The Indian Agent and Slave Master
By: Johnny Hawk
“The Indians have always been dependent, even in these days of when you would think they would be more self-reliant, I have them coming to me asking if I will do this and that for them.”
E Hurl Indian Agent at Christian Island On (Beausoleil First Nation)
The Indian Act of 1867 codified the rights and responsibilities of the Indian Agents. “The term ‘agent’ means a commissioner, superintendent, agent, or other officer acting under the instructions of the Superintendent-General.” (Indian Act 1876:3.11)
The Indian Agents were in control of everything in the lives of our people from the 1860’s to up to the late 1970’s. They were paid from our funds and controlled all of our funds and whereas our people would have to seek permission for such things from asking to leave the reserve by permit, sell their produce to asking for rations to survive. This created a continuing effect of dependency, servitude and inferiority issues with white people. I feel in our biiskabiyaang “decolonization” process we need to address and shed some light on this remaining socio-economic-historical behavior pattern that both the opportunistic white person and the dependent Indian continue to exist in.
In our systematic oppressive common experience in which we have with our Afrikan comrades we find that there are similar conditions we need to be aware of which will help us in the liberation of our thinking. We must first be consciously aware how our mentality and actions still reflect these colonial stains in order to liberate ourselves. Afrikan people had the Slave Master and our people had the Indian Agent. Brother Malcolm X in his day made a significant reference from Black people’s history that showed the distinction of those who were comfortable with the dependent slave mentality and those who wanted freedom.
“There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro and the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put ’em back on the plantation.
The house Negro could afford to do that because he lived better than the field Negro. He ate better, he dressed better, and he lived in a better house. He lived right up next to his master – in the attic or the basement. He ate the same food his master ate and wore his same clothes. And he could talk just like his master – good diction. And he loved his master more than his master loved himself. That’s why he didn’t want his master hurt. If the master got sick, he’d say, “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” When the master’s house caught afire, he’d try and put the fire out. He didn’t want his master’s house burned.
He never wanted his master’s property threatened. And he was more defensive of it than the master was that was the house Negro. But then you had some field Negroes, who lived in huts, had nothing to lose. They wore the worst kind of clothes. They ate the worst food. And they caught hell. They felt the sting of the lash. They hated their master. Oh yes, they did. If the master got sick, they’d pray that the master died. If the master’s house caught afire, they’d pray for a strong wind to come along. This was the difference between the two and today you still have house Negroes and field Negroes running around. I’m a field Negro.” – Malcolm X
Today we don’t have the Indian Agent but the role of administrating assimilative Indian Policy is the responsibility of Chief and Council’s. There are some grassroots minded Chief and Council’s along with our people who are employed in their administration and believe in standing up for our issues, sovereignty, land and water protection but who are still operating and employed under this Indian Act. Any authentic assertion of self-determination and jurisdiction would only see funds being cut off from the government and like the House Negro most will continue to serve our oppressor because they have fear they have something to loose like their houses, cars, financial security etc if they authentically embrace their beliefs.
In my community like many others our Chief and Council settled a historic land dispute using Canada’s biased Specific Land Claims Policy. The Lawyers who happened to be white were working on this case for almost 30 years. They became a part of our community and were considered close friends in our community. They suggested we take what was being offered and after the leadership made their surrender and accepted our pay off those lawyers who were considered almost family are now suing us for additional monies for a bonus on top of the significant amounts they we’re making off us for decades as well as their cut from the surrender. There are many stories like this throughout our Territories.
If you travel through so-called Indian Country you may also notice that a majority of economic entities such as stores on reserve are owned or in partnership with white people who are also at the forefront of our economies in our communities. What had inspired me to write this in the first place was the way I and many others in my community are treated by the particular owner of the only store in our reserve who happens to be a white woman who married into our community. I thus became frustrated and began to question and notice who really are in positions of influence in our communities and circles and why.
“We should own and operate and control the economy of our community. The white man is too intelligent to allow someone to come in and control his economy but you will let the white man come in and control your economy. The white man comes into our communities and uses his privilege and education and exploits you” – Malcolm X
Even though the Indian Agent does not exist today our people from the long historic injustice and dependency express this learnt behavior where we place people in positions of influence in our communities which make us look like we can’t do things for ourselves, creating our own Indian Agents. As well I see opportunistic white people who weasel their way into our communities, circles, movements and organizations being employed or making a profit or prophet off our misery while we continue to struggle in poverty. They are the store owners, lawyers, consultants, drug dealers, health providers, administration personnel in the aboriginal industry, teachers, and yes even our comrade allies at times.
I am not anti-white people or anti-ally or trying to be divisive against those allies who do good work but even among our allies many do not see how their privilege and good intentions can also be seen as counterproductive. An Auntie in so called BC shared that a group of solidarity activists wanted to join their sovereignty camp and help their cause by providing workshops. The camp worked almost the whole year gathering food from out on the land and preparing it only to have the activists who came to “help” eat up most of their resources which could have fed more of their own people who knew just as much about living off the land, and teaching themselves about who they are.
It is this historic behavioral pattern that we need to start addressing that will help us progress in our self determination however when I bring this up I am looked at as being negative, divisive or racist. It is hard to address these issues because there are many “Indian Agents” in our communities that are close to our people however I feel this is a very real issue we must acknowledge and correct the colonial behaviors imprinted in our mentality that keep us dependent.
THE BEST NATION IS A DONATION
The decolonization process itself has become a Subculture for a majority of our people who identify themselves as activists, self appointed spiritual guru’s or self appointed warriors unattached to a functioning Warrior Society and even self appointed traditional leaders raised up not by the people. Actions such as long distance awareness “Walks” to the oppressors institutions, “Speaking Tours” that fuel the transportation and oil industry, “Day of Action Blockades” that we advertise openly defeats the purpose of our actions and bring injunctions and charges where we participate in their courts and we bring “heat” to future organizing, these are all mere tactics that most times are employed to seek media attention to get a message out. Most fail to realize how we these tactics and this decolonization subculture we’ve created cooperates and help fuel the same industries and systems we are fighting against. I feel we must decolonize decolonization and evolve the revolution and incorporate fully those institutions we say we are and fighting for.
The majority of our people are reactionary where we react on our emotions which causes us to employ reactionary mobilization tactics against injustice without first thinking and being strategic and planning and being organized so we can combat our battles successfully and continuously. Since our resources are in the hands of our adversaries who fund our people and agents their “employees” in our own community to keep their institutions running our own original institutions and liberation has next to no resources. This has caused many of our people who mobilize and organize to rely on donations and handouts. Every day there is a new campaign on social media where our people are seeking funds to go towards those tactics employed by the Decolonization Subculture which are usually temporary and again where the enemy manipulates this energy of those relatives which is another exploited resource that fuels their industries. We are not a subculture we are Nation with many of our own institutions and resources. We are not activists, we have clans, spirit names, delegated responsibilities, clan mothers, herditary chiefs, medicine societies. We are more then a campaign and cause.
In our Indigenous and Afrikan movements of liberation, Kwame Toure aka Stokley Carmichael and John Trudell who are some key figures in our history elaborate on the conditions we face in mobilization and organization and being conscious.
” The job of the conscious is not to teach the people to be conscious but to make them conscious of their unconscious behavior. Mobilization is temporary and Organization is Permanent.” – Kwame Toure
” They don’t care how we protest demonstrate any of it they own it all. They sell us the water we drink at our protests, sell us the magic marker’s to make our signs and if we cooperate the sell us the permits, if we cooperate the police get to have war games, they absorb it all. We need to realize how even in our rebellion we cooperate.” – John Trudell
We have a lot in common with our Afrikan Comrades and I believe it is our two peoples that are key in leading the change to combat colonialism and capitalism that is destroying this planet. We need to alliance ourselves but be respectful to each other and aware not to go into each others communities and give direction and become dependent on each other.
We need to be aware that differences of Mobilization and Organization, that our decolonization process is not a subculture of activism and that we are a Nation with our own institutions and societies. We need to be aware of the Indian Agents and Slave Master that still exist within our communities who are masked as allies and your friend that only perpetuate dependency to control us.
ACTION is working together with the Indigenous Peoples Liberation Party where together have hosted a celebration of Afrikan and Native Resistance. Below is a panel discussion with Enaemaehkiw Thupaq Kesiqnaeh (IPLP Kanada), Kooper Caraway (IPLP USA), and Omali Yeshitla (APSP USA, Black is Back Coalition and Africa.
In the Spirit of Total Resistance and Self Determination,