Saturday, December 03, 2011

Time to Abolish the Reserve system

Imagine if the government happened to, oh, legally define what it means Chinese, create a department of Chinese affairs, create Chinese rights, reserve land for Chinese so defined and exempt Chinese living on reserve land from paying taxes of any kind. No one would doubt that is a recipe for disastrous social relations. So, why would anyone doubt the same about Native Affairs, native rights and native reserves? Abolish the reserve system and native rights and comments about "drunken Indians" will become as rare and archaic sounding as "drunken" whatever.

Not to sound too much like a historical materialist, but a culture ceases to form a coherent whole once the dominant mode of production completely changes. This is not controversial. Everyone realizes that recreating the culture of feudal France or Ancient Athens is impossible. Such a task would mean recreating the economic basis upon which fostered these cultures. However, many people it seems have the hair brained notion that it is possible to create a close facsimile of traditional native culture. They have not noticed that what underpins native culture today is not subsistence hunting carried out with modern rifles with scopes in place of traditional hunting tools, but rather Canadian law and past Canadian attempts of social exclusion. The dichotomy between “their” culture and “our” culture is hence false. Canada is the authors of both. The Indian Act and the reserve system is the basis by which status Indians reproduce themselves.

The insistence of many that the communal tenor of Native culture be maintained no matter what amounts to call to save native culture screw the natives. Yes these collection of idiotic laws have helped foster a strong Native identity (legally defining a group as other always does), but on a human level they produced nothing but misery. Why this does not bother more people I do not know. It is time the Canadian government shut down this ant farm. All it has done is produce levels of poverty that could only be described as third world, substance abuse levels that rival countries undergoing serve economic dislocation, suicide rates as high as gay males and American soldiers serving in Iraq and rapid criminality.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

what would you replace the reserve system with?

kirbycairo said...

Well, your disclaimer of not wanting to sound too much like a "historical materialist" was fairly meaningless. Only the crudest, most simplistic kind of Marxist approach would make a claim that a culture stops being coherent whole once the mode of production changes significantly. The claim suggests that the mode of production is the more than just the primary defining element of culture but that it amounts to the only one. It is just a silly and hopelessly simplistic claim. Language, art, recreation, are fundamental elements of how a culture is defined and, more importantly, how people define themselves as belonging to a culture. This seems so self-evident that it hardly seems worth offering complex historical examples. There is no doubt that changes in modes or economic and social reproduction change cultures in fundamental ways. But your choice of the phrase "ceases to form a coherent whole," is as unfortunate as Edmund Burke's infamous phrase "swinish multitude."

A significant case can certainly be made that fundamental changes must be made concerning the relationship between the government and native communities, but any such changes must flow from recognition of issues of self-determination of peoples.

And by the way, your analogy with the Chinese community is entirely specious. The First Nations peoples are recognized by the constitution as one of the three founding groups of Canada. As such, they can not be reasonably compared to just any minority group such as Chinese Canadians.

Koby said...

"Language, art, recreation, are fundamental elements of how a culture is defined and, more importantly, how people define themselves as belonging to a culture."

And I agree. But my point was mode of production also matters. Indeed, any account of current native cultural that does not make reference to Indian Act ect as the means by which Status Indians reproduce their existence is fundamentally misplaced. A reference to substance hunting in its place is no substitute and is inherently incoherent.

"The First Nations peoples are recognized by the constitution as one of the three founding groups of Canada. As such, they can not be reasonably compared to just any minority group such as Chinese Canadians."

Come again. My whole point was that the long relationship between the Crown and Canada's first nation's people have led people to accept as absurd arrangement as normal. By throwing out the Chinese counter factual I was asking people to look at the arrangement a new light.

rawrMONSTER said...

The Chinese weren't originally in Canada to begin with, so to compare it to that is far fetched. However, as a native myself I do have to say that we stereotype ourselves and need to let go. The reserve doesn't do any damage, we do it to ourselves. It actually seems as though people pity themselves more on reserve than off. I believe the Canadian government has significantly done a lot of wrong for Aboriginal peoples to be 'founding.' Without a doubt, keep everything but the actual reserves. We shouldn't let what happend to our ancestors (residential schools, for the most part.) get to us, but it is clearly visible that the damaged has branched. I feel as though physically being on the reserve creates a loop & a barrier from individuals being able to over come these wrongs & they end up getting stuck. I may just be a teenager, and I may not understand all of your mumbo-jumbo, but as a native myself I have experienced such things. Completely annihilating the reserve system would make a lot of people mad and without a doubt, would ruin more relations than keeping the system.