People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall with "Honor Treaty Rights" and other banners.
People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall with "Honor Treaty Rights" and other banners. Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen / Wikimedia Commons

Canada has been complicit in the demise of First Nations Indigenous since Canada became a colony under Great Britain. Before the ink was dry on the British North America Act (renamed the Canada Act) of 1867, the colonists were already developing and passing the Indian Act 1867.

The Indian Act determined all aspects of First Nation Indigenous life. The Canadian public only knows or sees budgetary announcements from the federal governments. They do not see the millennia of poor treatment that have led to generations of problems and harms that continue to plague the original First Nation peoples to this day.

The British came to this land to exploit the resources for personal or corporate gain. This is the first time that they would run into First Nations people who believed in sharing, honesty and kindness. Canada was built on this concept of sharing the land. 

Canada had the settler colonists who were trying to build a country. They had knowledge of treaties along the Eastern door that spoke of peace and friendship. Canada was in the throes of its own growing pains with the British-French fight for control of this land base. First Nations Indian people in the east fought to assist Britain. The First Nation Indigenous also fought with Canada when the American forces came fighting.

Canada has been built on the concept of sharing the land. The First Nation Indigenous peoples had no intention of going anywhere. The First Nation Indigenous peoples were content to continue living or existing in this land. Why would First Nations leave? They have been gifted with vast tracts of land, good hunting, clean waters and with a relationship to all of Creation.

The First Nation Indigenous would be happy to share with the newcomers. They did not anticipate that the newcomers would repay friendship with deceit. The First Nations Indigenous did not foresee that they would be herded onto small tracts of lands. They did not anticipate that their hunting or forages outside the reserve land would be restricted by a pass system. The First Nations Indigenous did not anticipate disease, malnutrition, starvation and that their children would be wrested from the arms of the parents, clans and community. 

First Nation Indigenous were willing to share and learn from the newcomers, but they could not understand greed. Now one century later, First Nation Indigenous communities know what greed means. 

Canada is announcing big budgets in the area of “Indigenous” child welfare. Firstly, Canada’s use of the term “Indigenous” must be unpacked. When Canada refers to the “Indigenous” they are referring to three separate and specific groups: the First Nations or Indians, the Inuit formerly referred to as the Eskimo and the Métis who were not referred to in the British North America Act. Canada refers to all three distinct groups as “Indigenous;” that is disingenuous or dis-Indigenous. It is disingenuous or misleading because each group has specificity in their history, language, land or culture.

Canada applies the same rules to all groupings. This is morally and legally wrong. The First Nation Indigenous, that is the Indians that formed the original peace and friendship treaties and occupied the entire land base of what is now termed North America, were always here. The Inuit, who were formerly referred to as the Eskimo, were also always here on the land. 

The First Nations Indigenous have a specific relationship to the land. It is a spiritual relationship where the First Nations Indigenous are stewards or required to tend and protect the land. This notion is contained in their languages, in their ceremonies and in their lifestyles or worldviews. There is a necessity to keep harmony between people, plant and animal because there is a connectedness that must be safeguarded. 

The first settlers/colonialists thought the Indians were weak for not exploiting the land or resources. Why would the Indians rip up the land that already provided for all their needs? What use was it to hunt and trap all the beaver in North America when the beaver has its own role to play in the larger ecosystem or environmental picture. Yet, when the first colonialists came with the Northwest company this was one of their earliest goals. They required beaver hats so some lordly lords could look fashionable in London or on the continent. This was an actual goal in the settler/colonial society.

There is a disconnect. There is a disconnect between the actual laws of Creator that were handed to each First Nation Indigenous linguistic group and what the settlers/colonials enforced as the laws to “civilize” this land. 

This simple misunderstanding has never been rectified. First Nations speak in their languages and they speak the languages that were given and made in this land. They hold their spiritual ceremonies that were also made in this land. First Nations are part of this land forever.

First Nation peoples cannot be bought off by billion-dollar investments to assimilate them into becoming lost settlers on their own lands. Besides the monies announced are portions or extremely small percentages of how many billions have been taken out of this land. This is the message the First Nation Indigenous try to convey. They have been wrongfully treated by  settlers because the agreement to share the land was written or continues to be written as “cede and surrender” documents. How can the First Nation peoples part with themselves? They are part of the land and the land is part of them.

This is the message that the Canadian public does not get or refuses to understand. The message is that the original peoples, the First Nation Indigenous, have a way and a relationship with the land and waters that predates any British document or Canadian made law. 

The First Nations Indigenous are upholding a higher legal order. They have distinct languages, with specific instructions and ceremonial practices for their particular linguistic group or nation. They uphold this order to keep order and harmony for all living beings on this land. Isn’t that a better system than one that amasses much for few while destroying life for all global beings and life?

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Rachel Snow

Rachel Ann Snow is Iyahe Nakoda, the daughter of late Reverend Dr. Chief John Snow. She holds a juris doctor from the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan and is an outspoken educator, speaker, writer...