Change Is Coming: Youth Suicide Pacts, Canada’s Move Away from the 141 Year Old Indian Act and more news

By Lara Trace Hentz

I am still on my hiatus, of course, but these stories I have covered on this news blog before (kinda). I will be back later in 2017. That is, if we don’t suffer a nuke someday soon.


From August 11, 2017 at Indian Country Today

Wawatay News reported that the Canadian Army responded to a declaration of emergency by the government of Wapekeka, an Oji-Cree community of about 400, located about 375 miles north of Thunder Bay. The emergency was an epidemic of youth suicide. The First Nation asked for outside help after the third suicide by a 12-year-old girl this year and discovery of suicide pacts among some youngsters.

The Army sent a unit of Rangers—an all-indigenous unit of part time reservists—with an assignment to conduct night patrols and daytime activities for at risk youth.

Chief Brennan Sainnawap commented in extending thanks to the responding Rangers:

There were no suicides after the Rangers arrived. There were attempts but no suicides. The Rangers coming in helped our staff on the ground and the whole of the community to have a chance to rest. We were traumatized and exhausted. The Rangers gave us breathing room.

The Rangers did not approach the assignment as policing. They spread out in the community and tried to get to know the kids, but they did take custody of some suicide paraphernalia. They made lots of referrals to suicide counselors. A few kids were airlifted for emergency treatment.

As the government was able to bring in more civilian help the reservists withdrew as a unit, but individual friendships remain. If Chief Sainnawap’s evaluation is correct, the Rangers hit the sweet spot of signifying to the kids that the government cares without becoming an oppressive force.

Cousin Ray helpfully pointed out once more that the responding unit was indigenous, and it might have been harder for a unit made up of settlers to find the sweet spot even with the best intentions.


For First Nations, the end of the Indian Act is an opportunity to return to tradition and empower indigenous female leaders

Sandra LaFleur • August 12, 2017

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s historic announcement of a move away from the 141 year old Indian Act had to have left some Assembly of First Nations (AFN), and provincial Indigenous leaders scratching their heads. Indigenous activist leaders (land protectors, water protectors, suicide watch groups), Native Women’s Association of Canada {NWAC}, Idle No More {INM}, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), grassroots people and the average non-indigenous Canadian are also likely, wondering what a life beyond the Indian Act means and how the move will affect them in their day to day lives.

… Let’s use Monaco as an example

The Treaty of Versailles is an agreement between France and Monaco similar to that of First Nations treaty’s with the Crown (Britain’s representative; Canada), is eerily similar in basic foundation….

Monaco has its own law enforcement similar to what is already implemented on most First Nation communities. And the near two mile sovereign state also has a Constitution of Monaco (adopted in 1962 and updated to reflect government power and legislative changes). Furthermore and somewhat, simplistically, Monaco’s agreement with France came in part by Monaco’s cessation of land to (similar as First Nation’s and the Crown’s agreement on land), France and in return, an agreement was reached wherein, a part of France’s obligation is a responsibility to militarily protect Monaco.

There are many more similarities however; the Treaty of Versailles could be a starting point in building First Nation, nation-to-nation legislation, with Canada.

First Nation government leaders, activists, FN women’s groups and all affected parties need to start the process.

The process could be as simple as surveying individual First Nation members on who they would like to see sit at the helm; in mediating the drafting of new legislation.

Read the entire Op-ED: Change Is Coming: Canada’s Move Away from the 141 Year Old Indian Act – Indian Country Media Network



A new Navajo law criminalizes human trafficking on the country’s largest American Indian reservation.

READ: Navajo Sign Law Criminalizing Human Trafficking – Indian Country Media Network



U.S. House appropriators did what they could before recess to limit dramatic cuts to American Indian programs proposed by the Trump administration.

READ: Trump’s Proposed Cuts to American Indian Programs Still in Play – Non Profit News For Nonprofit Organizations | Nonprofit Quarterly



Museums Move to Return Human Remains to Indigenous Peoples – The New York Times

top photo


Clearing the Path for the Turtle

wasaBy Lynn Gehl − Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe

Recently I stated that unless “we” stand behind the person who is most oppressed, “we” will not gain the genuine solidarity needed. This is because the more oppressed person needs to know that when the more privileged person gets what s/he needs, that s/he will continue to stand behind their needs rather than drop them. The person who is most oppressed needs to understand that their needs will not be abandoned. While I think this is true, there is another aspect of genuine solidarity that requires fleshing out.

Canada is a socially stratified country. I think we can all agree on this. In my mind I visualize this stratification as a vertical continuum where people are located at different positions based on their ability to access services, and thus their ability to live the good life. While some people are more privileged, others are less so, and this privilege is reflected in terms of their location on the continuum.

For the most part, White able-bodied heterosexual women are situated closer to the top of this continuum of social stratification. This stands to reason, as most of the structures, institutions, laws, and policies in this country have been invented, constructed, and managed by White able-bodied heterosexual men. Black women, Hispanic women, Asian women, Queer women, Indigenous women, Transgendered women, and Women with Disabilities are then situated at different locations along this vertical continuum. In my thinking process − which I am not claiming is the ultimate truth − I always place Black women, Indigenous women, and Women with Disabilities close to the bottom. Of course I know there are limitations and thus exceptions to this general thinking in understanding this placement in that there are poor White women, and for that matter, financially well-off Indigenous women in Canada. Regardless, to some degree this general understanding is a useful cognitive structure to think through issues such as how do women begin to engage in allyship across our differences and in a way that we are more effective in our need for structural change.

In illustrating what I mean by privilege, I define it as occurring when all things are equal between a poor Indigenous woman and a poor White woman yet the structures, institutions, laws, and policies one needs to navigate to survive are White. Today this is commonly referred to as “White privilege” and people such as Peggy McIntosh, whose interest is inclusive curriculum, Tim Wise, an anti-racist educator, and comedian Louis C. K., whose script addresses White privilege all talk about this issue. I too have offered a satirical diatribe on the topic after I encountered its denial. My goal here in mentioning “White privilege” is not to offend people, but rather establish a launching pad to then begin to think and talk about conceptually complex issues. In offering this discussion of privilege it is important that I point out that when a woman is both Indigenous and has a disability, for example, her experience of structural oppression also includes interactional effects where, as a result, the effects of her lived experience with structural oppressions are greater than the sum of its parts.

I rely on this understanding of social stratification, and define privilege in this way to illustrate my point about the need for women who are more privileged in terms of the continuum of social stratification to engage in concrete, on-the-ground equity practices, equity practices that serve women who are more oppressed. Equity practices require us to first understand equity, and second to engage in remedial equity practices that will lead to a better life for people more oppressed.

Thinking through this model of social stratification as I do, and as an Indigenous woman with a disability, I am always struck by how it is that oftentimes some women, of course not all, are unable to really understand the meaning of equity versus equality. As a matter of fact, sometimes I actually encounter denial by some people who argue that women who are more oppressed require help. Some go as far as offer the excuse that Indigenous women are not getting involved enough, and that Indigenous women are not stepping up and sitting on planning committees. Yet, these same people claim to be social justice advocates interested in real change. At times I am inclined to think that this denial is a form of lateral violence.

Let’s face it, in order for real change to occur, women need to form alliances across our differences. Needed is a genuine theory of solidarity. The solidarity theory I propose is simple: If equality is desired, equity measures are required; we need to follow the turtle. We need to follow the most oppressed in the movement forward.

Moving from this more genuine theory of solidarity, rather than false solidarity models and theories, in situations where the women who are more oppressed are not present in physical body, it is the responsibility of more privileged women to reach out and accommodate them in whatever way they can. More privileged women need to understand that more oppressed women may not be represented in their planning committee for very real concrete reasons such as their need to focus on finding food for their family, issues of personal safety, or in the case of a person with a disability, a lack of funds to take a taxi. Understanding this and accommodating the needs of these women represents equity in practice.

The bottom line is White women who do gain inroads in a White patriarchal society will do so at the expense of the women who are most oppressed. This is hardly an advance. Freedom must not come off the backs of those more oppressed. By relying on a genuine theory of solidarity with its inherent equity practices and placing the needs of those more oppressed − the metaphoric turtle − at the forefront of your efforts where you stand behind the women who are more oppressed, such as the One Billion Rising campaign, community Persons Day Breakfasts, International Women’s Day events, and inviting women speakers of colour and of different dis/abilities into your institutions to talk about women’s oppression, we engage in a process of genuine solidarity.

It is only through concrete equity practices that all people will gain emancipation. To offer the argument “we are all equal,” and the excuse “to stand behind is offensive,” is a sure indication that you do not understand equity in practice. Succinctly, if equality is desired, equity measures are required. Be selfish and stand behind me, my sisters, and their babies as it will assure your own emancipation. The turtle must be the leader for social justice to prevail.

lynngehlLynn Gehl−Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe, Ph.D., is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, she is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process, and she recently published a book titled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts. Lynn also blogs and has over 70 community based and academic journal publications. In her spare time, she carves nickel-sized turtles. You can reach her at and see more of her work at

‘Genocide, genocide, genocide’

Posted on April 15, 2013

Pamela Palmater gives federal department of Indian Affairs a failing grade.     – Photo by Monica Lister

Pamela Palmater gives federal department of Indian Affairs a failing grade. – Photo by Monica Lister

By Marci Becking

Dr. Pam Palmater is frequently asked by Canadians “Why don’t First Nations people just get over it”.

“The second they can tell me what the ‘it’ is that we’re supposed to get over, then we can have a conversation,” says Palmater who spoke to Union of Ontario Indians staff on March 22. The chair of Indigenous Governance at Ryserson University says she has yet to meet a Canadian who knows what the “it” is.  And no Canadian has taken her up on her offer to switch places if they can. The Mi’Kmaq lawyer  says she is most closely monitored by government agencies when she speaks of two topics:  sovereignty and genocide.  So she talks about it more often – especially during a presentation where a phone line is open.

“We’ve never given up our sovereignty,” says Palmater who goes on to refer to the sterilization of First Nations women by the Canadian government was an act of genocide. “Genocide, genocide, genocide.”

Palmater, who has been at many speaking engagements since the Idle No More movement exploded onto the Canadian political scene in December, says that there is no one leader for the movement and that everyone who participates is a leader. “There is no dividing line between who is Idle No More and who isn’t,” says Palmater.  “Political, non-political, on-reserve, off-reserve, Status, non-status.  Idle No More is all-inclusive.” Palmater encourages everyone to educate themselves, stay informed and educate others. “Send letters to MPs, Senators and the Prime Minister.  Send in official positions on legislation to Parliament; there needs to be political pressure and advocacy, First Nations need to implement and enforce their own laws.  And action on the ground to assert and defend our rights.”

“All we want is what other people get in the other provinces; we’re entitled to a lot more.  But if we only got what other people are getting in the provinces, we’d be bringing in $179 billion in gross domestic product.  That’s if we only equalized education.  What if we equalized health, housing and water?  The decisions that are being made in this country cost Canadians money. She says that Canada could be saving billions of dollars and making billions of dollars. “$100,000 to put one aboriginal man in prison for a year or $60,000 to give him a four-year education,” says Palmater who believes Canadians should be thinking with their wallets.

“For every one dollar you put into a First Nations child, you save $7 down the road.  There is no other investment in this country that gives you that kind of payback. Canadians could be making money off us.  But they would rather pay through the nose to keep us impoverished.” A third of the $9 billion that is set aside for Indian Affairs goes to the staff at Indian Affairs – some with six-figure salaries.

“The mandate of Indian Affairs is to improve social well-being and economic prosperity and to develop healthier, sustainable communities.  Fail.”  Palmater says that Stephen Harper was vocal against omnibus bills when he was an Opposition MP.  As Prime Minster his government has not only proposed the most omnibus bills, but the largest.  She says that Harper is on an aggressive mandate to assimilate First Nations by the next election.

She points to all the recent legislation calling it the 2013 White Paper. This White Paper includes:  Bill C-27 First Nations Financial Transparency Act,  Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, Bill S-2 Family Homes on Reserve and Matri Interests or Rights Act , Bill S-6 First Nations Elections Act, Bill S-8 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, Bill S-212 Self-Government, Bill C-45 Omnibus Bill (Indian Act, Navigable Waters),  Bill C-38 Budget Bill (Enviro protections), First Nation Education Act, First Nation Property Ownership Act and Federal/provincial laws and policies. “This legislative agenda ignores First Nation sovereignty and jurisdiction, violates First Nation laws, violates Treaty and Aboriginal rights, violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to have free, informed and prior consent, transfers jurisdiction from the feds to the provinces, transfers liability without funding and increases government control over First Nations,” says Palmater.  “Canada’s objective is assimilation.” “None of this legislation is dealing with the crisis happening right now in First Nations.”