The unprecedented attention on Attawapiskat and on wider issues involving aboriginal peoples in this country has people asking a lot of questions. I don’t have the time to answer all of them, nor do I have all the answers. (A fantastic backgrounder on Attawapiskat was compiled by Dr. Pam Palmater here.)
On this page, I provide you with links to various documents that you can explore to gain a deeper understanding of the issues, and to perhaps answer some of the questions you have.
This is not a quick process you embark upon, if you wish to truly understand what is going on in Attawapiskat and other First Nations communities. It is not a matter of a few hours of research or even a few days. However, you can start digging with the time and interest you do have.
This list is a work in progress. I just wanted to get some resources up quickly.
The 8th Fire
This is an absolutely amazing resource which is why I’ve decided to go ahead and make it the first thing you see! There are a few different sections to the site that I want to highlight for you.
– these are a series of videos addressing myths about aboriginal peoples, identifying what non-aboriginals know (or don’t know) about us, and giving you other interesting and important information.
– the 8th Fire is hoping to have over 40 short documentaries on a variety of issues impacting aboriginal peoples. Browse through and you’re more than likely to find things that interest you! (My kids LOVE these short pieces!)
– meet some of the people featured in the 8th Fire television series. Reading through these profiles can be a real eye-opener for those who have little contact with aboriginal peoples…perhaps you don’t realise just how diverse we are! There are some excellent interviews with some of these folks that you should definitely check out.
Cultural and historical information (Virtual Museum of Canada)
I recently found a new resource through the Virtual Museum of Canada that I think might be of interest to many. I find their search-by-theme approach frustrating however, as there is no specific ‘aboriginal’ section, so I’ve gone through and picked out some gems. These pages are intended to be used in a classroom, are broken up into different themes with learning objectives and outcomes and are easy to read through. The level varies, depending on whether the lessons were designed for elementary or even post-secondary students. If this is up your alley, please enjoy!
- Inuit Culture
- Inuit: Sea and Land
- Inuit Games
- Objects made with traditional materials
- Objects made with exchange materials
- Objects made with contemporary materials (gorgeous!)
- Innu Objects
- North American Indigenous Games
- Maliseet Stories
- The Haida
- Haida Culture
- Haida Stories
- Haida Art
- Haida Forests
- Haida Fishing
- Haida Repatriation (great for understanding what repatriation is)
- Haida protected area
- Aboriginal Activities (8 specific practices)
- Algonguians and Iroquoians
- Métis Games
- Treaty Rights in Atlantic Canada
- Woodlands Games
Excellent topical articles from other sources
I am going to eventually get to a post on First Nations education, but in the meantime here is an excellent blog post by James Wilson who has direct experience with the disparities First Nations students face. He does not just identify problems, he also identifies what we could be working on to make improvements. There are other great resources on that site, you should check it out!
The AFN put out a paper on Federal Funding to First Nations that is an absolute must read.
Robert Lovelace provides some historical context to the reserve system.
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996
This is an immensely important report. It hasn’t satisfied everyone, but it is a very thorough investigation on the living conditions of aboriginal peoples in this country and it includes numerous recommendations for creating new relationships. The report is composed of five thematic volumes, so you can jump to the ones that interest you the most, or you can read the whole thing. Very, very informative.
The full report of the RCAP can be found here.
For a look at the 444 recommendations made by the RCAP, you will find that here. (PDF)
If you’d like a shorter overview, there is a “Highlights” publication you can go through.
Auditor General Reports
The Auditor General provides annual reports on federal issues. Every single report since 1981 is available online. The reports are not limited to First Nations issues, but I will pick out sections that are relevant.
First Nations program delivery
The June 2011 status report linked to in my post on Attawapiskat, and referred to often in the regular media, can be found here. The report specifically addresses how programs are delivered by federal agencies on reserve. The report highlights problems, offers solutions, and evaluates how the government has followed up on previous recommendations.
The June 2011 report, is a follow up to a 2006 report called, “Management of Programs for First Nations“.
First Nations housing
This 2003 report deals with housing on reserve.
First Nations health-care
First Nations education
In 2000 the AG addressed First Nations Elementary and Secondary Education.
This 2004 report deals with the Education Program and Post-Secondary Student Support.
When you read the ‘main points’ sections, you get a bit of a description of what INAC (now Aboriginal Affairs) does and is responsible for as well as a bit of background on various subjects. That alone gives you some great information. Note that the Ministry has undergone name changes a few times, so you’ll see DIAND, INAC, and so on. It’s still the same Ministry throughout. I’m going to continue to use the term “INAC” because it’s easy to say and recognisable.
You’ll note that the AG has been identifying some of the same problems with INAC for decades. I’d like to crack a joke here about a need for third-party management, but this here is srs biznz my friends!
1986 report, detailing problems, recommendations and INAC’s follow up.
1990 report on INAC’s Northern Affair’s Program.
1992 report on “Indian Forest Management”.
1993 report on “Canadian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy”.
1994 report on “Social Assistance” via INAC.
1995 report on “On-Reserve Capital Facilities and Maintenance”.
1996 report on, “Funding Arrangements for First Nations”.
1998 report on, “Comprehensive Land Claims”.
1999 report, report card on INAC follow-up on recommendations to date.
2001 report on, “Streamlining First Nations Reporting to Federal Organisations”.
2003 report on “Transferring Federal Responsibilities to the North”.
2005 report on “Development of Non-Renewable Resources in the NWT”.
2008 report on “First Nations Child and Family Services Program”.
Correctional Investigator Reports
In 2006, Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator (independent federal Ombudsman for federal offenders) spoke to Parliament about his annual report of 2005-2006. He referred to a growing crisis regarding aboriginal inmates and described what he referred to as systemic discrimination.
The section of the report dealing with aboriginal offenders can be found here. He notes that annual recommendations for over a decade have been mostly ignored, with little improvements made. I bring this report up in particular because it was one of the first times that systemic discrimination against aboriginals became a national talking point. The Correctional Investigator continues to make recommendations year after year. Some of them are followed, but the gap remains very wide.
So much of what I do is linked to Aboriginal and Indigenous law, that I thought I should start compiling some useful legal links. I have clarified this previously but it bears repeating that Aboriginal law is not the same as Indigenous law. Aboriginal law is the body of law developed by the colonial state to inform and explains its relationships with native peoples, while Indigneous law is the pre-existing legal order of native peoples themselves.
Henderson’s Annotated Indian Act
This is still not a plain English ‘translation’ of the Indian Act, but doing something like that would require a lot of background context that would quickly make the issue anything but ‘simple’ regardless.
Bill Henderson is a lawyer who has taken the time to introduce some context before jumping into his Annotated (that means with comments) Indian Act. Reading it will still not give you the full story, but it is a helpful start.
Check it out here.
- Aboriginal law primer (UBC)
– if you have very little understanding of the rights of Aboriginal peoples as understood by the Canadian state, then this is a good clear primer.