This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Realities of Isolation

"There is no economic base there for having jobs and so on. And sometimes they [Aboriginals] have to move, like anybody else [to find employment]."
"I was [involved in] this problem in 1968, a long time ago; it takes time and patience and there's always tragedies of that nature [First Nations reserves dysfunction and catastrophes: flooding, tainted water, inadequate housing, violence, familial failures] that occur."
The Right Honourable Jean Chretien, former Canadian prime minister
Attawapiskat is not the only, nor is it the worst-off of the many scattered tribal reserves across Canada. But it has been a vocal one, demanding that the federal government do something about the state of misery they find themselves in. While at one time in their history of living off the land, First Nations people actually lived off the land by taking advantage of its natural resources and looking after their own needs, as a matter of existential necessity, they are no longer capable of effectively exploiting what they find in their natural world to promote their lifestyle.

Despite which, they remain attached to the land, through nostalgia, a memory of a former time when they had little option but to be resourceful and independent and capable. The introduction of the lifestyle enjoyed by non-aboriginals has been embraced by aboriginals and they see no reason why whatever the general population enjoys living in urban areas cannot also be provided to them, living in their remote, isolated, often fly-in ancestral grounds. Where employment opportunities are scarce to non-existent, where food brought in is expensive, where medical services are rudimentary.

And where bored adults who haven't the burden of earning a living for themselves look to alcohol and drugs to ease their days, setting a pattern that the young emulate, which leads to anti-social and violent behaviour. Now that former Prime Minister Chretien has entered the verbal fray of reaction that Attawapiskat teens were discovered to have been discussing committing suicide among themselves, after previous, successful suicides prevalent among First Nations, the nation's attention has been once again riveted.

And the usual accusations citing colonialism and paternalism, bigotry and racism are being trotted out to blame the wider society and governments for all the ills facing First Nations today. According to Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, the lack of normalized first-world living resources among First Nations represents the fallout of poor relations between the federal government and First Nations communities. The experiences of the past have set the agenda that results in addiction, poor health and unemployment. These ongoing claims represent a stubborn unwillingness to face reality.

Attawapiskat, in fact, does have measurable employment opportunities and a source of wealth that many other such communities do not have. De Beers operates a diamond mine 90 kilometres west of the reserve, providing employment and royalties to the community. It has an investment of ongoing contributions to a trust fund valued at $13 million for Attawapiskat. As well, the community receives $2-million in revenue share from the Victor Mine.

Mr. Chretien speaks as one who has had ample experience as a former minister of Aboriginal Affairs and later, prime minister. He adopted an aboriginal child, he lived for a time among aboriginals. He observed the hardships and understands that urban life benefits simply cannot be transferred holus-bolus to isolated communities. Reserve councillors and their chiefs are given annual financial transfers from government to administer the affairs of the community. They all too often do so in a manner useful to themselves and their families, ignoring the needs of others on the reserve.

It is past time for people incapable of being independent and able to see to their own needs, to surrender their attachment to ancestral lands, and time for them to move on into the future, if not for themselves, then for their children and their grandchildren. For there is nothing for the young people on the reserve to do with themselves. There are no activities, there are no meeting places, there is nothing geared to the social needs of young people with energy and motivation to experience the things of this world.
"Honestly, there’s no social activity. For myself, I felt isolated, I couldn’t really interact with other people, I just felt like I was in my own little bubble and it was hard to talk to other people about certain things."
"Attawapiskat is a very beautiful place. We have a lot of land and we’re very rich in our language and culture."
"I lived in Attawapiskat almost my entire life and the things I got to do, I want to bring back and show other youth they can do it too. I lived in the isolation and I’ve overcome the barriers. I feel like if they had other people who had overcome those challenges and they came back, they’d feel more hopeful."
Chelsea Edwards grew up in Attawapiskat and is now studying in New Brunswick. Even with its problems her home remains "a very beautiful place . . . very rich in our language and culture."

Chelsea Edwards grew up in Attawapiskat and is now studying in New Brunswick. Even with its problems her home remains "a very beautiful place . . . very rich in our language and culture."

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