Trudeau’s words about aboriginals resonate

Posted on January 4, 2012 in Equality History

Source: — Authors: – news
January 3, 2012.    By Robert Head, Calgary Herald

As one who has had the good fortune of visiting the majority of First Nations Indian Reserves in Canada and also having spent some time on the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Ariz., while doing a year-long study into policing, I find the recent media frenzy concerning the Attawapiskat housing situation overblown and rather frustrating.

To begin, please bear with me while I record an excerpt from a speech given by a prominent Canadian, to an assembly of aboriginal people many years ago:

“So this year we came up with a proposal. It’s a policy paper on the Indian problem. It proposes a set of solutions. It doesn’t impose them on anybody. It proposes them – not only to the Indians, but to all Canadians – not only to their federal representatives, but to the provincial representatives, too, and it says we’re at the crossroads. We can go on treating the Indians as having a special status. We can go on adding bricks of discrimination around the ghetto in which they live and at the same time perhaps helping them preserve certain cultural traits and certain ancestral rights. Or we can say you’re at a crossroad – the time is now to decide whether the Indians will be a race apart in Canada or whether it will be Canadians of full status.”

Those words were spoken back on Aug. 8, 1969, by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau at the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights meeting in Vancouver.

Trudeau continued: “And this is a difficult choice. It must be a very agonizing choice to the Indian peoples themselves because, on the one hand, they realize that if they come into the society as total citizens, they will be equal under the law, but they risk losing certain of their traditions, certain aspect of a culture and perhaps even certain of their basic rights, and this is a very difficult choice for them to make and I don’t think we want to try to force the pace on them any more than we can force it on the rest of Canadians. (But) here again is a choice which is, in our minds, whether outside, a group of Canadians with (whom) we have treaties, a group of Canadians who have …many of them claim, aboriginal rights or whether we will say we’ll forget the past and begin today and this is a tremendously difficult choice because, if – well one of the things the Indian bands often refer to are their aboriginal rights,” Trudeau said.

“We will recognize treaty rights,” continued Trudeau, those 42 years ago. “We will recognize forms of contract which have been made with the Indian people by the Crown and we will try to bring justice in that area and this will mean that perhaps the treaties shouldn’t go on forever. It’s inconceivable, I think, that in a given society one section of the society have a treaty with the other section of the society. We must be all equal under the laws and we must not sign treaties among ourselves. And many of these treaties, indeed, would have less and less significance in the future anyhow, but things that in the past were covered by the treaties…things like so much twine, or so much gun powder and which haven’t been paid, this must be paid. But I don’t think that we should encourage the Indians to feel that their treaties should last forever within Canada so that they be able to receive their twine or their gun powder.

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9 Responses to “Trudeau’s words about aboriginals resonate”

  1. Erica E says:

    @G Shortell: so many things wrong with what you say. 1. Like 60-80% of Indigenous people live or work off reserve and pay Canadian wage and/or property taxes. Only people who live and work on reserve don’t pay taxes. 2. Canadian taxpayers do not pay for Indigenous expenses on reserve. That money comes from the Indian trust fund, held and administered by INAC and populated through natural resource extraction, sale of Indian lands and other economic activities.

    It’s nice how people want to complain about indians selling gas and tobacco to bring money into their reserves but also complain about how they are lazy and only want to take government handouts. How can we win?

  2. ^ lol says:

    Because war was never declared thus victory was never established. Europeans and French-Europeans are essentially squatting on First Nations land.

  3. G. shortell says:

    Trudeau senior had the right idea. Why should todays Canadian taxpayers be responsible to pay for people to live in remote areas with little or no employment. Why do we teach our kids to get an education to prepare them for the modern world and be productive citizens. Treaties should not be etched in stone because the world does not stand still. Justin Trudeau and Indigeneous peoples are looking in the rear view mirror.

  4. john says:

    DNA controls things like eye color, hair color, etc. It has nothing to do with culture. Cultural traits are learned. You do not want to cut the heart out of a buck because of who your ancestors were. You do it because somewhere you decided it was a good idea. There are many urbanized native people who have no desire to hunt or to live on a reserve. Trudeau wanted equal rights for all, and that is the goal in a civilized society. It doesn’t mean that you have to have laws to preserve the potlatch. On reserves, you see cigarettes and gas for sale. This has nothing to do with any ancient traditions. It is simply a way of life on reserves today. Rural people live differently than urban people. The issue today is improving conditions for people who do live in remote areas up north, and not shorting them on government benefits.

  5. S.K. says:

    It would be difficult to end “race based law” in Canada as the Constitution itself is based upon the premise that the English and French were the founding nations. British common law and French civil law would no longer apply, and neither would their languages be funded as extensively as they are. This notion of ending “race based law” seems to me a dog-whistle phrase to end recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and way of life – their very existence.

  6. Gerry, that’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard when it comes to the North American Indian. My husband, who now resides with me in N. Florida was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. However, his father was born of a Scottsman and an Indian woman from British Columbia. She was an Okinagan, or Okanawgan? I’m not sure of the spelling.
    Nevertheless, the point is, my husband told me all about how rough it was for his father being half Indian. Indians weren’t exactly welcome anywhere especially “breeds” like half breeds, quarter breeds – mixed breeds of any kind.
    But years later when my husband was a young adolescent when he was considered quite incorrigible for “running wild” and then when he was a young man he felt that “aboriginal” blood crying out as he made his way up into the mountains of Arkansas where he practiced more and more the natural inborn skills of living off of the land. It was inside of him! Oh sure, he learned a little here and there when he was a boy but living in the wild, things came from deep inside him. It was like the old song said, “Let me remember things I don’t know.”
    Well, how could you remember things you don’t know?
    They are things you’ve never heard – never read – never learned in any way shape or form since you were born in this life! Nevertheless, you begin to remember things because they are encoded in your DNA and sometimes it comes out easy a little here a little there, dribs and drabs. However, sometimes it comes out like a force of nature!
    That’s the “Native” or “Aboriginal” or “American Indian” memory roaring forth, letting a person remember, “things they don’t know.”
    This is just a small part of that heritage that you’re saying they should just forget (as if they even could) so they could become one with Canada.
    In one Summer up on an Ozark mountain my husband had taken a ten point buck with a rock and a club, cut it open with a flint knife that he had knapped out as he stalked the buck, and ate it’s heart while it was still beating after he had thanked Father God, all so that he could posses the qualities of a buck deer. And fill his very hungry belly. In that summer he learned to dress himself with a various assortment of skins, trapped a various assortment of small game, built fires in various new ways, warped wood to make an excellent bow. Made my own arrows, etc. All things and more that I learned from trial and error that originated from within my inner one quarter “aboriginal” self.
    I’m only one quarter and I found my ancestors who have made me whole!
    Why oh WHY would I ever give that up to say that I’m just a Canadian?

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  8. Gerry Gagnon says:

    The attempt to “fix” the past is a fool’s game, one with no end. The point of studying history is to learn, so as to not repeat mistakes. Attempting to redo the past is worse than a waste of time — it simply prolongs the suffering. It’s time for ALL Canadians to move into the future on an equal footing.
    End Race Based Law…

  9. Kelsi Trotter says:

    Pierre Trudeau was quoted in this article basically saying that the Aboriginal peoples treaties need to come to an end at some point, because one day they will not be relevant anymore. I disagree with his statements at the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights meeting because as Canadian citizens, we have a responsibility to uphold these treaties.
    Some of the parameters like gunpowder are no longer relevant, this is true, but when we have taken away so much of what is sacred to Aboriginals, we must now try to right the wrongs that have been done to them for so long.
    The Aboriginal peoples have had so many things taken away from them, and every Canadian has the responsibility to attempt to right these wrongs. These statements that Trudeau made in 1969 should not have been the words of a Prime Minister. Canada’s past has not been a nice one, and as (at the time) leader of this country, he should be looking to fix the problems and issues that the Aboriginal people have faced, not tried to cover them up. In my opinion, it is never too late to change the wrongdoings that Aboriginal people face.


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