Editor: There are several points made in Mr. Nielson’s arguments (Letters, the Times, March 21) that are mired in assumptions and misinformation, and are almost too many to point out. He overlooks what I know is a very complex issue that requires more study than 300 word essays submitted to the local newspapers.
My comments come from a well read and informed space, having grown up within the community I speak of.
I also want to acknowledge that there is a lack of recognition of where Mr. Nielson’s privileges come from, and that sort of response is no longer seen as an acceptable point of entry into indigenous issues.
Mr. Nielson’s responses are as predictable as the spirit of my original letter in that he assumes to be the expert voice in the matter and is intended to undermine the well traversed, lived experience of the people he is supposedly speaking on behalf of.
It would not be acceptable to the indigenous community he worked for for 40 years to take the liberty to write on their behalf. Indigenous people are the best people to consult and converse with and about indigenous issues, not Mr. Nielson.
Using the examples of so-called “successful” indigenous nations like Osoyoos, and Tsawwassen is problematic in that it is a counter-assertion and flies in the face of many indigenous nations who have been trying for multiple generations to come out from under the rug of apartheid laws and are well positioned to do so, but are withheld the equity by those very laws in the first place.
He also cherry picks two or three models within the larger pan-indigenous community and positions them as the “exemplars.”
This is reminiscent of historical government policies that adopted out indigenous children to non-indigenous families who “looked” more European and were fairer skinned than the other children forced into state care over a 130-year period. Mr. Nielson is picking the First Nations communities who he feels best suit and mirror his tastes, values and comforts.
There is this whole taxation issue. It is never looked at as a privilege, as it is a reservoir of funds and resources that pave roads, pay for light standards, sewage, clean drinking water, hospitals, schools, and groomed streets. All of which indigenous communities like mine are excluded from being part of, because our lands are wholly owned by the Crown.
It is a far cry from being a “citizen plus” scenario like so many believe it to be. This means we are on our own until the paternalistic government deems it necessary or determines we deserve to spend our own revenue and accrued savings.
Those funds are not Mr. Nielson’s or anyone else’s other than ours.
There are many great literary scholars who are well informed on the subject as well. Scholars like Albert Memmi, Vine Deloria, Taiayake Alfred, Cole Harris, Franz Fanon, Lisa Monchalin, and Leanne Simpson, to name a few, who all come from within the these communities of indigenous peoples who all contend with the uniform politics of space, identity, policy, and prejudice in this colonial apartheid system.
To take on the role as an expert when you yourself are not a member of that community or have an identity within it, is a big no-no.
As for the issue about the $10,000 “of taxpayer money being wasted on each First Nation person” each year, I never see it. I must not get invited to that party where that happens. Nobody has ever given me a free $10,000 for anything.
I get out there and do it all myself, like everyone in my community, we are all hard working, and we have to work extra hard to educate the Mr. Nielson’s of the world, which is a burden on everyone.
Brandon Gabriel –
Kwantlen First Nation