Sunday, February 10, 2013

THE FIRST NATION ASCENDANCY

Last week, I had a conversation with VOCM Backtalk Host Paddy Daly regarding the fact that nearly 15% of the Province's population identifies itself as having First Nation, Metis or Inuit ancestry.

I thought the percentage was surprisingly high.  Is it possible that 15% of the population of this province is the offspring of aboriginal and non-aboriginal inter-marriage? Apparently it is.

My purpose was to point out that despite our European dominated culture, there was a much larger aboriginal component than we might have ever thought. The reasons for that were many.  From misplaced shame, a lack of knowledge of family trees and poor record keeping over the generations the knowledge was lost.

In recent years people have become fascinated with their ancestries. More and more of us want to know where we came from, how we got here, what our family health records reveal. Our roots are important to us.

More and more people are learning that their ancestry is not as clear as they were lead to believe. The family bible might not have been as true as believed.  Investigations of parish records,  Provincial Archives and genealogical searches have led to new insights, new branches of the family tree and uncovered a few secrets.

Those secrets could range to something as simple as the fact that your Aunt Sally was really your sister, that you were adopted, that your great great uncle perished with Sir John Franklyn or that your great great great grand other was a pre-confederation Indian.

Last week I posted a quote from an article published in the The Saskatchewan Law Review  by Saskatchwan Criminal Lawyer, Brian R. Pfeffer. The Article was entitled " The Indefensibility of Post. Colonial Aboriginal Rights". Like Political Scientist Dr. Tom Flanagan,  Pfeffer offers a different opinion on the evolution and practice of aboriginal and treaty rights.

The original aim of the Canadian was based in the notion of assimilation. The notion was a betrayal of the European's original relationship with the First Nations. 133 years later we all know that many aspects/intentions of our nations founders around First Nations People were wrong.

The Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights affirm Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. The Supreme Court Of Canada has further refined and defined these rights. These decisions have provided the direction for federal and provincial policies that are as varied as our aboriginal people.

The Pfeffer article touched on the issue of Indianness. What makes one a First Nation, Metis or Inuit. Who decides ones status and the stereotypes that those of mixed ancestry are subjected to by aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

I have heard public commentators speak of "blue-eyed" and "pale-skinned"  Indian's in tones that mock some peoples attachment to their ancestry. They are not Indian looking enough to have the status of being an Indian. We have First Nation leaders who feel the same way. They say there is too much European in these mixed aboriginals to be Indian.

Pfeffer quoted Drew Hayde Taylor's " How Native is Native if You're Native" and Newbury Park (who coined the phase second class Indianness) to point out how how much perception differs on the the concept of Indianness.

This perception, debate and discussion is very much at the heart of the current discussion in Newfoundland, both inside the Qalipu First Nation and amongst those without any Mi'kmaq ancestry.

Thus this stereotype is another straw-man that needs to be discussed. It is just as important as ensuring that the public realizes that over 70,000 fellow residents of this province are part of an aboriginal ascendancy. 

Does it make one an idiot to take advantage of what the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Supreme Court of Canada says is yours?


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