In Canada and beyond, native (first nation) peoples have high rates of suicide, child abuse, alcohol, drug abuse (including solvents and gasoline), and incarceration. They have lower than average per capita income, high rates of reliance on social assistance and school abandonment. Hundreds of first nation women are missing and a discomforting percentage of these turn out to have been murdered..
The following study suggests that healing, regenerating first nation cultures costs less and gives greater benefits than “law and order” approaches emphasizing incarceration over re-integration.
Healing communities and cultures means building community resilience and networks of mutual support, building value systems fostering meaning-purpose-significance-empowerment-engagement-“flourishing”. It means building a positive self-identity, a positive evaluation of self-as-aboriginal. The core of empowerment is found in willingness to take responsibility for one’s life (in the context of a supporting network or community).
And the first nations of Canada have a lot to heal from. From 1880 to 1996, the residential school system attempted to “kill the Indian in the heart of the child”. This involved removing children from their families and shipping them off for indoctrination in the ways and values of the white man. Technically speaking, such a practice today would be labelled genocide..
The cost of community based intervention is less than the cost of incarceration. Recidivism rates are vastly lower, hovering between “zero to ten percent”
Canada now seems to be at a crossroads in its relations with the first nations perhaps similar in ways to the crisis the US faced in black / white relations during the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, the Kennedy liberal era. To know more, read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.
As a nation, will we demonstrate that largeness of vision required to institute constructive change? Or will this report, like so many others full of good intentions, quietly gather dusk on institutional and governmental library shelves..
The least one can say is that we are living in “interesting times”. Does anyone doubt it any longer? Just turn on the late News.. Everywhere we see surprising, unexpected events and bizarre, frightening natural phenomena. Example: whitenose fungus infection decimating little brown bat colonies in eastern North America.
Meanwhile, in the human sphere, century old relations between aboriginal peoples and European colonizers are shifting, mutating.. What the outcome will be is impossible to judge at this early date..
I have the impression that colonized nations, not just in North America, but around the world, are searching. They seem to want to preserve or rediscover the culture of their ancestors, to use it as a base upon which to build a future society. The slavish adoption of European culture, language, religion and law seems increasingly to be questioned, especially by the young. The same young seek out their surviving elders to learn the ancient mother tongues. Occidental justice is increasingly being replaced by or adopted to traditional systems of justice.
This shift in consciousness is reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Two centuries ago a declaration of such principles would have been unthinkable.
Where this trend will lead no one can say. But is is interesting.
I have the impression of a man stunned, knocked down by a great blow – five centuries of European colonization, who is now slowly rising to his feet and taking stock of his situation. What does he do next? What CAN he do next..
To some degree, this “new consciousness” of First Nations must arise from the increasingly evident failures of late Patriarchal civilization. The earth has been finally “conquered”, “mastered”, measured, weighted, quantified, quantized and finally COMMODITIZED (cash on the barrel head! How much is a butterfly worth, kid?)
The quantified, commoditized contemporary (pseudo-)individual has been well programmed for optimal consumption. Do you have existential funk, mal de vivre? Why just go shopping… consume, go shopping, get your FIX and you’ll be “fine” (for a very little while). Until the fix wears off..
Living on the margin of society, the “native” sees consumer society from a novel perspective, and therefore sees things we can’t see. (Einstein: perception is relative to position.. Not all observers may observe the same thing while observing a single unique event..)