Indigenous rights are not race based
By Kenneth Deer
The Alliance Party still has not gotten the messages that Indigenous rights are not based on race.

Stockwell Day and his party, the former Reform Party, continue to promote a policy that rings of racism, paternalism and assimilation.

The basic premise of the Alliance is that the special status and treatment of Aboriginal Peoples is based on race. The rhetoric, propaganda and political posturing of the Alliance Party will have Canadians believe that the "Indian problem" is a race issue and that by offering equality to Native Peoples, the problem will go away. This is not the case at all.

Race is not the issue -- or it shouldn't be. The basis of the relationship between the Indigenous Peoples and Canada and her predecessors is that we were here FIRST. We were thriving Peoples with all the rights and responsibilities of nations. We had functioning governments which administered to our people. Most importantly, we had control and ownership of the land.

The European newcomers wanted this land and tried in every conceivable way to take it away from us -- through wars, treaties and outright theft. Canada has never reconciled this theft. By continually deferring from settling the issue, it has festered to this point. Now, Stockwell Day is trying to forget about the past history and is trying to make Indigenous rights a racial issue.

The fact that we are a different race is inconsequential. Whether we are white, black, yellow, or red, as a People we are entitled to be respected and treated as separate nations. We are neither Canadians nor landed immigrants. We are Mohawks, Crees, Algonquins, and others who should be treated in the way Canada treats other nations. The fact that we are of a different racial and cultural background only adds to the differences between ourselves and Canadians.

And we are unique and different. We have a different history, system of government, and spirituality; we have different values, a different relationship to the earth, and a different world view. These differences did not prevent us from having nation-to-nation relationships with European powers who came to North America, but we are different nonetheless.

Canada is a fine country, and Canadians should be proud of their country -- up to a point. And that point is: they got that land they are living on by treating us as less than equals; by lying, cheating, and segregating us onto reserves.

Now, Day, in his generosity, offers us equality. Equality, in his interpretation, means giving up our nationhood and sovereignty to become municipal governments.

He and his party want Native people to start paying taxes like other Canadians, and this will pave the way for us into mainstream Canadian society.

Day needs to clearly understand that democracy is the expression of the will of the people, not a pay-for-use utility. We Iroquois knew and exercised democracy while his ancestors were still subjugated by kings. We do not need lectures on democracy.

The Alliance Party seems to miss the entire point of the "Indian problem" in Canada. It is not about race, taxes or social conditions. It is about justice. The 1990 crisis is an example of what happens when a People are treated unjustly over a period of time. That basic injustice must be remedied.

Aboriginal Peoples are seeking justice and the right to be treated equally as nations of the world. We do not want to be wards of the state. Nor do we want to be reduced to individuals within Canada. That would be assimilation. And assimilation under these or any other conditions would not only be unjust, but genocide and a crime against humanity.
This article was first published as an editorial in the Nov. 3, 2000, issue of the weekly newspaper, The Eastern Door, Box 1170, Kahnawake, Quebec J0L 1B0. Subscriptions are CAN$62 per year in Canada; US$68 in the USA.