Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Letter to the Editor

 

BAND COUNCIL is not "FIRST NATIONS"

One of the definitions of the word "myth" is a false collective belief used to justify an institution. It is often employed to obscure historical events, to accommodate political, economic and social interests. In education and entertainment the perpetuation of myths are an essential part of the process to eclipse a people's history, customs and beliefs, replacing them with simplistic caricatures, which dehumanize a perceived opponent prior to suppression.

In Canada the use of the term "first nations" fits precisely in the preceding definition. By using this term the truth of aboriginal governance at the time of

European contact is hidden and the complex legal relationships between the colonists and indigenous nations obscured.

On Oct. 11, 1492 there were fully functioning Aboriginal governments within defined boundaries across the western hemisphere and certainly in what is now

Canada. These were stand alone nations governed under their own laws and with the capacity, as distinct political entities, to enter into contracts and treaties with other states.

Britain and France acknowledged this when they entered into trade agreements and formal treaties codified into statutes, which bound the signatory nations to specific terms and conditions. These were not acts of convenience but an integral part of the struggle by the colonies to gain a foothold on this continent.

These were not "tribes" nor were they in any way subject to the European powers. The Aboriginal nations were allies in a "'brother to brother" relationship with their guests. They held council, exercised jurisdiction, defended their lands, had their own laws regarding crime and punishment. In most instances their political institutions were based upon constitutions retained through elaborate oral recitations (a version of common law) or held within permanent devices such as wampum belts.

The problem now is that most of the aboriginal peoples of Canada no longer are governed by their traditional systems, almost all of which were undermined and replaced with the provisions of the Indian Act of Canada. The Indian Act created the "band councils" which were designed to permit a highly conditional form of local government, entirely dependent on the federal government and without any national standing as defined under international law.

The band councils are not aboriginal in design or function. They are not independent, cannot pass any law without federal consent, have no treaty standing and are subject to the criminal and civil laws of their respective provinces with very few exceptions. The band councils are located on lands which are owned by the "Crown" and not Aboriginal people. They cannot enter into any trade agreement with other nations nor can the band council issue their own passports or do anything which might be considered a true act of sovereignty.

The Iroquois Confederacy had a constitution, a charter of rights and freedoms, a capital and an elaborate web of alliances with other Native nations. So did the Abenaki Confederacy, the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) Confederacy and others. They were the true "First Nations".

Not the band councils. They are not, and never can be, ''first nations." Canada tried its best to destroy the first nations. To replace them with the Indian Act agencies is to eradicate our history in place of myth. It is time to stop this silliness and call them for what they are, band council under the Indian Act.

And then it is time for the Native peoples to revive their true ancestral national governments by actually studying how we governed what is now Canada for thousands of years without the blessings of western civilization.

In Peace, Friendship and Respect,

 

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