To the Editor,
To help understand the present ‘Idle No More’ movement, I urge all my non-aboriginal brethren to read 2 books: Rupert Ross’s Dancing With A Ghost and especially Daniel J. Kuhlen’s A Layperson’s Guide To Treaty Rights in Canada (University of Saskatchewan, Native Law Center, 1985).
Dancing With A Ghost (and its sequel) helps one better understand how First Nations people view the world and how to respectfully engage with them.
Incidentally, it would be nice if Canada’s government engaged it’s First Nations in a “nation to nation” fashion just like it would do with any other nation it does business with (like China).
A Layperson’s Guide to Treaty Rights in Canada is particularly timely as it helps one understand First Nations as a treaty-people, how treaties were crafted and their content. It’s an eye-opener, as it soon becomes obvious how “first-contact” colonialists took advantage of the treaty process, positioning themselves to eventually expropriate the land from First Nations.
The colonial government viewed treaties as “obligatory agreements” that carried no legal weight.
But beyond the understanding of the colonialists, First Nations were used to entering into treaties with each other as they conducted their affairs with the independence and autonomy of soverign states amongst themselves. They took signing treaties with first-contact colonialists very seriously.
Failure to appreciate the reality of First Nations nationhood prior to European contact is to everyone’s detriment. We cannot hope to sustain a 21st century version of colonialism.
By treaty protection, First Nations have been protecting the land from unfettered development for generations.
The status quo is no longer acceptable, which is why First Nations and their supporters are Idle No More.