Jun 13 2007
Kudos to the Conservatives for putting Native land claims back on the fast track. New legislation to be co-written with Aboriginals will hopefully clear up a backlog of 800 land claims over the next decade or so and clear out some of the rot in our national fabric.
Will the news head off a planned national day of protest by First Nations people on June 29? Phil Fountaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was evidently impressed enough to call today a historic day and added that he prefers negotiation to confrontation. Sounds promising.
We’re in a unique period in history. A small minority can extract financial concessions from the national government of a multicultural population that no longer really represents the invading cultures – cultures that alternately conquered or demographically swamped germ-emptied territories of the decimated minority centuries ago.
This sort of legal action is not without precedent, but the opposite situation is far more common even in present day. The Han never bothered to financially compensate nations within China that their own ethnic group swallowed up. The Ainu people of Hokkaido also got nada from the ethnic Japanese. Same goes for Russia’s far eastern native groups. Ditto for the pygmies and other groups that got wiped out by the Bantu in Africa before the European colonization really got going.
But just because everyone else is doing something (or not doing it) doesn’t really make it right.
Land claims treaties on their own won’t be a panacea for the poverty, illiteracy and lack of opportunity that are epidemic for First Nations people living on reserves and to a lesser extent in our big cities – but Natives and non-natives need to get along in this country. The government is right in its new rush to put the land claims behind us so we can focus on the future together.
(The video above shows a traditional Ainu dance outside of a replica of an Ainu home. Interesting parallels to some aspects of North American native culture).