Over the course of these readings, I learned a great deal about aboriginal relations among Native Americans, both in the United States and Canada. In this learning statement, a series of articles will be reflected upon following my reading of them, as well as how they fit into my spectrum of learning.
Duane Champagne’s article, “Self-determination and Activism Among American Indians in the United States 1971-1997” (1997), details the attempts by Native Americans to better their individual and collective situations in the face of rampant discrimination and disenfranchisement. The “Red Power” movement of the 1960s became a powerful symbol for radical Native American power, especially as they occupied Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971. Issues for these peoples included the rights for water, land, and fishing for some of their old territory, merely attempting to get back what was taken from them (Chapmagne, 1971).
It also seems that a great deal of the new power that has been granted to Native Americans has been through their large presence in the world of casinos and gambling. Gone is the radical activism of the 70s, replaced by this new sense of identity brought on by the new place Native Americans have in American culture. In this way, they are able to at least retain some of their individualism and respect from outsiders for the tribal life of their past (Champagne, 1971).
In Dierdre d’Entremont’s “Seeking Justice For Canada’s 500 Missing Native Women,” the discussion shifts to Canada, where there is a significant problem in media discrepancy between the disappearance of white Canadians and Native Americans who live there. While a trial raged on for a serial killer who murdered countless women in the Vancouver area. However, there is a significant media presence placed on the white women, downplaying the aboriginals that he may have killed (d’Entremont, 2004).
This is a significant problem in the Canadian justice system regarding investigation of missing aboriginals; as they are considered transients, living nomadic lives where they did not consistently stay in one place, they are hard to keep track of in the first place. What’s more, aboriginal women historically have endured a great deal of institutionalized violence, stemming from the first time they step into a classroom to the day when many of them go missing. The media forgets to shine a light on aboriginals, as they are not as well thought after by their main audience as white Canadians; therefore, they get the limelight in these sorts of situations. It is clear, through this reading, that greater attention must be paid to the plight of aboriginal women, especially those who have gone missing (d’Entremont, 2004).
One of the ways in which aboriginals attempt to circumvent their increasingly impoverished and segregated conditions is to move to the city and reside in urban areas, according to Calvin Hanselmann’s study “Ensuring the Urban Dream: Shared Responsibility and Effective Urban Aboriginal Voices” (1993). Like the rest of the population, many aboriginals seek to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Canada’s cities, and as a result move there to chase the ‘urban dream’. However, public policy has not matched this boom of aboriginals moving in, and they attempt to forego any responsibility that should come to bear as a result. Urban aboriginal programming and policy needs to improve in order to ensure greater assistance and integration for aboriginals moving to the city (Hanselmann, 1993).
One of the basic things that must come to pass is the continued support of federal and provincial governments in creating this programming, in conjunction with aboriginal Canadians, so that their needs can be met. Otherwise, many aboriginals will have too hard a time transitioning to the big city, and be left in the dirt when it comes time to earn a living for themselves. Otherwise, they cannot thrive in urban areas with so little help (Hanselmann, 1993).
This examination into aboriginals in urban centers is continued with David Newhouse’s study, “The Invisible Infrastructure: Urban Aboriginal Institutions and Organizations” (1993). IN it, the case is made for the importance of community in aboriginal groups. When making such a large transition, it helps to have a familiar group around to help one relate to one’s problems with the transition process. As a result, any further research into the feasibility for aboriginal programs in the city must be made through the use of community and institution. (Newhouse, 1993).
It is clear that, in urban centers, aboriginals are left to fend for themselves, with a minimum of governmental support. As a result, they have little choice but to rely on each other. Consequently, it is absolutely vital that governments keep that sense of community in mind as they attempt to insert programs for these aboriginals transitioning to urban areas. It is the only way to give them a familiar means by which to make the lifestyle changes that are required (Newhouse, 1993).
In Charlotte Cote’s study “Historical Foundations of Indian Sovereignty in Canada and the United States: A Brief Overview,” she points out the civil rights inconsistencies that exist in both American and Canadian relations between whites and aboriginals/Native Americans. Due to modernization, a strange semblance of segregation is taking place between borders, wherein some believe that all voices are being heard, except for the ones that resist assimilation. Aboriginals and Native Americans fit into this voice; they do not want to lose their cultural identity, but are forced by modernism to assimilate into an increasingly homogenized society. Indian sovereignty is an important thing to them, but in the absence of true power or consistent representation, they are increasingly being forced to ‘fit in.’ While the US has recognized the sovereignty of Indian tribes, the question still remains for Canada’s aboriginal peoples (Cote, 2001).
In Peter J. Usher’s “Environment, race and nation reconsidered: reflections on Aboriginal land claims in Canada,” aboriginals attempt to gain back some of that sovereignty by claiming their land as theirs once more. The past few decades of encroaching industrialization has left many lands of the Northern Canadian aboriginals transformed and polluted, much to their chagrin. They would like to stake land claims with the Canadian government in order to stop the creep of industrialization, but are running into roadblocks. The most effective means that have been working so far is a sort of comanagement, where the Canadian government and aboriginal governments jointly work and maintain their land – this grants aboriginals federal assistance and resources, and the federal government (for the most part) respects the wishes of the aboriginal’s desires for the land. However, the southern territories would encounter significant resistance if this were extended to that area (Usher, 2003).
Donna Patrick’s “Language rights in Indigenous communities: The case of the Inuit of Arctic Quebec” covers another kind of sovereignty; the right to speak indigenous languages among the aboriginals of Canada. In the face of globalization, significant changes to specific cultures and subcultures are being experienced – for one, more obscure languages spoken by fewer than average people are being threatened. This is the case for the Inuit who reside in the Arctic Quebec; their insistence on speaking their own language is preventing them from joining the global community, which could spell doom for them if they cannot interact with the rest of society in an effective manner. At the same time, they should not be asked to give up their own rights to their language; survival does not equate to losing what you are, and your identity as part of a people (Patrick, 2005).
In conclusion, the aboriginals of Canada and the Native Americans of the United States share a great many problems. For one, they are increasingly being threatened with globalization and marginalization of their cultures in the face of modernism and technology. Language and land rights are an increasingly sticky issue, as the modern world sees fit to do what it pleases. The diminished presence and influence of aboriginals even helps the media to downplay crimes committed against them. They are considered a silent people, those who do not need to be heard from – however, this is far from the truth. They must be allowed to preserve their culture, while still managing to participate in the modern world, interfacing smoothly with cities and the like. Only in this way can a uniquely united community of individuals be facilitated.
Champagne, D. (1997). Self-determination and Activism Among American Indians in the United States. Cultural Survival Quarterly, 21(2), 1-5.
Cote, C. (2001). Historical Foundations of Indian Sovereignty in Canada and the United States: A Brief Overview. American Review of Canadian Studies, 15, 15.
Hanselmann, C. (2003). Ensuring the Urban Dream: Shared Responsibility and Effective Urban Aboriginal Voices. Not strangers in these parts: urban Aboriginal peoples (pp. 1-6). Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative.
Newhouse, D. (2003). The Invisible Infrastructure: Urban Aboriginal Institutions and Organizations. Not strangers in these parts: urban Aboriginal peoples (pp. 243-253). Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative.
Patrick, D. (2005). Language rights in Indigenous communities: The case of the Inuit of Arctic Quebec. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 9(3), 369-389.
Usher, P. (2003). Environment, race and nation reconsidered: reflections on Aboriginal land claims in Canada. The Canadian Geographer, 47(4), 365-382.
d’Entremont, D. (2004). Seeking Justice for Canada’s 500 Missing Native Women . Cultural Survival Quarterly, 28(3), 1-5.