By Johnny Hawk
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?” – Chief Seattle
Anishinabek have always been a Sovereign Nation prospering for millennia through laws founded on coexistence with the environment which has only achieved success through communal title of the resources and the collective responsibility of the means of production. As the Colonial State and its Band Leaderships mislead us into the adoption of policies like the First Nations Lands Management Act we simply are invoking the self determination of our final assimilation.
A disregarded land use sign of the Beausoleil First Nation exemplifies the integrity of our land management practices. Imagine how our lands will look like under the First Nations Lands Management Act which opens up our Reserve lands to the open market
In Sept 2013 there has been 67 First Nations now operating under the Government of Canada’s First Nations Lands Management Act under their own land codes they developed. This Act allows Reserve lands to get out from under the 34 land-related limitations of the Indian Act to assume greater control over their reserve land and natural resources.
“Its a transitional step from having reserves held in communal lands to individually owned lands. Already there is certificate of possession which are used on reserves but this sets up a code to allow you to register non-native interests on reserve. Eventually it can be seen as a way to transitioning into fee simple lands.” explains Russell Diabo, Aboriginal Policy Analyst and Editor of First Nations Strategic Bulletin.
Although most First Nations Band’s propaganda are informing their membership that this will not turn reserve lands into fee simple or into a municipality the current Governments policy seems to lean towards its favour. The 2006 Conservative Aboriginal Platform promised that if elected a Harper Government would: ” Support the development of individual property ownership on reserves, to encourage lending for private housing and business.”
The First Nations Land Management Initiative also clearly explains that the act will offer First Nations the ability to create modern tools of governance over their lands and resources, specifically to: developing land codes; passing laws (in areas such as the environment and matrimonial real property); enforcing laws; establishing intergovernmental relationships with provincial and municipal governments; and clarifying the legal status of Bands and Band Councils.
Most Bands are jumping at this token gesture of Sovereignty however adopting this process is in breach of the fundamental Nation to Nation Relationship we have with the Crown that is based on Peace, Non-interference and Co-existence. Our People need to realize we already have our own Anisinabek laws and governance that is founded on environmental protection and management. There are many examples of Anishinabek Communities who are protecting and managing the integrity of their natural resources for the benefit of their community which can be seen at Grassy Narrows, Kanehstaton and most recently Elsiepogtog.
Most communities who have signed on to this Act see this as potential to create economic opportunities whereas our institutions that make us Anishinabek such has, communal and matriarchal land title and governance are being compromised. There are many within our communities who feel our own traditional beliefs and political structures and laws are obsolete and the only form of Anishinabek autonomy they ascribe to is free will however that free will is always exploited by the enemy to coerce us into a belief we need their way of life to survive.
Within my community of Beausoleil First Nation, I have seen a majority of impoverished community members who hold certificate of possessions, sell community land they hold title to and clearcut those plots of land of timber and where the Land Department enacts outrageous lease agreements to cottagers. We should not be so naive that we need this to manage our affairs as this would only see our reserve dissolved and lands subjected to becoming another Canadian town.
There is no doubt that our communities are plagued by low rates of private investment and, as a result, suffer from high unemployment and a host of social ills but the reasons behind the current social ills faced by our people are far more complex. These social ills originate with colonial laws like the First Nations Lands Management Act and assimilatory rules and policies that deny our people access to our traditional territories, natural resources, means of subsistence, laws, customs and governance systems.
On the opposite side of the Political arena where our People are disengaging from colonial structures and empowering themselves through protecting the environment there still is an astonishing dependancy our people have on organizations, individuals and the tools and way of life of our “allies” and adversary’s. Our people survived millennia living in co-existence with the environment surviving catastrophic environmental events and 500 years of fighting imperialism, racism, class struggle where our own “Institutions”, “school of thought”, teachings and sovereignty survived and where these were the foundation of our victories that have allowed us to be here today.
We do need allies but we need to identify the parallel colonial behaviours of allies and colonial agents who seem to know what best for us, which through the history of our relationships only causes dependency and conditions of inferiority. If we want to be empowered then we need to fully have the confidence that our own ways of life and people are at the forefront of our liberation.
These Policies and illegal Land Surrenders and behaviour of Indian Act leaderships are what helped ignite ACTION. We are individuals and communities who are aware to the goings on and are taking ownership of our own lives. If you want to get involved to sincerely protect our rights, disengaging from colonial structures, and become a leader get involved with ACTION, if you want to become Canadian, stay on the Reserve under the current Governance.