Indians in Bolivia Hope to Create Tribal Nation
Indian leaders in Bolivia are hoping to turn back the clock and return to a more traditional and communal form of government.
They say American and international interests are corrupting the country. They want to create an Aymara nation where property is owned communally and where farmers can grow coca, the prime ingredient in cocaine, without interference. In some areas, they have begun to assert more authority.
Indians are a majority in Bolivia but have long been marginalized. Recently, they have made several political gains, including driving the president from office. Evo Morales, an Indian leader, placed second in the presidential election.
Get the Story: Along the Andes, Indians Agitate For Political Gain (The Wall Street Journal 1/8)
Occupation of Beaches Likely, Warns Maori Leader
By Lee Matthews
September 2, 2003
Maori claiming ownership of the foreshore from Wellington to the Rangitikei River say beach occupations are a “real probability”.
“Feelings are running high,” Lake Horowhenua Trust chairman and Muaupoko Tribal Authority member Matt McMillan warned.
“I would say that occupations (of beaches) or other civil disobedience would be likely, but I hope it won’t come to that.”
Nationally, Maori are bitter at Government proposals for new rules for the foreshore to ensure access to beaches, which Maori claim they own under the Treaty of Waitangi.
“Mana has been trampled on,” Mr McMillan said. “The Government has stepped in and changed the law without giving Maori the chance to go to court . . . in spite of the country’s top five judges saying it should go to court.”
Mr McMillan said the Government needed to realise that if any one issue had the ability to unite all Maori, regardless of politics, it was the foreshore issue.
“It’s just so transparent, what’s been done. The Government doesn’t like the answer, so it changes the law.
“For Maori, it’s synonymous with what’s happened for the past 150 years.”
Palmerston North MP Steve Maharey is holding a 90-minute meeting at Te Manawa in Palmerston North on Friday, beginning at 5pm to gather public opinion on what has happened so far and what should happen next.
Mr McMillan doubted many Maori would bother to attend. Nobody had been specifically invited.
“He would just get two views. The pakeha view and the Maori view. They’re wide apart. And what is an hour and a half going to achieve? Ludicrous. It’s just going to be pakeha saying the Government did the right thing.
“And we’re all pretty cynical about that.”
Mr McMillan did not think much would be achieved by the hui the Government has arranged for Maori either, as Maori patience with the Government’s consultation industry was wearing thin.
“Take GE. We consulted and advised and gave our views, then the Government went ahead and did what it wanted to do anyway.”
Mr Maharey said the only reason anyone would want to “own” an area in the legal sense is to be able to exclude people or to be able to sell it.
“We say that should never happen and the best way to guarantee that no one can sell bits in the future is to make sure that nobody has ownership. From the opinion polls it seems the majority of New Zealanders are looking for a win-win solution on this issue.
“The proposals are a leap forward in the debate to date. New Zealanders need to be able to debate the complexities in protecting access and customary rights to the foreshore and seabed.”
The issue is not one the Government has chosen to bring up at this time, Mr Maharey said.
“A Court of Appeal decision triggered the debate. It said that the Maori Land Court has the jurisdiction to look into Maori claims to the foreshore and the seabed and raised the possibility that exclusive title could potentially be awarded if those claims were accepted.
“The possibility of allowing exclusive private ownership goes against the general assumption that the foreshore and seabed are open and communal places that should be enjoyed by all New Zealanders. This issue has the potential to divide the nation and it therefore needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.”
Haida Band Lay Claim to Lucrative B.C. Islands
March 6, 2002
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. (CP) — A B.C. aboriginal band is going to court to lay an unprecedented claim to the land and surrounding waters of the Queen Charlotte Islands, an area that includes billions of dollars in oil and gas reserves.
Louise Mandell, the band’s lawyer, called the claim “groundbreaking,” saying she believes it’s the first time an aboriginal band has laid title to surrounding waters and offshore resources.
“There’s very little judicial determination of the seabed as an aspect of aboriginal title,” she said today before going to B.C. Supreme Court to file the writ.
The claim includes the Hecate Strait. The strait between B.C.’s northern mainland near Prince Rupert and the Queen Charlotte Islands is believed to contain an estimated 9.8 billion barrels of oil and 25.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Harvesting the reserves could be worth up to $4 billion a year to provincial government coffers.
Guujaw, president of the 7,000-member Haida Nation, said the claim is about protecting the environment, not about oil and gas revenues.
“This case is about respect for the Earth and each other. It is about culture and it is about life,” said Guujaw, who goes by his Haida name.
“We don’t believe offshore oil and gas can be safely obtained — the technology doesn’t exist and we are not prepared to see offshore oil and gas drilling in any waters within a 200-mile limit surrounding Haida Gwaii.”
The federal government imposed a moratorium on offshore oil and gas activity in 1972. The B.C. government brought in its own five-year ban in 1989. This was extended indefinitely by the previous NDP government.
However, the B.C. Liberals have commissioned environmental and scientific studies to determine whether oil and gas drilling can be done without harming the environment.
The Liberals have also been consulting with Ottawa on the issue.
The Haida’s latest claim follows its victory last week at the B.C. Court of Appeal. Three judges agreed the Haida should have been consulted by the province and forestry company Weyerhaeuser Canada about logging activities on land claimed by the Haida.
Attorney General Geoff Plant said today the courts have been “very clear” that the province continues to be the landlord.
“We need to work hard to ensure that we accommodate aboriginal rights and title and other aboriginal interests,” Plant said.
“I think that offshore oil and gas in the long run, if it can be done in a way that’s environmentally safe, could offer huge opportunities, economically, for First Nations up and down the coast of British Columbia.”
Case Testing Limits of Treaty Rights
September 25, 2001
The limits of the treaty rights of Mi’kmaq fishermen in Canada are again being tested with a forthcoming lawsuit and a set of criminal prosecutions recently approved by a judge.
The Indian Brook First Nation of Nova Scotia is preparing to file a lawsuit that will challenge the federal government’s attempts to regulate what Chief Reg Maloney considers an aboriginal right. Under a 1760 treaty and a 1999 Supreme Court decision, Maloney says band members should be allowed to fish and trap lobster without federal interference.
A provincial judge’s decision to allow the prosecution of 23 Indian Brook fishermen may help, or hurt, the argument — depending which way the case goes. Last Friday, Judge Jean Louis Batiot set a November 5 date for a trial against the men, accused of violating federal law by trapping lobster out of season.
In their defense, the fishermen will question limits placed on their court-affirmed treaty rights. The Department of Fishers and Oceans (DF0) has required Mi’kmaq and Maliseet fishermen to tag their lobster traps, fish in season and abide by a number of federal regulations.
But Indian Brook fishermen have defined most, if not all, of the requirements. While almost every First Nation engaged in fishing has signed a deal with the government, Maloney has held out, insisting that federal officials let the band regulate itself.
So far, the government has refused attempts to self-regulate. DFO Minister Herb Dhaliwal has issued numerous warnings to the band, warning that lobster traps will be seized and fishermen will be arrested.
The trial for the men is expected to last at least a month. A related case decided earlier this year, however, does not bode well.
A judge in March found 19 Indian Brook men guilty of illegally harvesting timber on federal land. The men had claimed a treaty right to harvest but Judge Patrick Curran disagreed.
“Using a few trees to make things for personal use or incidental trade,” Curran wrote in a 46-page opinion, “is not the same as demolishing entire stands of forests for sales to sawmills.”
The case is on appeal.
Lobster War Looming: N.B. Natives Prepare To Fish Defiant New Brunswick Native Band Vows To Drop Lobster Traps In Mid-August
July 16, 2001
FREDERICTON, — The countdown to confrontation on New Brunswick’s Miramichi Bay has begun.
Mi’kmaq fishermen are set to head out on the bay’s choppy waters in mid-August and start fishing for lobster under their own rules, stubbornly defying Ottawa and the federal fisheries department.
“We’re going fishing,” states Brian Bartibogue, a band councillor at the Burnt Church reserve, which sits on the shore of Miramichi Bay in northeastern New Brunswick.
“We know the police and fisheries officers are gearing up for trouble, but what else can we do? Why are we branded as criminals for trying to survive by fishing in our own backyard?”
This is the third year of an impasse between the Mi’kmaq reserve of about 1,400 people and the fisheries department.
There is no solution in sight as yet another native fishing season approaches.
“The same dynamics are at play,” says fisheries spokesman Andre Marc Lanteigne.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia, had a treaty right to fish eels. It also said the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands can hunt, fish and gather to earn a moderate livelihood, within rules set by Ottawa.
Federal negotiators have been trying ever since to set parameters acceptable to First Nations, non-native fishermen and others with interests in the fishery.
They are working to strike new deals with 34 Atlantic First Nations to replace one-year interim agreements that expired last March.
To date, seven bands have signed deals and seven others have reached agreements in principle.
But not Burnt Church, where Bartibogue admitted there is bitterness over the lack of resolve in other Atlantic bands.
“It’s pretty hard to take, especially when the same ones signing these deals are telling us to keep up the good fight, that we’re standing up for native rights,” Bartibogue says.
The bands signing agreements say they need the money.
Ottawa spent nearly $200 million last year buying out non-native licences and offering boats, equipment and training to bring First Nations into the East Coast fishery following the Supreme Court ruling.
The deals being offered this year are reportedly valued in total at about $500 million over several years and include money for training and gear.
There will also be more money spent on enforcement.
Last year, the federal fisheries department spent $13 million on enforcement against the people of Burnt Church and the Indian Brook band in Nova Scotia, which also set illegal lobster traps.
At Burnt Church, the impasse led to dangerous confrontations on the water.
Several times from August to October, fisheries officers raided waters near the reserve and confiscated illegal traps.
Native warriors and fishermen responded by racing out in boats to try and protect the traps. Rocks were thrown, boats were rammed, there were several injuries and numerous charges were laid against natives under the Fisheries Act and the Criminal Code.
Most of those charges are still working their way through the courts.
The situation this year could be made worse by a decline in the lobster catch during the authorized, commercial season which ended in June.
Mike Belliveau of the Maritime Fishermens’ Union, which represents non-native fishermen in the Miramichi area, says the catch was down by about 15 per cent from the previous year.
Belliveau says commercial fishermen have no tolerance for a second, commercial season run exclusively by, and for, native people.
“There’s no tolerance for that. Zero,” he says.
Belliveau says he can’t believe anyone has the stomach for more violence, although he believes there are troublemakers on the reserve.
“Nobody is interested in going through last year’s business again,” Belliveau says. “I can’t see why Burnt Church would be interested either. There are a few who get caught up in these kinds of things, but I can’t imagine the community is interested in doing that again.”
Bartibogue insists the community as a whole is interested in defending its treaty right to make a worthwhile life for its people, instead of relying on welfare.
“Canada is considered one of the best countries in the world in which to live, unless you’re aboriginal,” he says.
“There’s no work and our children are suffering. But Canadians seem to accept that as the status quo for aboriginal people, the norm. Come live here for a week and you’ll be ready to fish for lobster next month.”
Copyright 2001 by The Canadian Press.
America’s Gambling Indians Roll Dice down Mexico Way
By Jan McGirk in Mexico City
April 25, 2001
Two Las Vegas-style casinos to be built in the Pacific holiday resorts of Acapulco and Mazatlan will be the first government-approved gambling establishments to open in Mexico since the Twenties.
The Oneida Indian Nation, just 1,000 tribal members in upstate New York, is betting heavily on attracting gamblers south of the border and will design and manage the new casinos, costing $500m (£347m) apiece. A delegation of Oneida tribal elders is expected to visit Mexico’s coast this month.
Mexican officials are especially keen to collaborate with the Oneida, who can fund this project with profits from their lucrative Turning Stone Casino near Syracuse, New York, which attracts 3.5 million annual visitors. When the contract is officially drawn up, it will be the first international casino venture negotiated between a native American tribe and outsiders. The timing is impeccable. “Indigenous development” is the hot-button issue in Mexico, ignited by the appearance in Congress last month of 23 ski-masked Zapatista guerrillas seeking rights guarantees for 10 million marginalised Indian citizens. A two-week cross-country caravan spotlighted their demands to lift Mexico’s 57 diverse ethnic groups out of abject poverty .
Ray Halbritter, head of the Oneida tribe’s business enterprises, said: “One reason we have such good relations is that we are indigenous people, as the Mexicans are. We also put our revenue to work for education, social services and infrastructure development, which also appeals to the Mexicans.” On their website, the Oneida tribe takes orders for Maya Gold, an organic coffee grown by Maya Indians in the Guate-malan highlands, out of a sense of cross-border solidarity.
The Oneidas manufacture and market a cashless slot machine across the US, and have been phenomenally successful with their gaming investments in the past decade. Once reduced to eking out a living on just 32 acres, the tribe now has 3,000 employees at a yearly payroll of $63m. Most profits go to land purchases 15,000 acres have been added to the reservation and a further 250,000 acres await a court decision over another broken treaty.
Dreams for rapid development, inspired in part by the Oneida’s success, now outweigh a traditional reluctance to sanction casinos in Mexico. For years, gambling halls were banned because any financial benefits were offset by risks of drug cartel money-laundering.
The Havana nightlife of the Mafia-riddled Fifties Cuba, just across the Caribbean, taught Mexico’s clergy and politicians a lesson. Businessmen noted how little money stayed to benefit Cuba and saw high social cost and little profit in providing Americans with another backyard vice den.
A few baccarat tables and poker games were tolerated in border cities and there is clandestine betting on cockfights. Only two Mexican racetracks cater to gamblers, one in the capital and the other in Tijuana on the California border.
For months, a group of American, Canadian and Mexican businessmen have been seeking seed money to set up government-sanctioned casinos that follow Vegas gaming rules. Since the election of President Vicente Fox, the pro-business conservative who broke the seven-decade stranglehold of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), casino-backers have clamoured to let punters contribute to the national income.
A political deal has been reached between the two biggest trade unions and the three leading political parties to introduce casinos at Acapulco, Cancun and Baja California resorts. Later, cruise ships with roulette wheels and blackjack tables may be granted docking rights, enabling them to open up to high rollers as soon as the ship sails.
These deluxe gambling vessels will link 35 casinos in Mexico’s top tourist spots, to be built inside existing hotels. If the Oneida makes a go of it, other five-star casinos may soon appear in Los Cabos, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Puebla, Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Cozumel.
Bringing in an independent indigenous nation, rather than financiers from the United States, is a savvy move to get the casinos accepted. It will pre-empt protests from radical leftist and environmental groups who might disdain outside capital, but wholeheartedly support indigenous rights.
Illegal Native Dump Ignored by Ottawa
Kent Spencer, The Province
Sterling / MP Grant McNally wants to know why the government is turning a blind eye to the illegal native-operated dump at Agassiz.
Half a million tonnes of construction waste, some of it harmful, is being illegally dumped at an Indian reserve near Agassiz and Ottawa is not doing anything about it.
The illegal dumping has been going on for 10 years and one of the culprits is a federal Crown corporation.
Waste-industry sources said the Cheam dump, off Highway 1 near the Bridal Falls exit, is well known to haulers, who dump their garbage for as low as $200 a load. The same 23-tonne truck costs up to $800 at a licensed landfill.
“We think the [Sto:lo] have made up to $7 million by operating this illegal dump,” said a B.C. waste industry expert who would not be identified.
“All the proper authorities know about this situation but they’re not following their own policies.”
Industry experts said the dump doesn’t have the lining, inspections and closure plans customarily required.
They say it’s impossible to know what the effects on the environment are, and claimed that “limited quantities” of creosote and gypsum have gone in there.
Creosote is toxic and has been banned in GVRD landfills, while gypsum turns into sulphates, which are harmful to aquatic life.
Sto:lo band chief June Quipp said she knows complaints were made about the dump in the House of Commons last week.
“We’re working with Indian Affairs to obtain a permit,” she said. “The standards we use are the standards used by our own community. They’re quite high, higher than dumps which have permits.”
Quipp denied there is gypsum or creosote in the dump.
Gordon McIvor, the vice-president of Canada Lands Co., a federal Crown corporation, said he is investigating reports that his Crown corporation is dumping waste illegally at the site.
“It’s possible soil from our Vancouver construction project is ending up there,” said McIvor from Toronto. “That shouldn’t be happening. We are investigating.”
The Canada Lands Co. is erecting a building at 401 Burrard St. to consolidate federal offices.
McIvor said construction material is hauled away by a sub-contractor, taken to a transfer station, sorted for recyclables, and then dumped.
Canadian Alliance MP Grant McNally (Dewdney-Alouette) said the Canada Land Co. is dumping at the site and blasted the feds for failing to take action.
“Why does the government turn a blind eye when it knows that this illegal landfill is in full operation?” he asked.
McNally said a Global television crew was “assaulted” on a recent visit to the site.
“Its camera and van were taken away, and it was told to get out,” said McNally.
Indian Affairs spokeswoman Diane Gielis admitted the dump doesn’t have a permit, which is required by law.
“The challenge is to ensure the environment is protected without unduly hampering the [Sto:lo’s] economic development,” she said. “The [Sto:lo] are in the process of obtaining a permit.”
Indian Affairs does not “actively monitor” the site, which is about 35 hectares and less than one kilometre from the Fraser River.
Industry experts say they would be quickly dealt with if they didn’t follow the rules.
“If anyone else was doing this, the RCMP would be called in and trucks would be confiscated,” said one source.
“Why aren’t the [Sto:lo] being treated the same way?”
Global executive producer George Froehlich said the station’s equipment has been returned.
“We’ve resolved our differences with the [Sto:lo],” he said.
To date Global has not aired a story about the dump.
Natives’ Needs Overlooked at Games
By Mort Rosenblum, AP Special Correspondent
September 24, 2000
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – Olympian flames lit by a popular Aborigine runner warmed hearts around the world as a symbol of ethnic blending. Among indigenous Australians, where reality bites, reaction was cooler.
“Well, it can’t make things worse, because we’re already going bloody backwards,” said municipal worker Pete Weatherall, on a seedy sidewalk of Redfern, a heavily Aborigine enclave in the heart of Sydney.
“We’re hoping – what else can we do?” his friend, Hilton Ferguson, added.
Redfern is only a tiny microcosm of the 385,000 Aborigines in diverse tribes scattered across an area as big as the mainland of the United States. Still, it is Sydney’s window on the other Australia.
And the mixed mood in Redfern was repeated in telephone interviews with aboriginal intellectuals and community leaders around Australia.
Some praised Cathy Freeman’s starring role in the Olympics’ opening ceremony, as well as its multicultural theme. Others saw a sop meant to replace serious work on crucial problems.
“A lot of people called this tokenism, but it was a little bit more,” said Geoff Clark, elected head of the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Commission. “Once you create the awareness, scrutiny will follow.”
But, he added, it was only a start.
A majority of white Australians fear losing something if land rights or compensation are granted to indigenous groups, he said. He estimated there are a million hard-core One Nation Party sympathizers, forming a big voting bloc hostile to Asian immigration and Aborigine rights.
“You can’t expect much more at the Olympics than to arouse interest, and we’ve done that,” Clark said. “Now it’s up to us. A right is only a right as long as you’re willing to defend it.”
Clark’s state-financed organization speaks for indigenous Australians in meetings with the government, the United Nations and other forums. But tribal and private views range to the extreme.
“That was a joke, the greatest token gesture in the history of Australia,” fumed Gary Foley, a University of Melbourne professor and self-described activist, referring to the ceremony. Foley is Clark’s cousin.
“This country is paranoid about being portrayed like South Africa, but the government chooses to ignore problems because they are racists,” Foley said. “We have the weakest indigenous land tenure under any Western law.”
He singled out what he called brutality against Aborigines in Western Australia, where he said many white immigrants from South Africa work as police officers and prison guards.
The basic issue is as old as Australia.
Europeans who sailed by in the late 1700s declared the continent “terra nullius,” empty of human settlement since it was too barren to be habitable except on the coastal fringes.
Aborigines say up to a million people lived in the Outback then, whether noticed or not, and their ability to thrive for 40 millennia in such a harsh environment gave them homestead rights.
As settlers moved in, native tribes died from unfamiliar disease. Clashes and massacres killed 850 Europeans and at least 20,000 Aborigines, according to Henry Reynolds, a widely respected historian.
In 1788, ethnographers say, there were 750 local dialects and 150 to 200 distinct languages. Today they estimate no more than 30 remain.
Controversy rages over the “stolen generation.” Last month a federal court dismissed a case by two Aborigines who contend the government was liable for removing them from their families as children.
From 1910 until the 1970s, authorities placed about 100,000 light-skinned aboriginal children in the care of white families. State and federal law declared it was humane to save children of a doomed race.
Back then, the watchword was “assimilation,” and Aborigines were not regarded as citizens.
Fallout also follows a 1996 landmark court decision that overturned the concept of “terra nullius” and opened the way for indigenous land claims. Aborigines say they have seen few concrete results.
Aboriginal life expectancy is 20 years less than white Australia’s, quadruple the gap between American Indians and other Americans. Unemployment is five times the national average.
Aborigines make up 2 percent of Australians, but 20 percent of the prison population. Fifty percent of Aborigines are dependent on welfare. Only 31 percent go beyond secondary school.
Reynolds, who is not an Aborigine but has traveled extensively among different tribes, said the underlying problems can be addressed only in their long-term context.
“The ceremony was an important gesture,” he said, “but it does not mean there is racial harmony between indigenous and white societies. In fact, that has been deteriorating over the past five years.”
He blamed a conservative government, supported by a small majority, for hostility to crucial Aborigine issues. Prime Minister John Howard has refused to apologize for the actions of past generations.
At the same time, Reynolds added, aboriginal leaders have to confront their own problems of welfare dependence, drug and alcohol abuse and a lack of community cohesion.
“We need a plan over 10 years, possibly even 20, with a considerable amount of money behind it, leading to Aborigine control over their internal affairs, in the same way as the American Indians,” he said.
That, he added, “would force responsibility onto the communities themselves while also decolonizing the situation.”
So far, frustration only simmers. Threats of violent protests at the Olympics have dwindled. But there is bitterness. At the Aborigines’ Tent City in Victoria Park, young activists repeat the word “genocide.”
Many Australians, white and indigenous, see a new wave of reconciliation, which is growing with a new generation. But most also say entrenched racism and ignorance impede progress.
The worldwide success of aboriginal art and music is helping draw attention to the other Australia, but there is widespread resentment to criticism from the United Nations and other outside groups.
A day after the opening ceremony, Katrin Burmeister, a white Sydneysider turning browner in the sun, said she was happy with the theme of racial harmony. But she was also wary.
“We have a great deal to work on,” she said, “but WE have a great deal to work on,” emphasizing the second pronoun to exclude non-Australians.
Lilian Holt, a moderate Aborigine who directs the University of Melbourne’s indigenous studies institute, called the ceremony a small step on a long journey.
“A lot of white Australians were happy I liked it, as in, ‘Well, are you mokes satisfied now that we’ve done something?”’ she said, with a laugh. “Moke” is a derogatory local word.
She accused government leaders of “a very mean spirit,” who are limited by “myopic economic rationalism.” White Australians “see everything in terms of money,” she said.
On the good side, the Olympic display focused attention, Holt added. “Sometimes when you acknowledge your demons, you exorcise them.”
In Brisbane, Michael Williams and Jackie Huggins at the University of Queensland took a harsher tone. “Our people are dying,” Williams said. “Until you address the real issues, the sore is still festering.”
Back in Redfern, Mick Mundine explained why the Aboriginal Housing Company he directs is tearing down the infamous “Block” to replace dilapidated housing with homes in which residents can take pride.
“We have all this drug use, crime, drinking, and what do people think?” he said. “The respect is gone. If this continues, we will lose our children. We have to think about them.”
Mundine dismissed acrimony over what has already happened.
“Look, you can think positive or negative. I don’t believe in living the past,” he said. “I believe in the present and future. If there is a gesture, OK, you build from it. We all have a lot to do.”
Lobster Boats Battle Off Canada
By Tom Cohen, Associated Press Writer
Friday September 1, 2000
TORONTO (AP) – A conflict dating back to the arrival of white settlers in North America has rekindled off the coast of eastern Canada, with Indian fishermen and government agents clashing at sea in increasingly dangerous battles over fishing rights.
In three recent raids, federal fisheries officials backed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Coast Guard vessels seized or destroyed an estimated 2,000 Indian lobster traps and arrested at least four Indians.
Two of the raiding officers were wounded in the face from rocks thrown by Indians, and two Indian boats sank while others were rammed in boat battles in Miramichi Bay on the New Brunswick coast.
Bolstered by video footage that showed their boats being rammed, the Indians now want criminal charges filed against the federal agents. The government, meanwhile, refuses to hold talks on the dispute until the Indians remove their traps, which violate federal fishing regulations.
“Their actions show a wanton disregard for human life,” said Chief Wilbur Dedam of the Burnt Church reservation.
The issue of Burnt Church Indians and their right to decide when and how their fishermen can trap lobsters has implications for similar cases involving Indian rights in modern Canada.
“Certainly this is not just a Burnt Church issue,” said Alexander von Gernet, a University of Toronto anthropology professor who specializes in aboriginal affairs. “There are hundreds of cases that perhaps don’t deal specifically with fishing but policy with other kinds of resource extraction” such as logging and even offshore oil and gas operations.
The conflict in the lucrative lobster industry – which pulled in $298 million in 1998 – focuses on how to restore some semblance of the access and freedom Indian groups had before colonization to provide for themselves, while also protecting industries built on limited resources and preserving the environment.
In a ruling handed down last September, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a 1760 treaty with the British that gave the Micmac Indians of Burnt Church and other Atlantic Canada reservations the right to a “moderate livelihood” through year-round hunting, fishing and gathering. The case involved a Micmac fisherman charged in 1993 with selling eels without a license.
Indian bands proclaimed they were free of government regulation and began hunting and fishing out of season, leading to clashes with nonnative fishermen in October that left three Indians injured and Indian gear vandalized.
In an unusual step, the Supreme Court in November issued a clarification of its ruling, saying the Indian fishermen were subject to federal fishing regulations.
The government launched a dual strategy. On one hand it negotiated with Atlantic Canada tribes on short-term agreements in which the Indians would accept regulated fishing and receive money, equipment and training. At the same time, it wanted talks on longer-range questions involving Indian rights and natural resources.
Most of the 34 Atlantic Canada tribes accepted short-term government deals, but Burnt Church was one of the five that refused. When its fishermen began setting traps out of season last month, Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal promised the regulations would be enforced, and the raids ensued.
Dhaliwal said Thursday that talks were off until the Indians stopped their illegal haul. Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault, who is handling the longer-term negotiations, visited Burnt Church this week but left abruptly because the Indians set up a public meeting – to be covered by the national news media – without consulting him first.
Indian leaders say the government causes the conflict and mistrust with its raids on their traps.
During a visit last month, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations – Canada’s biggest Indian organization – said the Burnt Church case is symptomatic of a wider issue.
The dispute “happened with the arrival of the Europeans and the introduction of your laws that prevent us from having access to the resources, in this case the fishery,” said Matthew Coon Come, adding that the Micmac were like Indians throughout Canada who believe they have been cheated of benefits from natural resources on their traditional lands.
A Mohawk tribe protested in support of the Micmac, blocking roads for two days in Deseronto, in Ontario, in central Canada. Protesters let traffic through while providing motorists with information about the dispute, and the blockade ended Friday with no arrests or violence.
Von Gernet said more Indian rights cases have to reach the Supreme Court in order to establish clear legal precedents involving the multitude of colonial-era treaties.
The Supreme Court test for Indian rights is whether the modern practice is rooted in “pre-contact society,” meaning before the white man’s arrival, von Gernet said. That requires the court to consider each case individually.
Lawsuits Threaten Anglican Church
By Tom Cohen, Associated Press Writer
Friday June 2, 2000
TORONTO (AP) – Anglican worshippers used to giving donations on Sunday morning got something back last week – a pastoral letter describing how the General Synod, or national church, could face bankruptcy.
The letter from Archbishop Michael Peers distributed May 28 in all 2,400 congregations in Canada explained that lawsuits filed by victims of physical and sexual abuse decades ago at church-run schools for aboriginals seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
“About 100 cases involve the proven abuse of children, and the perpetrators are in prison,” Peers wrote. “The costs of litigation and settlements for these alone is sufficient to exhaust all the assets of the General Synod and of some dioceses involved.”
It was shocking news for the more than 740,000 Anglicans, acknowledged Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. Few realized the General Synod’s assets of $6.8 million – $2.7 million in property and $4.1 million in investments – could disappear.
“Although this issue has received attention in the media, the seriousness hadn’t hit home,” Boyles said Thursday from his Toronto office.
About 7,000 claims have been filed against the Canadian government involving residential schools, which aboriginal children were forced to attend. Dating back to the 19th century, the schools tried to assimilate aboriginals into white culture.
Canada has an estimated 800,000 aboriginals, including Indians, Inuit and the Metis, a group of mixed French and Indian descent.
Students at the residential schools lost their native language and culture and often faced physical and sexual abuse.
Four churches that ran residential schools – Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic – were named in some lawsuits. Those churches now are negotiating with the government on ways to settle the lawsuits or pay off any judgments.
While some dioceses of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church could go bankrupt, the Anglican General Synod is the only national structure believed to be at risk. The Anglican Church operated 26 schools, closing the last ones in 1969, and faces 1,600 claims.
Boyles said a previous case in British Columbia established that the government and churches were “jointly and severally liable,” meaning that if the churches cannot pay an amount ordered by a court, the government must.
The structure of the Anglican Church protects most congregations from liability, Boyles said. Only the dioceses named in lawsuits and the General Synod would have to pay, he said.
Peers’ letter offered the same message to churchgoers worried that their weekly donations would go to lawyers.
“I want to assure all Anglicans that what is at risk financially are our assets, not the contributions that provide for the ongoing ministry and mission of the church at parish, diocesan or national levels,” Peers wrote. “Your contributions serve the mission of the church – not the costs of litigation.”
His letter and a column in the monthly Anglican Journal newspaper acknowledged the church’s role in running the abusive residential schools.
“The facts are that the General Synod is guilty by participation and association with individuals who physically and sexually assaulted a substantial number of students at residential schools,” journal editor David Harris wrote in a May editorial that said the General Synod may have to file for bankruptcy protection.
Such admissions only hurt the church’s chances of avoiding bankruptcy, said Ian Hunter, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario.
“The Anglican Church is unique in Canadian legal history in apparently convicting itself from its own mouth and apologizing its way into a legally untenable position,” Hunter wrote in the National Post newspaper on May 29.
While the Anglicans lack cash, Boyles said, the church can offer resources and expertise for programs to help heal and reconcile with aboriginal communities.
“What we’re saying to government is it makes sense to work out an agreement whereby we can contribute to the settlement … with the strength and gifts that we have,” he explained. “Our feeling is Anglicans would generously support increased work involving healing and reconciliation with aboriginal people, but are not likely to contribute to legal costs.”
Peers’ letter said the General Synod would be irrevocably changed, no matter the solution. He previously has tried to inspire the faithful by noting a parallel with Christ’s resurrection.
“On Good Friday, Jesus stopped,” he was quoted as saying by the Anglican News Service. “His heart stopped beating. His blood stopped flowing. But the story didn’t stop. God’s purposes will not be thwarted.
“And so, if bankruptcy becomes inevitable, we really are called to be the body of Christ. Dead. Absolutely dead. And just as absolutely destined to rise.”
No Reservations A Wall of Informal Censorship Surrounds Aboriginal Orthodoxy
May 9, 2000
This newspaper published an editorial on April 29 urging that the federal government change the way it deals with our nation’s aboriginal problem. We wrote that the current policy is contradictory, wastes billions of tax dollars every year, and has perpetuated Third World economic conditions and a culture of
dependency on reserves. Our conclusion was that assimilation is the best way to help aboriginals lead longer, healthier, richer lives. We argued that, although the possible dilution of native cultures would
be a sad consequence of this policy, the benefits offered by assimilation justified the sacrifice.
Phil Fontaine, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, disagrees. His letter accuses us of
engaging in “slander”; making statements that are “offensive” and “discriminatory”; and “promot[ing] hatred and distrust towards an identifiable group.” It is worth noting that the latter charge closely
tracks the language of Section 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Mr. Fontaine suggests that our well-meaning prescriptions may constitute a hate crime.
We would like to refute Mr. Fontaine’s argument, but there is very little to refute. He does not contest our facts, nor does he attack our argument that the reserve system promotes poverty and social pathologies. Rather, his attack on us is based entirely on the assumption that promotion of assimilation is inherently racist and misguided. Assimilation is a policy that has brought success to generations of Canadian immigrants. But in Mr. Fontaine’s view, it is just a euphemism for “cultural genocide” and the “destruction of a race.” Mr. Fontaine even suggests that we are conspiring to put in place a “final solution.” He is invoking the lexicon of the Holocaust to attack our plan to better the lives of aboriginals.
Mr. Fontaine writes in his letter that “First Nations do not object to a healthy debate on issues of mutual concern.” But the hyperbolic tone of Mr. Fontaine’s letter makes nonsense of this claim. What Mr. Fontaine means, perhaps, is that First Nations do not object to a healthy debate on issues of mutual concern … providing that such a debate is conducted in accordance with prevailing aboriginal dogma, central to which is the belief that aboriginal culture must be protected from assimilation, whatever the economic and social costs.
And, as with any stale orthodoxy, the logical flaws and empirical failures of aboriginal orthodoxy are protected by a wall of informal censorship. Aboriginal leaders, government officials and academics all line up to pay homage to the Big Lie that the reserve system works — and that “aboriginal economies” will bring reserve Indians out of poverty with their culture intact. Until they confront the facts and arguments we presented in our April 29 editorial, there is little reason to believe the lives of Canadian aboriginals will substantially improve.
First Nations, Old Problems
By Douglas Fisher, Sun Ottawa Bureau
April 30, 2000
At this point in our history it takes more than one cogent book to alter our course on aboriginal affairs. Tom Flanagan, a political scientist in Alberta, has given it a try in First Nations? Second Thoughts (from McGill-Queen’s Press).
Flanagan describes the expanding futility, gross waste, nepotism and folly of our Indian and northern affairs program, and then emphasizes how hard it will be to turn it around. He has written much on Native matters, including a fine work on Louis Riel, and he lives where there is far more news and public awareness of Indians.
First Nations explains how the early development of policies regarding Natives was based on treaties made by the colonial governments with various bands and the provision of reserves for their members. The first truly major intention to shift away from such policies came in 1969 — and collapsed by the end of 1970. Then, within a dozen years in moves sponsored by the Trudeau government, aboriginal rights, notably of “self-government” were enshrined in the Charter and the Constitution. This shift was the reverse of the ’69 plan to give aboriginal people no less and no more rights and privileges of citizenship than other Canadians have. This plan presaged an end to reserves, the category of “status” Indians and the Indian Act.
Are saner, fairer resolutions of present aboriginal dilemmas possible? Not unless they end the reserves, the perpetuation of “status” Indians, and the multitude of land claim settlements (most still to come).
Flanagan “doubts” changes are in sight. He writes:
“Various schemes of allotting reserve land and enfranchising individual Indians have been tried before in both the U.S. and Canada, with little success. There is no sign that contemporary residents want their reserves to be dissolved; and Canada, through the treaty and reserve system, has encouraged the survival of aboriginal communities as collective entities for more than a century. The movement toward self-government will continue because it has been accepted by most of the Canadian political elite and
represents the unanimous demand of the aboriginal political class.”
The best hope for change has to come from the “status” Indians themselves as more and more realize their day-to-day lives on the reserves and the prospects for their children are neither enhanced nor stabilized by this third level of government within Canada.
Flanagan notes there’s hope in the rash of protests on many reserves over mismanagement, nepotism and the extravagance of chiefs and band councilors. This democratic sort of outrage emphasizes that “self-government” in such enclaves replicates the worst features on many reserves when they were dominated by federal agents rather than chiefs.
Such grassroots protests on reserves will not bring serious appraisal for a titanic policy change in Indian affairs until a complementary appreciation takes hold among Canadians generally that in assuaging guilt over past mistreatment of Indians their politicians have given bands, as collectives, mostly small and far from mainstream life, a perpetuity as dismal, demoralizing, welfare mini-states.
Such collectives originated in a culture and economy of subsistence, with people living close to nature. A low-level, subsistence standard of living is no longer acceptable even if there were the game, fowl, fish, etc. at hand there used to be. These collectives based on blood and kin isolate “status” Indians from the ongoing endeavours of Canadians and they are sustained by fiscal transfers from other governments, land-claim settlements, rents of natural resources and casino profits.
Demographically, this system rooted in and perpetuated by blood lines is unfair. Only about half the 1.2 million or so people who at the last census bespoke full or some Native origin have “status” and thus entitlement to regular fiscal transfers, grants, etc. Many of Metis or Indian ethnicity do not have “status.” Some are now demanding their share in what flows to those who are registered Indians. (See the recent suit by Metis for a profit share from Casino Rama in Ontario.)
The various bands now number over 600, each descriptively accorded the grand title of “First Nation.” The reserves speckle the provinces. Many have less than 1,000 “status” members; most have less than a dozen square miles of territory.
Many Indians, particularly the young, have been voting with their feet, leaving for Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, etc. Almost half of all “status” Natives do not live on their reserves.
Neither the legendary “wisdom of the elders” nor band control over schools nor the renaissance in Indian cultural activities has stemmed this flight to the bright lights and to attractive job chances for young Natives getting higher education.
This rather creeping but inexorable integration of Indians into Canadian society underlines the long-run impracticality of segregation by blood of what is now at best a widely dispersed 3% or our population.
Coast to coast, aboriginals do not have the common bond of distinctive (and written) language or of religion.
Tom Flanagan’s conclusion seems sensible, but is not very heartening to me. He writes:
“The true progress of aboriginal people will depend upon emancipation from political control, whether exercised by federal bureaucrats or their own politicians.”
Fisher is the Sun’s senior parliamentary analyst
Enormous Repercussions Seen in Ruling Over Native Land Size of Reserve Based on Current Population: Court
Luiza Chwialkowska, National Post
December 2, 1999
A court decision that entitles the Lac La Ronge Indian Band of north-central Saskatchewan to an additional 3,000 square kilometres of land, some of which could be agricultural land in the southern part of the province, may have far-reaching consequences for treaty land claims across the Prairies, in parts of B.C., and in Ontario, legal experts and native leaders said yesterday.
The Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench ruled on Tuesday that since the Lac La Ronge band had not received the full amount of reserve land owed to it under an 1876 treaty, it can now apply the treaty’s formula of 128-acres per living band member to the size of its population at whatever time it finally settles its claim with the government.
When its reserve was first set up in 1889, the band numbered 484 people. Band membership now stands at close to 7,000.
The judgment marks the first time that a court has said that the size of a reserve should be calculated based on its current population.
“It has general implications for any case where there is any outstanding treaty land entitlement,” said Norman Zlotkin, law professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. “It will be an important decision on the Prairies.”
“This is a shocking decision,” said Tom Flanagan, political science professor at the University of Calgary, and visiting professor at McGill University in Montreal. “The repercussions seem to me to be enormous.” Government officials were studying the 250-page judgment yesterday, and considering the possibility of an appeal.
“A final decision has not been made,” said Jack Hillson, Saskatchewan Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs, speaking from Seattle where he attended meetings of the World Trade Organization.
Mr. Hillson said the ruling, if allowed to stand, would entitle the band to 776,456 acres of land. The precise location of the land would be subject to negotiation. The estimated cost to the federal and provincial governments would be a combined $240-million over 12 years, he said.
The federal government estimates there are some $2-billion unsettled native land claims. The decision could add new urgency to that process.
“If it is the current population that is to be used, then if they don’t settle, the costs will keep rising,” said Prof. Slotkin.
Canadian Lobster Feud Continues
By Malene Arce, Associated Press Writer
April 29, 2000
TRURO, Nova Scotia (AP) – Preparing for the lobster season off the eastern coast of Canada was easier this year for Stephen Marshall, despite concern that tempers between native and non-native fishermen might flare once traps are lowered into the water.
The 33-year-old Mi’kmaq Indian stopped by the small fisheries building at the Millbrook reservation in Nova Scotia to check the hinges on his faded green lobster trap. Stacks of shiny new traps for other native fishermen lined the wall.
All seemed quiet – quite a difference from last year, when Marshall had to hire a private security company to watch his boat and equipment during a volatile period for the Atlantic Canada lobster industry.
A long-simmering dispute between native and non-native fishermen turned violent when the Indian fishermen, seizing on a Supreme Court decision that they said permitted them to trap lobster all year, took to the water out of season.
Today the government is trying to negotiate deals with the native bands that would attempt to regulate their fishing, with the non-native industry watching closely.
“I imagine that people will be getting their lines cut,” Marshall said of lingering tensions, “but I don’t think it will be as bad as last year.”
The conflict in the lucrative lobster industry – which pulled in $298 million in 1998 – focuses on how to restore some semblance of the access and freedom native groups had before colonization to provide for themselves, while protecting industries built on limited resources and preserving the environment.
In a ruling handed down Sept. 17, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a 1760 treaty with the British that gave the Mi’kmaq the right to a “moderate livelihood” through year-round hunting, fishing and gathering. The case involved a Mi’kmaq fishermen charged in 1993 with selling eels without a license.
Native bands proclaimed they were free of government regulation and began hunting and fishing out of season.
“The commercial fishermen felt threatened,” said Andre-Marc Lanteigne, regional director of communications with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “They felt they were going to be displaced.”
That’s when the trouble began. Non-native fishermen warned they would attack native lobster boats that dropped traps in the off season. At Burnt Church, New Brunswick, an October weekend of violence including vandalism to Indian lobster traps and three fish plants left three natives injured.
The Supreme Court issued a clarification of its ruling in November, saying native fishermen were bound by federal fishing regulations.
Now the federal government is trying to buy out lobster licenses from retiring fishermen to provide communal licenses to the 34 native bands of Atlantic Canada.
In addition, the government is negotiating deals with the native groups that would provide millions of dollars to buy fishing boats and gear and pay for training. Such agreements would effectively regulate the native fishing, as the non-native industry demands.
So far, 19 of the 34 bands have either signed or agreed in principle.
“We are expecting that the majority will sign,” Lanteigne said, adding that those refusing would receive a communal license but would be ineligible for the government money.
Chief Lawrence Paul of Millbrook, who signed a one-year agreement in March, said it was the only way to avoid trouble with non-native fishermen and would bring much-needed money to struggling communities.
He said his deal is worth almost $5.5 million and includes six lobster boats, training, help in building a wharf and other resources, such as the new traps ready for use at the reserve fishery.
Others have refused to sign, calling it shortsighted.
“This is a much bigger issue than just fishing,” said Frank Meuse, 45, another Mi’kmaq chief. “We have an opportunity here to exercise our governance. We have a right and that is different than a privilege.”
Non-native fishermen disagree, saying the failure to regulate native lobster taking will increase the number of lobster traps, drive down prices and spoil the industry.
Despite the rancor, no one knows how many of Nova Scotia’s 12,000 Mi’kmaq will participate in the lobster industry under the government agreements.
“Right now,” said Ransom Myers, an ocean studies professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, “the natives are taking such a small part of the fisheries that it’s not a conservation concern.”
Atlantic Canada’s Troubled Fishery
March 17, 2000
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) – An attempt to keep the peace in Atlantic Canada’s troubled fishery appeared to unravel further Friday when some native bands threatened to make their own rules for the impending season, rather than sign agreements with the federal government.
The Indian Brook band in eastern Nova Scotia said it won’t meet with a federally appointed negotiator and will fish for lucrative lobster without Ottawa’s blessing.
The defiance comes as James MacKenzie, hired by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to resolve the simmering dispute, continues his sweep through the Maritimes in a bid to reach deals with natives before the lobster season opens in May.
MacKenzie is trying to persuade bands to sign agreements that would allow them access to the commercial fishery while imposing limits on what some natives say are untouchable treaty rights.
Many say they don’t need to negotiate since last year’s Supreme Court of Canada decision proved that Mi’kmaq and Maliseet people have the right to earn a moderate livelihood from fishing, hunting and gathering based on 18th-century treaties.
Others charge that the negotiator is simply trying to woo natives into compliance with promises of federal funding.