Sunday, December 20, 2009

Going Native

Like me, most people have been given a completely inconsistent view of Canada's Aboriginal community throughout their life's duration.

In elementary school and early secondary, we learn about the ancestors of this country; of this continent. Their victories and defeats with European settlers, and their refusal to submit quietly. Big chiefs and teepees, hunting and respect for nature, etc., etc. A noble picture.

Later on in high school and into university or college or work or time off, when our minds got a chance to breathe, the economics of humanity were made clear to us. Pragmatism set in. Nunavut's economy is almost completely government-subsidized. Aboriginal communities are dragging their heals, and we are the ones paying for it. Native land is a haven for gambling and violence. Every Aboriginal I see in Toronto is beligerent, drunk...they're a problem.

Like most things, though, if you plan to understand -- or dismiss -- the present state of a community, you have to understand the depth of history. For Aboriginals, it's a history that goes far beyond the Europeans; a history that is for the most part undocumented. But I'm sure the memory is still vivid in each of their minds.

Aboriginals have a wealthy history. Most tribes believe in the Hindu-esque tradition that all things in nature are living, breathing parts of a natural whole. Everything has a spirit and a function, and both are given just respect. The point is that their whole culture was developed to adapt to land rich with resources and a low-density population; not a dense concrete jungle like Toronto or the deserted Northern Canada ice desert. Their whole philosophy continues to get shaken up.

Though their tactics were ruthless, I don't mean to condemn the Europeans -- they're my ancestors, and they made this country what it is today. But we can still make amends. The most important step is a change of mind. Before working with Canada's aboriginal community, we all need to understand and accept their history.

Throwing money at the community will only make them seem like a problem to other Canadians, and that isn't how it needs to be. Convincing them to adapt to a Western philosophy, on land that wasn't ours in the first place, needs to be an act of brotherhood, not parenthood. A proposal delivered from a government and society that see their community as seperate from the rest of ours is doomed.

The Canadian government needs to talk with inspired young idealists in the aboriginal community instead of talking at them. I don't think it's any secret that young men and womeen in Northern Canada have the abilities to thrive in an urban society, but they are rarely exposed to the infinite opportunities that established colleges and universties have to offer. The younger generation of aboriginals need to be convinced that Canadians are not only willing, but hoping, to work with them.


So you've been living your life for centuries when an odd-looking mass population shows up hollering demands masked as treaties. They begin to consume your resources and assimilate your beliefs beyond recognition; into a way of life you've never learned to understand. When you won't adapt, they push you into the most baron land in your country and make it seem as if they did you a favour. Would you push back? Would you make a point of going against the ideology of your leaders? Would you hold on tight to every bit of the culture that was a part of you? I would.

Learned acceptance will make amends.

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