Does past oppression justify present violence? VoC gets ‘real’

A reader named ‘Rob’ provided some thought-provoking comments to a VoC post entitled, “Are Aboriginals Unfairly Treated by Our Legal System?” After responding to his comments I asked if he’d be willing to answer the 4 questions I’ve asked many readers who have offered critcism of my position on Caledonia. Since Rob is the first reader to actually respond to the questions, I thought his answers deserved a post of their own.  Let’s pick up at the end of my original reply…

A final request for Rob…

When people write in to offer criticism of what I or Gary McHale are doing, I often ask them to answer 4 questions for me. So far no one has. Maybe you can give it a try. Give them some thought and I’ll do a new post with your answers.

question-mark_cartoon.jpegQ1: Do you believe in using violence to get what you want?

Q2: If yes, why do you believe in using violence?

Q3: What makes you think that violence won’t one day be turned against YOU by the thugs using it today?

Q4: Why would you want to live in any nation – no matter who owns the land – where the Rule of Law does not exist?

Thanks for writing, for responding and for listening, Rob.

Regards, Mark

Rob answers the 4 questions:

Interesting comments Mark, and I thank you for the lengthy reply. As an overall summary to your questions, I can state that responses to life are situationally dependent, but that the most important and radical avenue for change is by changing oneself to be free of automated responses which flow from emotional reactions. The first step to changing the world is to look within and question the inner workings of one’s own reactions to the world. However, not to digress too far into the esoteric, I would like to answer your four questions directly.

1 and 2. Personally, I do not believe in using violence to “get what I want”. However, if my family was threatened, or my country of nationality asked me too, I would probably use violence, just as Canadians serving in overseas missions are asked to do now on a regular basis. When I was a young man, I would have taken up arms for my country without question. Now I would need convincing. However, if my family was directly threatened. I’m sure I would respond accordingly.

3. Violence has been turned against Native people on a daily basis in most of Canada. This might be difficult for you to understand, but I will do my best. Imagine culture to be a tablecloth, with a full dinner set covering it. Imagine each item on the table cloth represents a part of your culture. A fork is food, a knife is kinship practices, etc. If one item is removed, say the plate, which represents, say, traditional dancing, the overall culture will probably still survive. More items could be removed, and the culture could still be viable. However, what the Canadian government attempted to do was to remove the whole damn tablecloth. Residential schools, the outlawing of traditional spirituality, and many other punitive actions were attempts to destroy the culture. This was a real violence which was perpetrated on generations of native people.

When the table cloth is yanked, people tend to loose a valid interpretation of the world. When faced with this situation, incidents of violence, suicide and substance abuse increase at an alarming rate. Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of sociology, documented all of these incidents among certain tradesmen in France in the 19th century who were affected very similarly to the way Native people in Canada have been affected.

There is a fair amount of evidence that the best way for Native people to solve the problem of cultural attack is to reclaim their own heritage. This is often a difficult process.

Just as you have said that for your entire life you have been looking for a purpose, there are thousands of Native people doing the same thing. They have been stripped of purpose and identity by a nation. When they realize who they are, and what has been done to them, I am sure that many of them have an epiphany far more commanding than the one which encompassed you. Leaving the politics and legislative precedent aside, I’m sure you can understand how that moment of self-realization could move a person in ways which might seem at odds with the cultural norm. I’m sure that some of them might choose to respond violently to the thugs that have oppressed them for centuries….that’s what it is to be a young man. When we get older, we hope that a more placid form of action will prevail, but young people, especially those with a cause, are often prone to being hotheads.

4. I do not believe that I live in a land where the rule of law exists. I routinely see people excluded from society because of their race. They can’t rent apartments or get jobs because of how they look. They are targeted by the police, and are often the victims of racial violence. Given this situation, I ask you what your response would be…..Uncle Tom or angry radical?

Respectfully, Rob

VoC REPLY:

1. First of all, I’m sorry it took so long to get your reply up. Thanks again for the patience.

2. Re: your answers to Q1&2 (Do you believe in using violence?): I couldn’t have said it better myself – I, too, would only use violence when I or my family are threatened, or if I were called to serve my country.

3. Re: your answer to Q3 (Why do you think violence won’t be turned against YOU by the thugs using it today?): Unfortunately, I worded the question ambiguously in an attempt to distance you from the thugs I call the Caledonia criminals. The context I was trying to ask the question within was this: If a native person is convinced by their leaders that it’s OK to use violence to solve problems, what restrains those same leaders from using violence against their own people? We can see that happening to the Palestinians in the Middle East – they have no rule of law and now they are turning on themselves in a civil war.

Given that I did not ask my question clearly, let me respond to the comments you provided without reference to the original question. Your table cloth/dinner set analogy is a very good one, and it really helps me understand how it must feel to have one’s culture stolen and/or devalued.

There are those who would argue that Canada has invested a lot of money and effort in programs designed to help natives reclaim their culture, and to correct past injustices. I am not making that argument. My argument is this: despite the dogmatic, over-the-top rantings of a few native ‘spokespersons’ there is no ‘genocide’ taking place in Canada. No one, including Gary McHale, is – as has been written – out to kill every native man, woman and child. I argue, therefore, in the absence of a real threat to life and limb, there is no right to use violence. It seems fairly clear to me that the violence and intimidation that is being perpetrated by a small number of native gangsters in Ipperwash and Caledonia is being used, not in self-defence, but – at best – for political gains and – at worst – for financial profit. Personally, I suspect the latter.

4. Re your answer to Q4 (Why would you want to live in any nation – no matter who owns the land – where the Rule of Law does not exist?): You said you don’t believe that you live in a country where the rule of law exists because people are discriminated against. OK, Rob, let’s get ‘real’ here…

You think I haven’t been discriminated against in my life, or had my ‘culture/identity’ taken from me? You don’t know me or what my life has been like. When you talk to me as if you believe that natives or blacks or any other minority are the only ones who have suffered, you’re making a generalization that is just as evil as the discrimination you say you oppose.

mark_vandermaas_62×88px_b-w.gifI was placed in an orphanage at age 6 because my mother wanted to marry a man who didn’t want me as part of the package. I was adopted by an honest, hardworking couple who both had to work in order to provide a basic, lower-middle-class lifestyle. My head and my behaviour were so messed up that our Sunday school teacher offered to sign any papers necessary to help my adoptive parents send me back to the orphanage.

We always had enough to eat, but there wasn’t a lot left over for luxuries. I don’t know a single person in my family who went to university or college, and even if I did want to go, there wasn’t enough money to pay for it anyway. I dropped out of school with a Grade 10 education only to return later in life to finish high school as a full time adult student. Since I wasn’t able to work during the two semesters I attended school my Grade XII diploma cost me, in effect, $30,000. I’ve been in trouble with the law, and I’ve been beaten up by the police (they’re really good at not leaving marks!).

You want to talk about suicide – I have often laid in bed beside my wife praying silently to a God I don’t really believe in to let me die in my sleep so I can stop the pain, and I’ve lost count as to the number of times that I’ve come close to actually doing it for real.

Despite all my ‘disadvantages’ it never once occurred to me to get a bunch of adoptees, high school dropouts, and victims of police brutality together so we could take land by force, terrorize innocent people, etc. and then justify it using the excuse that we were ‘mistreated.’

Does this help you understand why I will NEVER accept the argument that natives are entitled to use violence because they were once oppressed? In answer to your question, therefore, as to whether I would become an ‘Uncle Tom’ or an ‘Angry Radical,’ I would say that my life has led me to become an ‘Angry Non-Violent Radical in Support of the Rule of Law and Equality Before That Law.’

Thanks for the thought-provoking comments, Rob. I really mean that. You got me to be more open than I would have otherwise. Please feel free to comment. Regards, Mark

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9 responses to “Does past oppression justify present violence? VoC gets ‘real’

  1. Thanks for the honest reponse Mark. I’ll try to address it with the same sentiment.

    To begin with, I do not believe that the First Nation leadership supports violence, which seems to be a belief you hold. I think that level minds on both sides of the fence regret acts of violence, and that there is an active role in attempting to prevent such occurances. I’m sure the OPP had this in mind when they collared you. Aware of the tensions on both sides, they were probably afraid that your actions might provide the spark to re-new hostilities from both sides. At the same time, there are probably people on the FN side councilling their passionate members to cool it as well.

    I am sure that you are aware of the legalities of the case, so please excuse me if this seems somewhat pedantic.

    There are two types of FN Land Claims in Canada, Comprehensive and Specific. Comprehensive claims deal with issues that have not been dealt with by treaty or other legal means. Specific Land Claims are based on four criteria:
    *the non-fulfillment of a treaty or other agreement
    *a violation of the Indian Act or other laws
    *a violation in the government’s administration of First Nations funds or other assets
    *an illegal sale or other transfer of First nations lands by the government.

    Caledonia is clearly an example of a Specific Land Claim.

    As of March 31, 2003, there were 1, 185 Land claims recieved. 540 were under review, 112 were in negotiation and 251 were settled.

    So as you can see, Caledonia is not unique. I am fully aware of the real suffering that is brought about to people impacted by these occurences, and they have my full sympathy. However, there is another viewpoint on the issue, the view from the other side of the Fence.

    In 1763, Britain clearly stated in the Royal Proclamation that all lands not previously ceded from First nations would have to be negotiated through the government and the First Nations. The British North America Act of 1867 recognized this and made it a part of Canadian policy. This lead to the negotiating of Treaties between FN and the Canadian government.
    What many Non-Native Canadians do not grasp is that many FN people have never lost their concept of “Nation”. In their opinion, they are still independent nations invovled in Treaty arrangements with the Canadian government. The legal system has recognized this recently, with such landmark comprehensive cases such as the Nisga’a in BC.

    I think that the FN people involved in this dispute see this as a matter of a long standing unresolved specific land claim which directly affects their Nation.

    I’m not prepared to label people in Caledonia on either side of the fence as good or bad, or as thugs or treehuggers. I think the courts will have to make the decision, just as they have done close to 300 times already.

    Almost everyone in life has a personal story of persecution. Nobody gets out of this life unscathed. With no disrespect intended, and with complete sympathy for the obvious injustices in your life, I would still like to suggest that while you were experiencing your anguishes, you still had cultural touchstones to write a theory of the world upon. The injustices that were visited upon you were not systemic and enforced by the law of the country.

    FN people did not get the vote in Canada until 1960. They were not allowed to have a drink in a bar until 1951. Then there was the removal of generations of their children from them. It was a direct attack upon the foundation of their identity. In my opinion, it is quite remarkable that most of them still want to have a relationship with Canada.

    Well, those are just some thoughts for you to roll around, not that I’m trying to change your mind. From my own experiences in life, change is usually the result of suffering, and perhaps trying on someone else’s shoes for a while.

    Respectfully,

    Rob

    VoC REPLY: Rob, thank you again for your reply, and for the observations. I think our ‘discussion’ has been very useful. I don’t think I’ll ever forget your tablecloth/dinner service analogy. For the record, I have never said that the First Nations leadership advocates violence – I have consistently maintained that the violence is being perpetrated by a relatively small group of gangsters who have hijacked the legitimate grievances of native peoples.

    Mary-Lou has just sent a comment that you may want to respond to below. She is a brave and wonderful lady who has been terrorized in Ipperwash, yet there is hope and optimism in the questions she raises. Thanks again, Rob. Mark

  2. Dear Mark,

    I was very moved by the comments of both you and Rob in addressing the four questions you posted.

    I think Rob failed to understand that cruelties and injustices have been experienced by every culture and nationality on this earth. Fortunately most of us do not use violence to resolve our displaced positions in life. Also, even with the rhetoric, I think most reserves and the Assembly of First Nations knows the lengths the government has gone to, to alleviate some of the pain and suffering caused by mistakes in the past.

    We must all remember that a lot of what the present natives at Caledonia are spewing with hatred, happened with another generation, and we were not even on the planet yet. That is why so many interested natives and non-natives would like the discussions take the forms of what is needed in this century. As you know no one is capable of truly making up for everything we each may have endured in the past because all of the Country of citizens did not make the decisions that resulted in the pain.

    We must also look at the gains society has made, not just what we have failed to address. Child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse and dometic violence are not culturally based. No one is exempt from these possibilities occurring in their lives. However, the help that is available to heal from these traumas must be administered by those who have the authority to do so. Therefore all our government representatives and public servants including native band chiefs and councils must be accountable to the money and programs the taxpayer funds for these purposes. Perhaps if all these individuals had to be accountable, with no exceptions life for all of us would be vastly different and violence would not be a part of our cultures. My question to you both, is how do we implement policies that are fair and equitable to all???

    There is only one way. 100% accountability for what our leaders do, based on the programs available, the law of the land and our rights under the Constitution and the Charter. In Native land disputes at present a lot of us are left out completely in regards to delivery of programs, the Constitution and the Charter. Divide and Conquer is not the way. How do we change this appalling position????

    Sincerely
    Mary-Lou

    VoC REPLY: Oh Mary-Lou…that you can ask such great questions without bitterness for what you have experienced! I’ve asked Rob to comment on them. Thank you. Mark

  3. The past governments and leaders of Europe’s most aggressive empire made illegal war, murdered, repressed and robbed my ancestral family/culture’s people of their land and freedom…those who lived were made slaves in their own land…we were too few in number to retaliate against this technically advanced and organized culture so we moved to less hostile nations and eventually North America.

    Although some of the “elders” in my family are enveloped by the family’s ethnic background and the past injustices done our family and culture by other cultures in the past, they hold only a sort of cold indifference towards this nation today….I on the other hand bear no ill will to the nation that killed and dispossessed my ancestors as it does not effect the present or the future. The injustice the Roman Empire did to my ancestors and people is not relevant today because it has no control over me and I have the freedom to do anything I desire to seek personal happiness and gratification.

    Similarly, Natives who live in the present world enjoy the same advantage as I do to thrive and prosper despite the injustices of the past. Those who culture the ill will of the past and refuse to evolve are doomed to be angry, bitter, unhappy and constantly disappointed in the present and future as their attitudes and complaints have no validity or accommodation in the political and social realities of the present and future. This seems to be why the only place that this bitter, hate-filled vengeful revisionist dogma exists only on the reserves….in the wider world the validity of these arguments is voided by the day to day realities of the freedom and rewards of a productive life outside the negativity of the cloistered reserve culture.

    Personally, I feel about as guilty for past injustice to native culture as I do about the Roman sacking and pillage of London.

    I guess it can be misconstrued as an over simplification to simply say “get over it and move on” but that is precisely what must be done for a culture to survive and grow strong again…..you cannot continue to feed on the hatred of the past if you wish to embrace the promise of the future with nay hope of success. To continue to be driven by the hatred, prejudices and bitterness of perceived antiquated cultural injustice is a self destructive exercise…. and we see that in the growing social backlash the 6 nations community will suffer as the result of allowing their bitter and angry past-obsessed, revisionist minority to peruse a violent and extortionist catharsis at the public’s expense. All this for a self imposed chaos in their reason.

    On a more visceral level, I don’t believe the majority of those natives pursuing this extortion tactic with the government are motivated by anything as lofty as correcting past injustice….it is more about extorting wealth using the victim’s guilt as a justification and motivator.

    VoC REPLY: Hey WL. I agree with you in part: I don’t feel a personal guilt for what was done to native peoples in Canada, but I readily acknowledge (I claim no great understanding of this subject) that my country acted in ways that deprived them of their culture and identity. I believe, therefore, that we have a responsibility to do what we can to make ammends, and I have no problem with directing taxpayers’ resources to programs that make sense and are accountable for their results. I draw the line at allowing our collective guilt to be used as an excuse for violence and terrorism. I, too, suspect that the extortion currently used in Caledonia has very little to do with injustice and noble land claims, and a lot to do with money and power for a small group of people. Regards, Mark

  4. We need to know facts, not hearsay! Our own Government does not even know!

    First of all who is causing the violence? We need to know where these natives were raised; to get their morals. The USA treats their natives very poorly unlike us. I put it to you; most of these natives are from America not Canada. With out borders they are allowed to live here; if every American native decided to live in Canada they can.

    The natives in America have the same attitude as the blacks do! Why? They were both treated in the same shameful way! This is why we see what we see natives abused by our neighbours! I was there when six nations came down to kick the warriors out but they did come back the next day. Six nations wants no part of this – that’s why!

    To figure out the truth we needed to understand the natives; before this I knew very little. I have learned our government deals with the band members; the band is not well liked by their own people; guys like xxxxxx! Native Mafia! Shows what our Government knows – NOTHING!

    The true six nation people born and raised here are peaceful people; who didn’t care about land claims! My son-in-law is one of them. The real question is; do we want our money going south; while we are blaming our OWN natives!

    Jim Smith
    Caledonia

    VoC REPLY: Hi Jim. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Sorry, I had to edit that name out – this isn’t a paying gig, and I don’t have the resources of a media giant behind me, nor do I have evidence. Let’s just say, you’re not the first to mention that name to me.

    2. I have always believed that it isn’t native peoples as a group that are behind the violence in Ipperwash and Caledonia – I think it’s a relatively small group of gangsters/organized criminals who attract young people by false promises of glory, money, power and self-worth. Irrespective of my revulsion at their acts, I can almost understand why the criminals and their followers do what they do; what I can’t understand is why our government insists on negotiating with these thugs as if they represented all native peoples.

    3. Native people might be surprised to learn that Gary McHale (and I) are not against special programs that help natives to regain their culture and identity. When Rob says that my identity wasn’t taken from me in a state-sponsored program, he is mainly correct, but that’s why adopted people don’t have a special government department that spends billions of dollars to help us, but native people do. (Personally, I think that when you’re identity is taken from you, I’m not sure it matters who did it, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

    Thanks again. Regards, Mark

  5. Terry Jamieson Jr.

    Hey v o c. I don’t believe violence is a suitable means of concluding who is right and who is wrong.
    However, it happens everyday. I will bet anybody on the face of the earth, any amount of money that on any given day of year, more violence occurs in Canada than at the Native protest sites.I will even give them 50-1 odds.
    Anyway. Sorry I’m commenting on the wrong page.

    OK this isn’t an entirely race motivated issue. I personally believe that every single person is making a grave mistake by declaring themselves a truly free person, living in the best system ever devised. Its a lie. This democracy stuff is a total farce. How many politicians tell no lies to the voters? Is the world in a better state now that democracy is in vogue or is it becoming less inhabitable? If the wise elected leaders of the people truly cared about the voters, there will be less toxicity amongst our living space.

    Considering the fact that a majority of our population came from another continent which had dictatorship, monarchist (or some other type of one person governing system); democracy would have sounded like heaven to them.Democracy is not omnipotent.

    VoC REPLY: Hi Terry. First off, thanks for taking the time to offer some pretty astute comments to this post. I really do appreciate them, so let me respond:

    1. I am glad to hear that you don’t think that violence is the way to solve problems.

    2. Greater violence at native protest sites: I hate to say it, but if natives are taking land by force and intimidating residents, and lawlessness is running rampant, how could you expect there not to be violence used by law enforcement in an effort to protect the rights of other human beings to live safely in their homes? Your right – and mine, by the way – to protest ends at the point when we are injuring other people, and I’m not talking about inconvenience for a few hours or even non-violent civil disobedience. The reason the DCE occupiers are losing the media right now is because they have crossed a line by victimizing other human beings with their violence, their lack of self-discipline and their disrespect.

    3. Re the shortcomings of democracy: You got no argument from me there. It really bugs me that almost all the prime ministers of Canada have come from Quebec. It really bugs me that Quebec continually whines and complains like a wife (or husband!!!) who constantly threatens to leave if she/he doesn’t get her own way. It bugs me that rich oil companies are free to rip us off while the government does nothing. It bugs me that a lot of politicians are liars and power grubbers. Everything you say and believe about democracy is true, and probably – it’s even worse than we believe. Even Winston Churchill thought the same thing, but here’s what he said: “Democracy is the worst form of all governments…except for all the others.”

    So, here’s the question: if it’s not democracy, what’s the alternative?

    Now, Terry, I’m not going to pretend that I know the first thing about how traditional native people govern(ed) themselves (one day, I’d like to learn), but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this to you: let us assume that you were able to create a new ‘nation’ on DCE. Do you not need a way to protect the people who live there, or will you allow them to commit any crimes they wish against their own people and their neighbours?

    My – admittedly second hand – information is that there is a lot of violence committed by natives against other natives on Six Nations. I know a native who is afraid to return to the reserve he was born on because he is certain he will be killed. Ultimately, there has to be some kind of authority that prevents anarchy, something that keeps one person from harming another.

    4. Let me offer a heartfelt suggestion, if I can: why not focus on all of the good things about being a native person in Canada? I’ll bet that if you really tried, you could make a pretty big list. Man, you get to buy gas from those greedy oil company bastards without paying tax. I’d (almost!) kill for that right! 🙂

    My government did some bad things to your ancestors before I was even born, and I think there aren’t too many ‘non-natives’ who begrudge whatever help we can provide to help you recover your culture, but destroying the rule of law and equality before that law isn’t part of the deal. No matter how frustrated you might be, the alternative to even an imperfect rule of law is too terrifying to contemplate – all you have to do is turn on CNN to see what’s going on in Iraq and Gaza and the West Bank. I’ve been to Gaza before the current hostilities, and I can’t believe you would want your children or anyone’s children to live in such a way.

    Terry, I urge you. I beg you. Please. Help us stop the thugs and gangsters who are using false promises of glory to seduce your children into creating an anarchistic state where they could well be its next victims. Canada isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn good.

    Thanks again for writing. Mark

  6. “Violence is never justified”

    I think if more people knew the real truth they would know exactly where to express their anger and comments. Please read this …

    In 2003, the NB Court of Appeal ruled that Joshua Bernard, a Mi’kmaq logger, had been wrongfully convicted in April 2000 of illegally harvesting spruce logs on Crown land. It also ruled that Mr. Bernard was the beneficiary of a treaty right, and could earn a “moderate livelihood”. The government went to the Supreme Court of Canada which promptly overturned the lower court. Following the Appeal Court’s decision, Andrea bear Nicholas relates to the facts of the matter in this prophetic 2003 article.

    In all of the hand wringing about the effects of the Bernard Decision on non Aboriginal people there has been practically no one unconnected to Aboriginal People who applauds the decision. This worries me, and it tells me a lot. Clearly either no one knows, or no one is speaking about, the most important element of this story. – the generations and centuries of suffering and desperation experienced by Indigenous People, as a result of the thefts of their lands, resources,, and way of life., a theft that explains the conditions of that Aboriginal People still suffer today.

    How do we know about the suffering? A most revealing source is to be found in the abundant government records that show a dramatic increase in appeals for assistance from and on behalf of “starving, sick, and infirm Indians” beginning in the 1820’s. It can be found in the death records of Aboriginal families who commonly suffered multiple deaths in short periods from the combined effects of recurrent disease and starvation. Another rich source lies in 19th century descriptions of Aboriginal People, usually written by visitors with no stake in hiding the poverty. In contrast to government reports we have such descriptions as the following written in 1873:

    “Thus shod in her native moccasins, with her battered features and stealthy gait. She may be seen prowling about the streets in broad daylight, at once a conspicuous and sad picture of utter wretchedness and poverty.”

    While such writings are starkly revealing of the wretched condition in which Aboriginals were living, they tend to blame Aboriginal people themselves for their poverty, and suffering, a tendency that only serves one purpose extremely well – that of concealing the true reasons for the poverty. For a deeper understanding of the connection between Aboriginal poverty and the theft of their lands one needs to read only a few books, such as Gustaavus Myers’ History of Canadian Wealth (1987), or
    Neu and Therrien’s Accounting for Genocide (2003).

    Beginning in the days of the pre Loyalists, when New Brunswick was still part of Nova Scotia, it became a standard practice of government officials to help themselves, and their cronies, to the best lands in the province. As Brebner (1969) has put it: “Naturally the Halifax officials had their fingers in the pie from the beginning” In ten short years more than three and a half million acres of Mi’kmaq, (Wolastoqiyik) Maliseet, and (Panwapskewiyik) Passamaquoddy lands had been granted away for a song; and a pattern of patronage and personal corruption had become entrenched. These grants also represented an enormous violation of imperial law, particularly the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which declared that no one could take possession of Indian Lands unless they had first been ceded or sold by Indian nations to the crown.

    Within a few years after the American Revolution, however, every inch of Maliseet land on the (Wolastoq) St. John River up to and beyond Woodstock had been granted and settled by upwards of 10,000 Loyalists, in complete violation of the Royal Proclamation.

    For (Wolastoqiyik) Maliseets it was the beginning of yet another Diaspora, for the land and the river had been their sole source of life for millennia. Even small patches of land that had been previously reserved for Maliseets were now granted away. Of course the wealthiest and most powerful Loyalists got the largest grants, some consisting of thousands of acres of prime land. And it was from those lands, the lands of the Aboriginal People, that the descendants of the Loyalists became wealthy, simply from the “increment of the lands granted to them”. (Myers p.81)

    With huge demands for timber in Great Britain, and rich forest resources on both private and public lands (the so called Crown Lands), enterprising farmers and wealthy landowners alike turned early in the 1800s to full-time lumbering. First there was the masting trade, then the square timber trade, and by 1825, “New Brunswick was supplying nearly twice as much timber as the rest of British North America”.

    As the richest group of their landowners, many of the old loyalist families became the fabulously wealthy “timber barons who controlled provincial affairs and forest resources simultaneously”. (Naylor, pp. 177-185) In effect, these few families were the main beneficiaries of the enormous revenues from a resource stolen directly from Aboriginal People.

    To compound the tragedy, the massive lumbering almost completely denuded large areas of woodlands, which practically eliminated hunting as a major source of sustenance for First Nations. And if the forests were not denuded by the lumberman, they were soon denuded by the great Miramichi fire of 1825, which fed on piles of dry scrap wood left everywhere by careless lumberman. Meanwhile the rise of the deals industry (sawn logs) meant that not only would the rivers be regularly choked with logs, but also with sawmills and sawdust, which quickly took their tool on fish, another important source of sustenance for First Nations.

    Beginning in the 1830’s the provincial legislature began promoting the sale of huge chunks of un-granted lands (really Aboriginal lands) to foreign interests in order to boost provincial coffers and stimulate immigration. And in 1837 the legislature finally wrested full control of the remaining 11 million acres of so called “crown” lands from the Loyalist – dominated executive branch in New Brunswick only to turn them over to capitalists and railway promoters who were poised to “plunder” both public monies and the “crown” lands.

    Within a few decades over a million and a half more acres soon passed into the hands of the wealthy railroad promoters, who, for the most part, were the legislature themselves!

    In Myers words “almost the whole personnel of the government of the Province of New Brunswick were among the incorporators” of one railroad in 1851. In addition to voting huge government subsidies for the project, they also voted themselves a huge land grant five miles wide on each side of the railroad for its entire length. (Myers, pp. 163-164)

    Now suddenly the abject poverty of Aboriginal People in the Maritimes becomes perfectly comprehendable, for it appeared only after the timber barons began raping the forests, and it worsened as railroad promoters/legislators began grabbing and developing prime lands for personal benefit. With hunting and fishing territories being lumbered or settled so rapidly nearly every Aboriginal person in the province becames desperately dependant on assistance from the very people who were robbing them blind.
    As if to pretend it had nothing to do with the rape and plunder, the New Brunswick government began very early showering Aboriginal people with regular displays of attention and false generosity in what proved to be the ultimate hypocrisy. That maliseet, passamaquoddy, and Mi’kmaq people were now reduced to starvation and begging in their own lands is a huge blot on New Brunswick history. It is also a story that has remained virtually unchanged, and unknown, into the present, and for very good reason.

    Unbelievably, this story of the dispossession of First nations in the Maritimes did not end with Confederation.

    In fact, the patronage and conflict of interest on the part of railway promoters who were also government legislators soon escalated into widespread price fixing, bribery, blackmail, and fraud. Only now it was most federal parliamentarians who also engaged in these practices. (Myers 289-90) Meanwhile, their patronage appointees in the Department of Indian Affairs exercised increasingly coercive control over First Nations, and willingly engineered many questionable deals for lands on reserve on behalf of their railway bosses in Parliament. Uncovering and detailing the improprieties of these deals will be the subject of investigations for years to come.

    At the provincial level Native hunting and fishing territories on so-called “crown” lands continued to be sold or leased for a pittance to huge lumbering interests closely connected with government. With the advent of the Multi-national corporations in the 20th century this story continued to repeat itself. Wealthy and powerful government officials and their friends continued to gain huge profits from the resources of the land, while Maliseets, Mi’kmaqs and Passamaquoddies became increasingly shut out of any benefit, other than as lumber-men and guides, from their ancient hunting and fishing territories. And they continued to be the poorest of the poor. From time to time governments would shower Aboriginal People with attention, and sometimes money, to feign friendship and compassion while arresting and criminalizing Aboriginals for accessing resources, on both reserve and “crown” lands.

    Through it all one would never have known that Aboriginal access to the resources of their lands had been solemnly promised in an important preconfederation treaty, the treaty of 1725/26. But since the Aboriginal People no longer had an actual copy of that treaty they were usually arrested, charged, stripped of their gear, and thrown into jail, even though several copies of the treaty existed in government archives in Halifax and Ottawa. And for a while Aboriginals were even forbidden by the Indian Act to hire services to defend themselves. It was only by our own efforts that a copy of this treaty was finally located in 1983, and for the first time ever, two Maliseet hunters won recognition in court to access game resources unmolested.

    With so many powerful interests at stake, however, the New Brunswick government refused to respect this newly discovered treaty, though bound to do so under the 1982 Constitution Act and the 1985 Supreme Court decision in the case of Simon. Instead, it chose to appeal the case of the two Maliseet hunters, not once but twice. And when it lost the last time it chose instead to offer huge bribes to First Nation communities to give up accessing resources in return for money and jobs. Had the province respected the treaty it would have moved to bring its own laws into line with it, in the same way that Aboriginal nations have been required to keep their laws consistent with federal and provincial laws. The province could also have taken the opportunity to re-educate the public on the matter of the newly found treaty. Instead, not a word was spoken, either in newspapers or in any school textbooks published after 1983.

    It is difficult not to see this quashing of information as yet another attempt to hide the truth, in the interest of maintaining the wealth and power of the few who benefit most from “crown” lands. The strategy certainly worked when court decisions recognizing Aboriginal rights were handed down in 1997 and 2000. Instead of directing their anger at
    a government that had historically enriched its own members and friends, and hidden the truth of the treaties and the original theft, the people of New Brunswick openly directed their anger and frustration at Aboriginal People.

    While the Bernard decision speaks only of Miramichi Mi’kmaqs, the implication is that Mi’kmaqs, Maliseet and passamaquoddies, alike, can no longer be shut out of access either to the (Crown) lands or to the natural resources they never surrendered. That no one outside of the Aboriginal community is applauding the decision suggests that the stage is being set for yet another confrontation in which ordinary people will get used (once again) as tools to protect the wealthy and powerful interests now benefiting from “crown” lands. Many of these ordinary New Brunswickers have built their livelihoods around the extraction of natural resources that were stolen from Aoriginal people, but they were never told the truth. It is time now that the truth, as enunciated by former justice Daigle in Bernard, be given due attention. Aboriginal people in this province never surrendered either their lands or accesses to the resources. If the province does not show some leadership in public education on these matters, then there is little question that Aboriginals will be forced once again to defend themselves from the misdirected anger of non-Aboriginals.

    Negotiation now appears to be the only way through this situation. Unfortunately, the Provincial government has done nothing to demonstrate leadership in this area either. At a meeting with chiefs held this week to “discuss” the moose hunt, the position of the provincial government was predetermined, and the meeting was only a pretext to announce that position as a unilateral ultimatum. If this was negotiation then Aboriginal people are headed for a rough ride.

    Considering that the Bernard decision has implications for all resources, including moose-hunting, the ultimatum seems to indicate the province’s stubborn determination to continue taking the hard line of arresting Aboriginals and litigating each resource separately. What the province seems to be gambling on is hope that Aboriginals and litigating each resource separately. What the province seems to be gambling on is the hope that Aboriginal leaders might be desperate enough to trade off access to yet another resource for the crumbs of money and jobs, as in the fishery agreements. Though the Bernard decision is a strong and promising chip for Aboriginal leaders. It is obviously not strong enough to force the province to the negotiating table as partners just yet.

    Granted, the province clearly intends to appeal the Bernard decision, but with a year to negotiate before implementation, , it seems to be studiously avoiding the inevitable, and still treating Aboriginal people as beggars and underlings to be controlled by mandate, muscle, and money. And it is beginning to look ridiculously like the tail wagging the dog.

    As for the strategy of throwing money at Aboriginal People, the lie now needs to be exposed in the recent initiatives of so-called cooperation and sharing in such areas as archaeology, economic development, and highway building. Such wining and dining has always been intended to buy our good will in the hope that we will go away and never ask the big questions, like how much money the province and its wealthy friends have been earning from lands and resources stolen from us. As long as the theft has gone un-recognized and un-addressed by the courts the province got away with playing the game.

    Now the tide has turned. With the Bernard decision, it is hoped that Aboriginal communities will be able to stand firm and not be pressured into bargaining away our access to any more resources at the very moment that the courts have begun to recognize our claims to Aboriginal title. If not, we will have lost for winning.

    VoC REPLY: Hi Joe. Thanks for the history. I do appreciate it. I have been the first to admit that my government may not have always acted honourably in the past, but I still don’t think that one can try to correct injustice by bringing terror and injustice to innocent people. You may find my current post interesting, “Caledonia Land Claim BOGUS? 15 Questions for Investigators.” Thanks for writing. Regards, Mark

  7. Terry Jamieson Jr.

    hey v 0f c ,
    True: civil order is pretty important to all. These terrorist and lawless acusations seem ironically peculiar. If the people at Six Nations Reserve did not have valid ownership to the land in question, no Natives would be there. Systematic Terrorism gives people, such as you a conditioned mind, which beleives firmly in a seriously flawed structure governed entirely by social stratification.
    Why is democracy acheived only through violence or use of force?
    In 1924 the rcmp implimented this fair system in six nations at gun point. To this day a very small percentage of our people see this as a good system to participate in. Who was the unjust terrotists then? Does the passing of time make it right?
    In the village of Onondaga ON, (a few km upstream , on the grandriver from caledonia) our Six Nations people were forced unto the opposite side of the river. Elders, children, and all had to jump from the bank and into the water or be jabbed by pitch forks. Are those rules of law. In all honesty I think that your conditioned mentality is the cancer of the earth. Before outsiders arrived here it was heaven on earth. Now look at what their brilliant minds have acheived.
    anyways Have a nice march break.
    fr. Terry Jamieson Jr

  8. Nothing has changed from when these treaties were made, here in the east we only signed peace and friendship treaties. We never ceded, sold or surrendered any land.

    We are not part of Canada : International law has determined that no people can
    be absorbed into a foreign state unless the majority give their informed consent
    through a free and fair vote. We never voted to become part of Canada or the British Empire . We were never conquered. We never gave up gave our sovereignty or jurisdiction. It’s still here and it’s still the law.

    We took no part in that BNA Act 1867 that was passed by Britain ’s Parliament to set up the Dominion of Canada . That’s a law for Canadians, not for us. Section 91(24)
    gives Canada the right only to negotiate WITH us on behalf of the British Empire .

    That’s all! Canada has no right to make laws for us. It doesn’t now and it never has,
    except in their fantasy.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks for writing, Joe. It doesn’t matter to me whether natives are Canadian or a separate nation. Either way you don’t get to use violence and crime and intimidation to get what you want. Whether you have a Great Law of Peace or a parliamentary democracy, all human beings need to respect one another. Our system isn’t perfect, but it’s better than having no system of laws.

    I think we should honour our commitments to native people, but I will not allow myself to be victimized by native thugs or their OPP collaborators as a ‘solution’ to past injustice. You cannot obtain justice by victimizing other human beings. When native thugs devalue non-native human beings, they devalue themselves and their own people. The evidence of that is on the DCE and in Ipperwash. It could not be clearer.

    Thanks for writing. I appreciate it. Mark

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