they want it for the same reason we all want it — to buy bigger homes and faster cars. Even native-rights activists who extol the traditional ways would be appalled if aboriginals were denied access to first world housing, medical care and schooling; or if native women and children were treated according to the cruel standards of patriarchal tribal societies.

"The fundamental fallacy here is the multicultural idea that cultures are totally distinct, but also that they can interact with other cultures," says Kenneth Minogue, a Professor Emeritus of political science at the London School of Economics, and author of a 1998 book on New Zealand's Maori population. "All interaction entails judgment, and it's hard to see how aboriginal culture survives that judgment."

"The idea of 'aboriginal economies' is also preposterous," adds Mr. Minogue. "Basically, what is being advocated is [North Korean-style] autarky. It's a sort of socialist fantasy — like the Israeli Kibbutzim or the kolkhozes in the Soviet Union. Except, in this case, the fantasy is based on the noble savage myth instead of socialism."

"Democracy destroys the authority of the [aboriginal] elders," writes Gary Johns, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia and the editor of Waking Up to Dreamtime: The Illusion of Aboriginal Self-Determination. English, he says, which is "necessary to communicate the solidarity of aboriginal people, destroys the need for the old languages. Science destroys the need for much belief in myth. Material wealth destroys every aspect of the previous economy."

Pointing out the incompatibility between economic integration and cultural autonomy is practically a heresy in Canada; most of the mainstream aboriginal experts I interviewed for this article were either surprised or mildly offended when I raised it. When pressed, each of them them — including Michael DeGagne, executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Ottawa; George Erasmus, co-chairman of RCAP and national Chief of the Association of First Nations from 1985 to 1991; Marlene Brant Castellano, Professor Emeritus of Native Studies at Trent University and a co-director of research at RCAP; and Roberta Jamieson, Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in southern Ontario — rightly defined aboriginal culture by reference to the pursuits that lie at the heart of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle — tracking, hunting, fishing, animal-skinning and so forth. But when I asked how a culture based on such traditions might be adapted to a settled, urban existence, the answers turned vague. Ms. Brant Castellano offered the most coherent response. She told me that aboriginals in her community preserved their culture by gathering in community centres to burn sweetgrass. "They have to turn off the smoke detectors, though," she noted. "You have to get special permission for that."

Ms. Brant Castellano made another interesting comment. On the subject of culture, she drew an analogy to the Jews. "They were once nomadic herdsmen and look how they managed to preserve their culture," she told me. "The Jews also managed to integrate economically. It's not so different from us. That's the model I would choose."

But, alas, she has ignored a crucial distinction. Pre-contact Canadian aboriginal societies were illiterate. But by the time the Jews were cast into Babylonian exile in 586 BC, they were already committing their system of beliefs to written form. Because the Torah was portable, so was Jewish culture. Judaism, moreover, is, like Christianity and Islam, monotheistic, which is why Jewish congregations in Johannesburg, Moscow, Brasilia and Toronto all recite prayers from the same Siddur.

Animist aboriginal faiths, on the other hand, are conceived and transmitted to explain local weather, terrain, plant life and animal migrations, and are therefore not transplantable. The land and the mysteries surrounding it comprise the aboriginal man's bible. Once he is geographically deracinated or scientifically educated, the culture is lost.

That doesn't mean the aboriginal view of the modern world is the same as that of white people. There are important differences. "Our traditional modes of governance are more egalitarian and less hierarchical," Ms. Jamieson told me. "This reflects some of the core values of aboriginal peoples, including plurality, consensus and non-confrontation."

That's only logical. Most aboriginal societies consisted of small bands containing no more than a few dozen people, or tribes containing a few hundred. As numerous anthropologists have noted, a consensus method of governance is appropriate in such societies because everyone knows everyone.

But it's impossible to maintain a culture of "consensus and non-confrontation" in an anonymous corporate world where interaction with strangers is common and conflicts are resolved by appeal to a well-defined hierarchy.

Other cultural differences between indigenous and white societies also serve to impede the economic advancement of aboriginals. "The cultures of virtually all preindustrial societies are hostile to social mobility and individual economic accumulation," concluded the authors of a study on the effect of cultural values on economic development published in the American Journal of Political Science in 1996. "Preindustrial economies are zero-sum systems: They are characterized by little or no economic growth, which implies that upward social mobility only comes at the expense of someone else. A society's cultural system generally reflects this fact. Social status is hereditary rather than achieved, and social norms encourage one to accept one's social position in this life. These norms are antithetical to capital accumulation and conducive to nepotism."

Therefore, it should not surprise us that so many Indian bands are plagued with corruption. Hunter-gatherers have no need for a structured system of wealth distribution: Their economies are based on reciprocal exchanges between kin. This is why the first thing many band leaders do once elected is fire everyone under their authority and replace them with their own relatives. In Australia, aboriginal women will often be spurned by aboriginal-run domestic abuse centres if they belong to the wrong clan. This appalls white women, but many aboriginal women see it as perfectly reasonable.

"The network of kinship obligations can actually be a major impediment to economic development," says Ron Brunton, an Australian anthropologist who has been studying aboriginal issues for the past decade. "If aboriginals are economically successful, they get nothing out of it, because they have dozens of relatives coming to demand their share of his earnings.

Jack Chick comic strip

The Case for Assimilation (Part 2)

"A lot of the promising recruits from mining programs have dropped out because they realize they're not going to get to keep their money — everything goes to the family."

Another incompatibility with modernity crops up where land ownership is concerned. As Ms. Jamieson told me, "[The aboriginal] concept of land ownership is different. We occupy the land communally. We do not see ourselves as its owners." Again — not a bad way to organize your affairs when you're talking about a band of hunter gatherers roaming a vast territory looking for food; it's no way to promote the accumulation of wealth in a modern society.

Most Canadian homeowners can sell or mortgage their property as they please. That is not true on Indian reserves, where the land is owned by the Crown in trust for the band, and individual homeowners are merely granted the right to use it. Private ownership of land would be problematic: It would permit Indians to sell their property to whites, and thus crack the cultural clamshell government officials and Indian leaders want to keep closed.

But the communal arrangement produces problems for aboriginal entrepreneurs. Small-business owners typically raise capital by providing their home or other real property as collateral. But since on-reserve aboriginals do not own their property in fee simple, it cannot be sold, mortgaged or otherwise used as a source of debt financing.

In his critically acclaimed book, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumph in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto shows that this sort of property regime promotes poverty. Following detailed investigations in various Third World cities, he concluded: "The lack of legal property ... explains why citizens in developing and former communist nations cannot make profitable contracts with strangers, cannot get credit, insurance or utilities service: They have no property to lose," writes Mr. de Soto. "They are taken seriously as contracting parties only by their immediate families and neighbours. [They] are trapped in the grubby basement of the precapitalist world."

Mr. de Soto's theory applies to North American aboriginal peoples. In the United States, the federal government transferred ownership of large chunks of government-owned Indian lands to individual Indians during the first third of the 20th century. As a result, Indian reservations in the United States comprise a patchwork — with some plots owned outright by individual Indians or non-Indians, and other plots held in a perpetual trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After analyzing agricultural productivity in 39 large reservations, Terry Anderson, a professor of economics at the University of Montana, concluded: "In general, trust lands [are] used in relatively low-valued uses, such as grazing, rather than in high-valued uses such as row crops, small grains, and horticulture ... The ratio of trust land output to fee simple land output shows that, on average, trust lands are about half as productive as fee simple lands."

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Given the many contradictions that plague the theories behind state-subsidized aboriginal self-determination, and all the economic advantages of assimilation, why has the former risen to the level of orthodoxy while the latter has come to be seen as a racist plot? A big reason is that, for a few centuries, assimilation was a racist plot. Until relatively recently, virulent racism was the expected experience for any Indian who had contact with white society. Theories of genetic inferiority abounded. To this country's great shame, Indians were not given the right to vote in federal elections until 1960. Until 1951, many Indian ceremonies were banned by the federal Indian Act. Assimilation is a very old idea — in fact, it was the accepted orthodoxy until about 30 years ago — but it was a pipe dream to suppose Indians would willingly flock to white culture in an era of isolation and bald-faced discrimination.

This legacy of discrimination has shaped current attitudes. As Alan Cairns, author of Citizens Plus, argued in the September, 2001, issue of Policy Options, "People who have been demeaned, humiliated and stigmatized inevitably construct arguments and reinterpret the past in ways that enhance their dignity." Assimilation makes sense for many reasons. But no one, myself included, would characterize it as an option that enhances the "dignity" of aboriginal culture.

This helps explain why aboriginals are so suspicious of assimilation. But what about our white elites? Why does the most highly educated stratum of society — not just in Canada, but also in Australia, the United States and New Zealand — almost unanimously bleat approval for culture-clamshell policies in the face of so much contrary evidence?

The answer lies in the massive emotional investment Western elites have made in the virtues of aboriginal cultures. As culture critic Richard Grenier noted in his 1991 book, Capturing the Culture, Western intellectuals "judge [their] own society by the flaws and inadequacies they see all about them. But they tend to judge alternative societies, of which they often retain a peculiarly stubborn ignorance, by these societies' officially announced ideals."

Citing the work of sociologist Paul Hollander, Mr. Grenier describes the attempts of Western intellectuals to "locate a better world in Moscow, Peking, Havana, Hanoi and even Tirana" and their "recurrent fantasies of new forms of liberation and collective gratification." Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marxism has not offered a credible Utopia. Thus, intellectuals have increasingly been forced to look back in time rather than overseas for confirmation of the conceit that there exists some viable alternative to capitalism and liberal democracy. The veneration of aboriginal cultures by white intellectuals is best thought of, therefore, not as misguided humanitarianism, but as an expression of collective cultural self-loathing.

Such self-loathing carries a long pedigree. In his essay On The Cannibals, published in 1580, Montaigne described Brazilian Indians as having "no practice of subordination or of riches or poverty ... Among them you hear no words for treachery, lying, cheating avarice, envy, backbiting or forgiveness." The tradition was amplified by Shakespeare in The Tempest; John Dryden, who first coined the phrase "noble savage" in a 1669 play; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; and 20th-century anthropologist Margaret Mead, who was famously duped by Samoan women into the farcically counterfactual belief that the South Sea Islands were a paradise of guilt-free sex.

In the modern context, the noble savage concept has taken hold among anti-corporate activists, who have exploited the idea as a means to block economic development in rural areas. Environmental groups invariably seek to portray indigenous peoples as wise stewards of the land; and argue that Indian bands must be awarded veto power over development in their ancestral areas. The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples declares that "all [indigenous cultures] consider the Earth like a parent and revere it accordingly ... According to indigenous law, humankind can never be more than a trustee of the land, with a collective responsibility to preserve it." An endless parade of otherwise respectable academics fawn over the inborn sense of environmentalism ascribed to aboriginals. Witness Mr. Mecklem's claim that "aboriginal people tend to regard their relationship to land in terms of an overarching collective responsibility to cherish and protect the earth."

There is little evidence for this, and much which contradicts it. While North America's natives generally had only a marginal effect on the environment, that is because a hunter-gatherer life-style supports only very low population densities. (The aboriginal population of Canada is now larger than it was before the arrival of Europeans). In those few regions of North America where Indians did manage to develop food production, those inhabited by the Choctaw, Iroquois and Pawnee for instance, slash-and-burn methods were employed and deforestation was common. Buffalo were sometimes run off cliffs en masse, and tons of excess meat was left to rot. When aboriginal groups do gain control of natural resources, they typically act just like the white man. A decade ago, rock star Sting successfully lobbied the government of Brazil to transfer control of 25,000 square miles of rainforest to the Kayopo Indians. Before the ink was dry, the Kayopo chiefs began cutting deals with the logging and mining companies Sting had vilified. "They're always trying to deceive you," Sting later said of the Kayopo. "I was very naďve and thought I could save the world selling T-shirts for the Indian cause. In reality, I did little."

When Asian migrants originally populated North America, they engineered the greatest single extinction of large animals in human history. The Americas once teemed with elephants, horses, lions, cheetahs and camels. But unlike creatures of prey in Asia and Africa, New World megafauna evolved in an environment free of human threats, and so were easily exterminated by the human invaders. "More than half of the large mammal biota of the Americas disappeared in a cataclysmic extinction wave at the very end of the Pleistocene," writes John Alroy of the California-based National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in the June 8, 2001, issue of Science. "This dramatic event, unparalleled in the deeper fossil record and unmatched in other continents at the same time, has been attributed to the direct effects of human predation: The first solid evidence of large human populations in the Americas is at 13,400 years before the present, near the beginning of the extinction spasm."

The idea that Indians were pacifists is also wrong. When Europeans arrived in North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, they encountered a world of warring tribes that slaughtered one another as a matter of course and, where food gathering methods warranted the practice, engaged in slavery. Mr. Diamond writes in Guns, Germs and Steel: "Extensive long-term information about band and tribal societies reveals that murder is a leading cause of death ... I happened to be visiting New Guinea's Iyau people at a time when a woman anthropologist was interviewing Iyau women about their life histories. Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths."

None of this should surprise us: Aboriginals living in small, scattered bands had no significant political or legal institutions to mediate conflict, nor did they possess a religion or cultural tradition that prescribed peace between people from different clans. Moreover, the baseline level of morality exhibited by human beings is roughly the same everywhere in the world. The idea that a large chunk of the global population should be natural-born pacifists and environmentalists is absurd.

---

Any group of people would suffer if encouraged to adopt a way of life that is incompatible with self-enrichment. In Canada, we have offered aboriginals free money — whether in the form of fiscal transfers and social assistance, or dressed up in the false dignity of "land claims" settlements — and they have taken it and grown dependent on it. White elites have told them to blame all their problems on racism, and they have done that, too. It is as if we deliberately set out to fuse 19th-century Melanesian cargo cultism with late-20th century U.S.-style identity politics — and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Our leaders, meanwhile, keep telling themselves, in the face of all evidence, that the ancient traditions of illiterate hunter-gatherers can somehow be welded to a modern economy; as if the cruel march of history could be defeated by an act of collective good will. How tragic that so many hundreds of thousands of aboriginals must pay with their livelihoods, and often their lives, for the self-loathing of our country's intellectual class.

Rob's reply
Kay's screed is filled with dozens of stereotypical misstatements or outright falsehoods. Let's look:

>> "Aboriginals can't tell each other what to do. <<

That would be news to all the functioning tribal governments and businesses across the US and Canada.

>> "You cannot separate aboriginal cultural life from hunting and gathering," says Ray Evans, an advisor to the Western Mining Corporation who has studied the condition of Australian aboriginals for the past 20 years. <<

And the opinion of an Australian mining consultant is relevant to the condition of First Nations people in Canada...how? This Evans fellow is further from the truth, literally and metaphorically, than I am.

>> As soon as that hunting life is destroyed — which [begins to] happen when the first rifle or sheep is brought in — the culture is destroyed as well. <<

Uh, no. The cultures evolve, as a cursory look at history shows. Some cultures are destroyed when outsiders target them for destruction by imposing disease, poverty, and alcohol, among other problems. Others survive and even flourish.

>> But the cultural practices developed by bands of illiterate hunter-gatherers living a largely nomadic existence have little relevance to a modern society. <<

Many if not most Indian cultures were farmers, not hunter-gatherers...living a largely settled, not nomadic, existence. Kay's whole premise is based on fiction from the get-go.

>> At some level, of course, the cultural relativists are correct <<

Stop right there. Print it. Better yet, cross out "at some level" and say cultural relativists are correct, period.

>> No society is objectively "better" than any other <<

Having said that, Kay will now try to prove how Euro-American society is better.

>> But the conquest of the New World by the Old was no accident. It is part of the pattern Jared Diamond explains in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1999 book, Guns, Germs And Steel: The Fates Of Human Societies. <<

Diamond explains it. Kay mis-explains it.

>> Throughout history, he argues, societies able to move from hunting and gathering to organized food production have conquered their neighbours. The food surplus generated by sedentary farming permits the creation of cities and centralized states, as well as the emergence of specialists who develop metallurgy, writing and improved armaments. <<

That may be the basic pattern, but it's a gross oversimplification of why the Old World "conquered" the New. For one thing, plant and animal domestication occur when you have plants and animals to domesticate. The Old World did, the New World didn't. For another, the key advantage of cities is exposing people to diseases and thus building their immunities. People who don't live in disease-ridden pestholes, where plagues can wipe out a third of the population, are vulnerable to infections.

Neither of these advantages is evidence of the Old World's cultural superiority. Rather, they're evidence of how the accidents of fate gave the Old World an unearned head start. Which is why I titled my essay on the subject The Myth of Western Superiority.

Indians didn't know farming?
>> Prior to their first contact with white men, food production —i.e., farming and animal husbandry — was unknown to almost all aboriginal groups living in what is now Canada. <<

If the indigenous people of Canada didn't develop cities, largescale agriculture, writing, or metallurgy, indigenous people in the Americas sure did. Kay makes it seem as if no aboriginal cultures developed these features anywhere. In fact, you can find most aspects of "civilized" European life mirrored in at least some Native cultures.

Much of Canada is as far north as Scandinavia. Did Scandinavians develop cities, largescale agriculture, writing, or metallurgy on their own? Uh, no. Can't say I recall Norwegian skiers, Swedish masseuses, or Finnish reindeer wranglers contributing anything to the march of civilization. Northern European cultures inherited their abilities from their Mediterranean counterparts after thousands of years of cultural diffusion.

So comparing the cultural levels of Canada to those of the entire Old World is intellectually invalid. Even comparing the entire New World to the entire Old World is unfair. As Diamond explains, the Old World had many geographical and biological advantages that had nothing to do with culture.

>> While some Canadian aboriginal groups, the Iroquoian peoples of southern Quebec and Ontario, for example, created temporary farms to supplement the food they found in the wild, none developed cities, writing, advanced metal tools or any religion beyond animism and shaman-mediated sorcery. <<

That's a gross misstatement of the diversity and sophistication of Native religions. See "Primitive" Indian Religion for more on the subject.

>> In terms of economic, military and intellectual development, the societies European explorers found in North America were roughly on a par with what existed in the Fertile Crescent in 8,000 BC. <<

In areas such as language and storytelling, agriculture, medicine making, and astronomy, the New World societies were equal or superior to their Old World counterparts.

>> To protect aboriginal dignity, however, our elites promote the fiction the meeting of Old World and New World was a clash of rough equals. <<

The only fiction here is this statement. When Indians and Europeans met on an equal footing, it was generally the Europeans who ended up dying, begging the Indians for help. Cabeza de Vaca's expedition to the Southwest and the Pilgrims' experience with the Wampanoag are both examples.

In cases that seemed to favor the Europeans, there's usually some exculpatory factor. For instance, Cortés's conquest of Mexico was one of the luckiest enterprises ever. See Was Native Defeat Inevitable? for details.

The chief factor was, of course, disease. That Native people were decimated by diseases the Europeans barely understood doesn't impugn their status as "rough equals." To be more precise, Europeans were "superior" only because their filthy bodies were riddled with pox and pustules, their foul homes with bacteria- and flea-ridden vermin. Such is the triumph of Western civilization.

>> The 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), for instance, argues that the aboriginal bands European settlers encountered were "nations" whose modern claims to land and resources must be negotiated with Ottawa on a "nation-to-nation" basis. <<

No intellectualism, therefore no nations?
>> By conflating the intellectual traditions of aboriginal societies with those of Europe, we have given credence to the idea that new-world cultural practices are compatible with economic advancement. <<

More mixing and matching of unlike concepts. Whether Indian groups fit the definition of "nations" is totally independent of their "intellectual traditions." An Indian group doesn't have to have any intellectual traditions to claim the status of a nation.

>> Except in the case of certain cohesive, literate religious minorities, economic integration has proved impossible without cultural integration. In Canada, government officials and academics seek the former, yet cringe from the latter. <<

Integration isn't assimilation. Kay is lying to his readers if he thinks Native people don't want to plug into national networks of water, electricity, natural gas, telephones, cable TV, the Internet, etc. As many farmers or ranchers could show, it's possible to take advantage of modern conveniences while still living in semi-traditional ways.

For lack of a better word (accommodation?), let's use "integration" to describe what Native people want and what they've partly achieved. And let's use the dreaded A-word, assimilation, to describe the failed policies of the past that Kay wants to impose again.

>> In a bid to keep aboriginal culture in a protective clamshell, government policy has been designed to encourage Indians to remain on their ancestral lands. <<

More fiction from Kay. Indian people want to stay on their ancestral lands for a variety of reasons. Government policy is finally helping Indians achieve what they sought all along: to fend for themselves using their God-given resources. This is a return to self-sufficiency after a century of terminating tribes and assimilating Natives failed miserably.

>> The result: tiny Bantustans of poverty, welfare-dependence, disease and social pathology. <<

We can trace most of that to the same disastrous policies of the supposedly enlightened West: forcibly removing Natives from their land; stealing their most productive land; trading Native land for government benefits, then refusing to pay the benefits; etc. Europeans intentionally impoverished Indians with their genocidal policies. In a classic case of blaming the victims, Euro-Americans like Kay are castigating the poor Indians for the poverty the Euro-Americans caused.

Kay is lying through his teeth if he thinks tribes have existed in isolation throughout the centuries and that very isolation—the lack of assimiliation—is what's causing their social pathologies. The truth is the opposite. Europeans tried to dismantle Native cultures for centuries. That destructive onslaught generated the so-called pathologies—just as it did when Europeans dragged Africans from their homes in chains. Isolation wasn't and isn't the problem; assimilation is.

>> Yet the solution proposed by Canada's academic elite and aboriginal leadership — what University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan calls the "aboriginal orthodoxy" in his recent book First Nations? Second Thoughts — is more of the same. <<

I helped disabuse Flanagan of his notions in Ottawa News Claims "Treaties...Have Little Relevance" Today.

>> Exactly how isolated rural communities would generate anything close to economic self-sufficiency is never properly explained in the RCAP report. <<

I imagine they'd do it the same way isolated rural communities do it in Canada and the US—a mixture of farming, ranching, logging, mining, and tourism and recreation. With the added advantage of businesses that aren't taxed, the road to success isn't impossible to envision.

Indians still hunter-gatherers?
>> Nor do the authors cite a single precedent from all human history of a hunter-gatherer society maintaining its culture and autonomy in the shadow of a more advanced civilization while, at the same time, attaining economic parity with that civilization. <<

Since Native cultures haven't been hunter-gatherers for centuries, this statement is irrelevant. Claiming Native people want to remain apart from and untouched by modern society is a blatant straw-man argument.

>> The issue of how one preserves the culture of a nomadic, pre-literate society in the shadow of a sedentary, industrialized economy would not be problematic if Indians really did yearn to revert to a pure form of the primitive hunter-gatherer lifestyle they once practiced. But few do. <<

So Kay admits he set up a straw-man argument. Good. So he disproves his claim himself. Even better.

There's no need for "a single precedent from all human history of a hunter-gatherer society maintaining its culture and autonomy in the shadow of a more advanced civilization while, at the same time, attaining economic parity with that civilization," because that's not what Native people are trying to do.

>> "The fundamental fallacy here is the multicultural idea that cultures are totally distinct, but also that they can interact with other cultures," says Kenneth Minogue, a Professor Emeritus of political science at the London School of Economics, and author of a 1998 book on New Zealand's Maori population. <<

No, the fundamental fallacy here is the misunderstanding of what multiculturalism means. Read the definitions and send up a flare if you find the words "totally distinct" anywhere in them.

>> "The idea of 'aboriginal economies' is also preposterous," adds Mr. Minogue. <<

No, Minogue's understanding of the situation is preposterous. Is he claiming rural communities are incapable of surviving in the modern world? Native people aren't seeking some invented economy based only or primarily on their original cultures. They're seeking to maintain aspects of their cultures—the philosophy, the language, the arts—while pursuing modern economic development in their largely rural locales.

Why the heck is Kay relying on people from Australia and New Zealand for his expertise, anyway? Perhaps because anyone from the US or Canada, who actually knows the facts, would laugh himself silly at the premise of Kay's attacks.

>> Science destroys the need for much belief in myth. <<

Devil- and angel-worshiping Christians manage to integrate their superstitious beliefs with modern economic practices. I suspect Native people can do it also.

>> Pointing out the incompatibility between economic integration and cultural autonomy is practically a heresy in Canada; most of the mainstream aboriginal experts I interviewed for this article were either surprised or mildly offended when I raised it. <<

I'm surprised Kay got as far as he did with this article, too. It's so full of flaws that I would've killed it if I were Kay's editor. What a colossal waste of eight months of "work"—probably spent on vacation in Australia.

Indian culture = hunting?
>> When pressed, each of them them — including Michael DeGagne, executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Ottawa; George Erasmus, co-chairman of RCAP and national Chief of the Association of First Nations from 1985 to 1991; Marlene Brant Castellano, Professor Emeritus of Native Studies at Trent University and a co-director of research at RCAP; and Roberta Jamieson, Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in southern Ontario — rightly defined aboriginal culture by reference to the pursuits that lie at the heart of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle — tracking, hunting, fishing, animal-skinning and so forth. <<

"Rightly"? Says who? I don't know who these Native people are or what they were thinking. No doubt their answers are based on the biased questions Kay asked them.

But for some idea of Native cultural values, see Hercules vs. Coyote:  Native and Euro-American Beliefs. You'll note none of them mention specific practices like hunting or fishing. And rightly not, because those are practical mechanisms, not core beliefs.

>> But when I asked how a culture based on such traditions might be adapted to a settled, urban existence, the answers turned vague. <<

A settled existence isn't necessarily an urban existence. The answer is that Native cultures aren't based on hunting and fishing any more than European cultures of the same vintage are. European cultures that once emphasized hunting and fishing evolved over the centuries and so have Native cultures.

>> Ms. Brant Castellano offered the most coherent response. She told me that aboriginals in her community preserved their culture by gathering in community centres to burn sweetgrass. <<

Native authors may have written hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books on integrating their traditional beliefs with life in modern society. That Kay couldn't find a better example than Castellano's shows the problem of researching Canadian articles from Australia.

>> "They were once nomadic herdsmen and look how they managed to preserve their culture," she told me. "The Jews also managed to integrate economically. It's not so different from us. That's the model I would choose." <<

That's closer to the mark. As is often the case, Kay sets up a straw-man argument so he can knock it down. Then he proceeds to the real argument, which isn't as black-and-white as the phony argument he's made up.

>> But, alas, she has ignored a crucial distinction. Pre-contact Canadian aboriginal societies were illiterate. <<

It's not a crucial distinction, since oral traditions make up for the lack of written traditions. However the traditions survive, the point is that they survive.

>> Animist aboriginal faiths, on the other hand, are conceived and transmitted to explain local weather, terrain, plant life and animal migrations, and are therefore not transplantable. <<

Ignroing the fact that "animist" is incorrect...so? We've already established that Native people want to remain on their original land. This is part of the reason why. If they remain on their land, they can practice their faiths with no loss of traditions.

Educated people can't be traditional?
>> Once he is geographically deracinated or scientifically educated, the culture is lost. <<

Partially wrong and totally wrong. The point about education is particularly uneducated. People the world over, from Christians to Confucians, get scientific educations without abandoning their beliefs. If they can do it, so can Native people.

>> But it's impossible to maintain a culture of "consensus and non-confrontation" in an anonymous corporate world where interaction with strangers is common and conflicts are resolved by appeal to a well-defined hierarchy. <<

It might be impossible if Indian people left their communities and dispersed into the mainstream. But if they stay in place and retain control over their cultures, it's possible. Many corporations operate on relatively "flat" models, and Native cultures aren't literally egalitarian. They tend to be more egalitarian than European cultures, but they have hierarchies.

>> "The cultures of virtually all preindustrial societies are hostile to social mobility and individual economic accumulation," concluded the authors of a study on the effect of cultural values on economic development published in the American Journal of Political Science in 1996. <<

Since Native societies are no longer preindustrial, this statement is irrelevant.

>> Therefore, it should not surprise us that so many Indian bands are plagued with corruption. <<

See the previous discussion on the origin of social pathology in Native cultures.

>> Hunter-gatherers have no need for a structured system of wealth distribution: Their economies are based on reciprocal exchanges between kin. <<

Since Native societies are no longer based on hunting-gathering, this statement, like so many others, is irrelevant.

>> "The network of kinship obligations can actually be a major impediment to economic development," says Ron Brunton, an Australian anthropologist who has been studying aboriginal issues for the past decade. <<

It didn't hurt "President" Bush or any other child of wealth to take handouts from his family.

Kay's reliance on Australian amateurs for Canadian expertise is beginning to scare me.

>> Another incompatibility with modernity crops up where land ownership is concerned. As Ms. Jamieson told me, "[The aboriginal] concept of land ownership is different. We occupy the land communally. We do not see ourselves as its owners." Again — not a bad way to organize your affairs when you're talking about a band of hunter gatherers roaming a vast territory looking for food; it's no way to promote the accumulation of wealth in a modern society. <<

Native people—and European people—don't need to accumulate great wealth to prosper. See the sustainable economy concept for more information. Nor do they necessarily need to own private property. A huge fraction of United States land is owned collectively by the federal government, yet people manage to mine it, log it, and ranch on it without trouble.

Reservations prevent land ownership?
>> Private ownership of land would be problematic: It would permit Indians to sell their property to whites, and thus crack the cultural clamshell government officials and Indian leaders want to keep closed. <<

No, it would lead to the destruction of Native cultures and the social pathologies that go with such destruction. We've seen what happens when Indians sell their treaty land—their fundamental resource—to white property owners. When tried in the 19th century, subdividing the land for sale failed utterly to help Natives.

I don't about Canada, but the US situation is far more complex than Kay's "reservations forbid land ownership" forumulation. One, more than half the Indians live in cities, not on their traditional lands. Two, traditional Native lands aren't always locked up in reservations (e.g., Oklahoma). Three, some tribes have little or no land to their names. Four, because of allotment policies, many reservations are checkboards of land ownership.

"Some Indian land is owned by tribes, while other parcels are owned by individuals," writes Penny Owen in the Oklahoman (12/17/01). All that suggests how Indian people trying to maintain their cultures have many more options than being stuck on a reservation where they can't own or use the land.

>> In his critically acclaimed book, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumph in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto shows that this sort of property regime promotes poverty. <<

"Fails everywhere else" except in the leading countries in the East, I guess: Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.

>> Mr. de Soto's theory applies to North American aboriginal peoples. <<

Alaskan Native "tribes" are corporations that use their land as assets. Some of these corporations are doing as well as Euro-American corporations.

>> Given the many contradictions that plague the theories behind state-subsidized aboriginal self-determination, and all the economic advantages of assimilation, why has the former risen to the level of orthodoxy while the latter has come to be seen as a racist plot? <<

Kay mainly has made a case for integration rather than assimilation. And Native cultures are already integrated or integrating into the mainstream. Kay's fiction that the choice is between hunting-gathering and the 9-to-5 rat race is just that, a fiction.

>> A big reason is that, for a few centuries, assimilation was a racist plot. <<

It still is, basically.

>> As Alan Cairns, author of Citizens Plus, argued in the September, 2001, issue of Policy Options, "People who have been demeaned, humiliated and stigmatized inevitably construct arguments and reinterpret the past in ways that enhance their dignity. <<

And people who have demeaned, humiliated, and stigmatized others inevitably construct arguments and reinterpret the past in ways that justify their crimes.

>> Why does the most highly educated stratum of society — not just in Canada, but also in Australia, the United States and New Zealand — almost unanimously bleat approval for culture-clamshell policies in the face of so much contrary evidence? <<

Australia again?

No one's bleating for Kay's "clamshell policies," which is his way of summing up his straw-man arguments. Liberals—i.e., intelligent people—are arguing for integration rather than isolation or assimilation.

If you need a metaphor to grasp the concept, think of a stew with distinct ingredients in it, or a fabric woven of distinct threads. Here's the trick: They're part of the whole, yet separate at the same time. Amazing, eh?

Fabrications aren't evidence
Kay hasn't provided "so much contrary evidence." He's strung together a statistic here, an exaggeration or falsehood or straw-man argument there, and deemed his point proved. In fact, each of the points he tackles could sustain a book. My counter-evidence is almost as scattershot, but I admit I'm just whipping through this. Unlike Kay, I'm not trying to justify eight months of "work."

>> As culture critic Richard Grenier noted in his 1991 book, Capturing the Culture, Western intellectuals "judge [their] own society by the flaws and inadequacies they see all about them. <<

As opposed to Western non-intellectuals like Kay, who has yet to notice all the flaws of the culture around him.

>> Thus, intellectuals have increasingly been forced to look back in time rather than overseas for confirmation of the conceit that there exists some viable alternative to capitalism and liberal democracy. <<

How sad to see someone as lost as Kay.

Speaking for "intellectuals" everywhere...no, we don't seek alternatives to capitalism or democracy. First, our capitalist system is already leavened by constant government intervention—and rightly so, since the pure capitalist model is fundamentally flawed. What we seek is compassionate capitalism along the lines of the sustainable economic model.

As for democracy, what we seek is a democracy that actually works—that actually gives one person one vote, like it's supposed to, rather than one vote to people and ten votes to wealthy beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex. In other words, we want a democratic system more like the ones invented by Native people, where everyone was equal in tribal gatherings. We prefer true democracies to the monarchies and autocracies that dominated most of European history. You know, the ones the colonists fled from so they could live among the free Indians?

>> There is little evidence for this, and much which contradicts it. <<

No, there's much evidence for it. See Ecological Indian Talk for a sample of the evidence.

>> While North America's natives generally had only a marginal effect on the environment, that is because a hunter-gatherer life-style supports only very low population densities. <<

True but irrelevant. Native people had worldviews that mirrored their so-called lifestyles. They've fought to maintain their worldviews even as their lifestyles have evolved with their cultures.

>> In those few regions of North America where Indians did manage to develop food production, those inhabited by the Choctaw, Iroquois and Pawnee for instance, slash-and-burn methods were employed and deforestation was common. <<

One, "those few regions" is a falsehood, since farming was widespread in North America. Two, I don't think most of these farming communities used slash-and-burn techniques. Three, I'm not sure slash-and-burn farming harms the environment long-term—unlike Western methods, which have created pest-resistant crops, depleted topsoil, pollution runoff, and Dust Bowls.

The tired buffalo-jump argument
>> Buffalo were sometimes run off cliffs en masse, and tons of excess meat was left to rot. <<

That was one practice in one place and time. It was arguably efficient for a people without a lot of food-processing options. It's no more representative of thousands of Indian cultures than Chernobyl is of European cultures.

But if Kay seriously wants to offer this as an example of ecological destruction, let's ponder the comparison. Hmm, tons of excess meat or thousands of square miles of uninhabitable or irradiated land. Looks like the "worst" of Indian cultures is far better than the worst of European cultures. Looks like Indians respected nature far more than Europeans by Kay's own example.

I disposed of the buffalo argument and many others in Dennis Prager and The Ecological Indian.

>> When aboriginal groups do gain control of natural resources, they typically act just like the white man. <<

Not quite, but they tend to go in that direction. Acting just like the white man is another social pathology.

>> When Asian migrants originally populated North America, they engineered the greatest single extinction of large animals in human history. <<

A totally unproven theory, though Kay falsely states it as a fact. And even if it were true, we don't know if Canadian Indians were responsible. Perhaps Amerindians from other Native cultures did the deed.

See Red Earth, White Lies and Studies Claim Indigenous People Were Mass Murderers for more on the megafauna argument.

>> The idea that Indians were pacifists is also wrong. <<

No, Kay is wrong. Indians were pacifists compared to bloodthirsty, fanatical Europeans. They went to war for real grievances, not because they heard voices telling them to kill people in the name of God.

>> When Europeans arrived in North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, they encountered a world of warring tribes that slaughtered one another as a matter of course <<

Another complete falsification of the record. Columbus was the first of a long line of explorers to praise Indians as friendly and peaceful. But don't take my word for it. Go to Savage Indians and judge for yourself.

Note especially the quotes from people with firsthand experience with Indians. They prove this isn't a matter of revisionist history by "intellectuals" concerned with Indians' "self-esteem" or "dignity." The only revisionist history here is Kay's.

>> and, where food gathering methods warranted the practice, engaged in slavery. <<

As opposed to Euro-Americans, I guess, who enslaved people whether their food gathering practices warranted it or not.

Indians murdered each other?
>> Mr. Diamond writes in Guns, Germs and Steel: "Extensive long-term information about band and tribal societies reveals that murder is a leading cause of death <<

This statement is fatally flawed. One, Diamond is referring to tribal societies in recent times, not in the centuries before European contact—which is the period intellectuals supposedly admire. There's little evidence for how warlike pre-Columbian tribes were. Two, all Native cultures have been corrupted by their contact with Europeans like Kay. There are no purely indigenous tribes anymore. Three, Diamond's expertise is in Indonesian and South Seas tribes, not Native American tribes.

Four, Diamond said murder is a leading cause, not the leading cause. Well, of course. Without modern medicine, tribal societies tend to have shorter lifespans. Since European cultures have inflicted social pathologies on these societies, that hasn't changed despite (limited) access to modern medicine. If indigenous people don't live long enough to die of an age-related disease, murder becomes a significant cause of death. If you somehow excluded all the Euro-Americans who live to a ripe old age because of medical advances Natives don't have access to, you'd find murder was a leading cause of death among the remaining people too.

>> None of this should surprise us: Aboriginals living in small, scattered bands had no significant political or legal institutions to mediate conflict, nor did they possess a religion or cultural tradition that prescribed peace between people from different clans. <<

For the first point, they had cultural institutions such as social gatherings, where tribes mingled and resolved their grievances. For the second point, they didn't need many intertribal traditions since they didn't seek to conquer each other. In contrast, Europeans engaged in wars that involved whole continents and lasted up to 100 years, despite their alleged Christian values.

>> Moreover, the baseline level of morality exhibited by human beings is roughly the same everywhere in the world. <<

The baseline may be the same, but cultural worldviews shape and change the baseline values. We need only note that some cultures have conquered, enslaved, and obliterated others and some haven't. Unlike several Western cultures, no Native tribe ever committed genocide against another.

>> Any group of people would suffer if encouraged to adopt a way of life that is incompatible with self-enrichment. <<

"Self-enrichment"...where does Kay get these bizarre, manipulative words from? Does he think people who don't participate fully in Western capitalist countries can't enrich themselves with art, family, travel, education, and so forth and so on? Ridiculous.

>> In Canada, we have offered aboriginals free money — whether in the form of fiscal transfers and social assistance, or dressed up in the false dignity of "land claims" settlements — and they have taken it and grown dependent on it. <<

I suspect Canada offered them treaty payments, not "free money." If Canada would like to give back the land it took and cancel the payments, I don't think Canada's Aboriginal people would mind.

>> Our leaders, meanwhile, keep telling themselves, in the face of all evidence, that the ancient traditions of illiterate hunter-gatherers can somehow be welded to a modern economy; as if the cruel march of history could be defeated by an act of collective good will. <<

No, doofuses like Kay keep telling us that that's what we're telling them. What we're actually telling them is that Native cultures have evolved to become part of modern society. At the same time, they want to maintain some of their values and traditions—the ones that are distinctly superior to the West's shallow, selfish, materialistic values and traditions.

Too bad Kay didn't understand that before he started. It would've saved him eight months of wasted time in Australia, or wherever he fabricated this nonsense.

Rob

P.S. For more of Kay's stereotyping, see Canada's Aboriginals Are "Sedentary Welfare-Collectors."

Related links
Indians as welfare recipients
The "outdated" reservation system
The myth of Western superiority
Guns, Germs, and Steel
"Primitive" Indian religion
Native vs. non-Native Americans:  a summary


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