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Gord Hill on the Indian Act and the AFN

posted by dru Geography: Canada Topics: Indigenous

July 27, 2007

Gord Hill on the Indian Act and the AFN

I just transcribed these remarks by Gord Hill in this interview for a story, and thought they might be worth posting. The whole interview is worth listening to.

The 1876 Indian Act was how the Canadian state imposed these band councils over our traditional forms of governance and social organization. When the AFN calls for a national day of action, we're opposed to it. A big part of that is that the AFN's objective is to gain more support and more funding from the Canadian government. We're opposed to the Indian Act band council system which is imposed by the colonial government.

The purpose of the band council system is to control indigenous peoples and to administer government policies at the reserve level.

A lot of people just assume that the AFN is a legitimate organization that actually does represent our people. We're trying to say, no it's not a legitimate organization, it's a state-funded and -founded organization whose main purpose is to assimilate our peoples. So that was a concern we had, and something we address.

Day of Action is a way to make itself relevant, and to portray itself as a pseudo-militant organization that stands up and fights for the rights of the people, when in actuality, they represent the interests of government and big business.

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Indian Act and AFN

I absolutely agree with the transcribed comments. I trace my Aboriginal ancestry back four hundred years to the very survivors of the Kichesipirini genocide survivors named in the Jesuit Relations transcripts and other historical documents from the early contact period of the 1640s. Powerful trade and military alliances were formed here, just as in Europe, through political marriages meant to secure positive and peaceful relations between two distinct groups. The Aboriginal families and communities did not weaken through these alliances.....They maintained their jurisdiction but allowed the French to share. The descendents of these mixed marriages were highly esteemed within the Alonquin/Anishnabe culture. Able to greatly contribute to the material wealth and health of their communities certain families held positions of great esteem and responsibility, as in Anishnabeg culture your greatness is measured by your generousity and service to your people. Certain "clans" held certain responsibilities, as did certain communities such as the Kichesipirini, or Island Algonquns. My Aboriginal ancestors married into French aristrocrat trade and governance families forming new alliances that changed the central North American contentient and economy for hundreds of years. My family negotiated some of the most important eace treaties and trade alliances. They participated in important international agreements yet I grew up in an obscure poverty ghetto in the small city of Pembroke, directly across from the "Island" where my father's family were afraid to talk about who they were. Why?

The Island Algonquins had for hundreds of years remained influencial in trade and politics, marrying into the families of Sitting Bull, Hole in the Day, Poundmaker, Big Bear, Reil, Dumont, probably even Pontiac, the Nipissing, the Ojibway, the Iroquois, Mic Maq, the Blackfoot, the Cree, the Winnebego, the Ponchas, ..... It was an Aboriginal web of kinship connections that defied the borders and boundaries that exist today. These were inter-related nations, with French alliance,opposed to British authority, joined by blood and obligation ..... sophisticated governance systems and social institutions of honour, .....not Indian Act bands.

Because of their refusal to move away from their traditional territory of the Allumette and Morrison islands, the territory of the Kichesipirini, and their place of political jurisdiction, my family was never "recognized" as "Indian" but maintained their proud identity as "From the Island". They were referred to as squatters and stragglers....despite hundreds of years of documented Aboriginal history and governance they were denied their rightful place and were replaced instead by Indian Act "bands", whose attitudes of entitlement eventually almost completely erased the facts of the past.

The legitimate orders of Aboriginal governance in place prior to the assertion of soverienty of the British Crown still hold a legal contract with the Crown for royalties of their natural resources as well as the protected continued jurisdiction of their social systems. Indian Act bands do not hold such legal right. The Assembly of First Nations only represents "status" or Indian Act Aboriginals and Indian Act bands. The Assembly of First Nations and its associated Indian Act bands have been created to distract, minimize, to abrogate and derogate from the Aboriginal rights inherited by individuals like myself, and my community, and the actual legal obligations fundamental to the existence of what we now refer to as Canada.

The Assembly of First Nations, as grand as it sounds is a recent construct created by Indian Act band leaders. It has no legal right to demand anything more than money for programs and services....as it is essentially an oposition facsimile, giving the appearance that the actual obligations are being met. Until such a time as Aboriginal leaders and institutions start demanding an independent examination of the history of the Indian Trust Fund, the development of the federal ministries responsible for the original contractual agreements, the development of the Provincial Tranfer Agreements and other such public records and historical evolutions that manipulated the Crown/Aboriginal relationship we cannot assume to have any genuine Aboriginal leadership or governance.

My community is currently working to bring thses very issues, along with our detailed research, before the courts in the hopes of bringing some measure of clarity to these highly complex issues.

My greatest appreciation must be expressed for the important legal and academic work being done by John Borrows and Darlene Johnson who have contributed so much to the proper contextualization of Canadian history, law and Aboriginal relations. Thank you as well to Dominion for the excellent opportunity they provide for dialogue.

I am fortunate. My history is extremely well documented....but the important principles established through this one history holds hope for all First People of Canada, as well as our neighbours, as we still hold the eternal obligation to honour our ancestors and the right to freely form alliances of mutual benefit.

Paula LaPierre
Kichesipirini Algonquin