This is a sincere and humble message of appreciation and acknowledgement to the Elders who have made a difference in my life as teachers, counsellors and mentors.
To all those who have brought their strong and resilient voices forward in the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
And, respectfully, this piece is dedicated to ALL our Elders across Turtle Island.
This is for all the Elders who we told how much they were appreciated; and all the Elders who we didn't remind, or who we don't remind enough.
A debate that has been swirling around in Indian Country has gathered more speed recently.
The issue revolves around Indian land and its ownership status. Should it be privatized or should it stay as a part of a collective? The question about what to do with Indian land has always been on the table.
In the early part of the 20th century, after most of the available land was opened for settlement, land speculators cast greedy eyes upon Indian land. We were considered a vanishing race at the time, with much more land than we needed.
Peruvian economist and World Bank poster child Hernando de Soto Polar visited Vancouver in October to speak in favour of the establishment of individual property ownership ("fee simple") on First Nations Reserves in Canada.
The First Nations Property Ownership (FNPO) conference -- hosted by the First Nations Tax Commission -- paired de Soto with a select roster of indigenous leaders, lawyers, economists, and scholars from across British Columbia and Canada to promote a proposal that would allow fee-simple title on reserves.
As an outspoken activist, I'm often confronted with the question by people from a multitude of backgrounds, as well as my fellow First Nation people: why do I feel the need to talk about, speak about, and write about activism and political and social justice.
"You're not in poverty, why do you care?"
"I really don't think you should talk about it so much."
"Why can't we all forget about it and just live and let live?"
"Rob... why is it SUCH a big deal?"
Why is it such a big deal? And why do I care?