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Aboriginal Causes: A Lucrative Business for White Advisers

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  • Aboriginal Causes: A Lucrative Business for White Advisers

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    ( - Aboriginal Causes: A Lucrative Business for White Advisers)

    Aboriginal Causes: A Lucrative Business for White Advisers

    (javascript:openNewWindow('PhotoAuteur.aspx?L=en&A uteurID=2','','height=525,width=388,toolbar=no,scr ollbars=no')) By _Victor Teboul_
    ( - Informations sur l'auteur)
    Ph.D., Université de Montréal, Editor,®
    ( (_Larger image_
    ( ) Non-native
    lawyers and consultants defend aboriginal causes for their own financial gain,
    argue Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard in their controversial book, _Disrobing
    the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural
    Preservation_ (Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry) . The billions of tax
    dollars spent on aboriginal programs serve to enrich white consultants and a
    native elite, instead of improving the condition of the aboriginal population,
    according to the authors. Can government policy be made to change for the
    benefit of aboriginals? What actions should be taken? We raised these questions and
    others with Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard. Interview conducted by
    _Victor Teboul_ ( - Author information) for ®: In your book, Disrobing The Aboriginal Industry (McGill
    University Press, 2008), you reveal that the aboriginal people of Canada are kept
    in a state of isolation from the economic chain of production by the very
    people who are supposed to defend their claims, and even more so, by those who
    are hired to promote their cause: lawyers, anthropologists and social
    scientists in general. Why, according to you, has no one ever denounced this
    situation, which has been preventing the aboriginal people from becoming part of
    the industrial network?

    – The Aboriginal Industry has been exposed before – by David Crombie,
    Calvin Helin, Jean Allard, and a number of others (a complete list of these
    critical views is available on page 266, note 2 of our book). This exposure,
    however, has largely come from the political Right, and has not been undertaken
    systematically. This is because the Aboriginal Industry pushes aboriginal
    leaders in front of itself, and so critics like us appear to be attacking
    aboriginal people, not the Industry (which is our real target). New Left commentators
    are very sympathetic towards aboriginal people, and are inclined to be
    supportive of any political demands being made by an oppressed group. Therefore,
    when the Aboriginal Industry manipulates native leaders, and encourages them
    to support reactionary initiatives, most non-aboriginal people accept these
    claims without question. They assume that this is the best way to address the
    terrible oppression that aboriginal peoples have endured historically from
    colonization because they believe that land claims and self-government are what
    aboriginal people “want”. ®: You point to social scientists and to lawyers as profiting
    from the legal procedures rather than obtaining tangible long term settlements
    which would contribute to integrating the aboriginal people into the
    socio-economic chain of production. Why haven’t the Canadian media ever investigated
    the aboriginals’ conditions within the perspective you bring forth in your

    Abuses scarcely reported by media

    – The media certainly has reported on the abuses in the system of carrying
    out aboriginal policy. The reporting has been sporadic, however, due to the
    underlying apprehension about criticizing anything to do with aboriginal policy
    initiatives because it may be seen as an attack on native people. By
    implying that all critics of aboriginal policy must be closet racists or colonialist
    sympathizers, the Aboriginal Industry has made it difficult for all people,
    including journalists, to question aboriginal policy. ®: You state that “The tribal basis of politics in aboriginal
    communities (…) is incompatible with modern values because it is exclusive
    rather than inclusive, concerned with ancestral privilege rather than equal
    citizenship under the law’’. Isn’t this true, to a lesser degree perhaps, of all
    ethno-cultural communities in Canada? How should a community be inclusive
    while it must, at the same time, be preoccupied with reproducing its own value

    - Yes, it is true of all communities anywhere that still identify according
    to their ethnicity. However, no other group has the same circumstances as
    aboriginal peoples where the gap between cultures is so great. No ethno-cultural
    communities came to Canada without iron-age technology and the developmental
    characteristics associated with the technology. All non-aboriginal ethnic
    groups in Canada chose to come to this country, which means that they are
    psychologically prepared to integrate, at least partially, with the wider society.
    The automatic association of aboriginal people with their ancestral
    traditions also creates additional obstacles to their development and the absorption
    of characteristics needed to participate effectively in modern society. ®: You mention the difficulties in getting your book published.
    How has it been received?

    – The difficulty with getting the book published had to do with the elements
    discussed above. Some publishers even suggested that we change our thesis!
    The book has had a polarized reception; the Aboriginal Industry supporters
    tell people not to read it, but there have been some very positive responses
    from people who are disturbed by the increasingly irrational character of
    aboriginal policy development. ®: You seem to denounce the double standard existing in our
    judiciary whereby leniency appears prevalent when it concerns crimes committed
    by aboriginal offenders and particularly by aboriginal leaders. Why, in your
    view, is this situation tolerated by the courts and by our legislators?

    – We do not “denounce” the leniency of sentencing of aboriginal offenders,
    nor do we refer to a “double standard”. Our intention is to illuminate the
    effects of the cultural gap between natives and non-natives in the judicial
    system. Acknowledgement of the cultural gap is the first step in understanding
    and dealing with the problem of over representation of aboriginal people in
    penal institutions. The existing policy direction is to try to reduce the
    number of aboriginal people being incarcerated without addressing the cultural
    roots of aboriginal criminality.

    Alcoholism not the direct cause of violence ®: You have come to the conclusion that alcoholism is not the
    cause of violence and abuse, but that it is used as an excuse, and that the
    real cause of violence lies in the very way of life in the culture of
    aboriginal communities. If that is the case, how can violence be combated or

    – There are studies that indicate that alcohol is not a direct cause of
    violence and abuse, but that it relieves inhibitions of a number of social
    behaviors. The clash of cultures facing many aboriginal people results in
    frustrations that, under the influence of alcohol, find expression in violence. While
    there is evidence of this in all cultures, the occurrence is highly
    disproportionate in aboriginal communities. The answer lies not in rejecting all
    alcohol use, which reinforces the idea that alcohol is the cause, but in cultural
    integration with the non-abusing society. It should be pointed out that
    European societies also had problems with alcohol as they industrialized; however,
    this transition occurred over hundreds of years, not decades, and so it was
    easier for Europeans to develop customs that facilitated moderation in
    alcohol consumption. ®: The Canadian Heritage program, Canadian Culture On Line,
    has, among its main criteria for the selection of the projects it subsidizes,
    that they must originate from the groups themselves -whether aboriginal or
    ethno-cultural- and that they must _‘’be active in promoting the culture of
    that community ’’_
    (Canadian Heritage - Eligibility Criteria) :

    In the light of your analysis, how can there be any room left for
    self-criticism when the Canadian government itself supports self-promotional projects
    on the part of communities, projects which might in some cases, as
    demonstrated in your book, even contradict our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

    “Government policy must change”

    – Government policy is at the root of the problem, but the initiation and
    control over projects is exercised by the Aboriginal Industry that promotes
    traditional cultural features to keep native people in isolation and need of
    their “help”. Government policy must change to accept responsibility for the
    delivery of services to the native population rather than transferring funds to
    community leaders who are under the influence of self-serving lawyers,
    anthropologists and other consultants. ®: You propose, among the solutions that you put forward, that
    problems in aboriginal communities be addressed through ‘’widespread social
    change’’. Given the magnitude of the situation and the deeply entrenched
    problems you describe, can you offer some examples of how you envision such
    widespread social change?

    – It is difficult to come up with solutions to problems that are not
    acknowledged in the first place. Ultimately, the huge cultural gap must be
    recognized and considered in the development of future policy. Funding for the
    promotion of atavistic cultural phenomena by non-aboriginals must be stopped.
    Education should be consistent with universal concepts of knowledge without the
    premise of different “ways of knowing”. Monetary transfers should not be
    channeled through sinecured boards of directors. Developing a long-range program to
    integrate isolated communities while minimizing discomfort to their members
    must be the focus. This means scientifically based programs to improve basic
    educational levels, address Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), and eliminate the
    chronic health problems in the native population.

    While there should be no forced relocations, as many aboriginal people do
    not have the skills, values and attitudes to survive in urban environments,
    encouraging the native population to migrate to larger centres should be the
    focus. This is not occurring in areas like Nunavut, where the policy direction
    is actually proposing the opposite; the government is embarking on an
    expensive program of “decentralization”, where it is assumed that economies can be “
    built” with government funds even in isolated communities that can only be
    accessed by air. Instead of spending millions of dollars on infrastructure
    developments in communities like Pangnirtung and Pond Inlet, for example,
    government funding should be oriented towards providing transitional programs so
    that more aboriginal people would begin to feel comfortable in moving to larger
    centres like Iqaluit.

    An entirely new overall policy must be developed in concert with the true
    representatives of aboriginal people. With the objectives of addressing the
    contemporary problems, allowing native people to participate in the global
    society, and not in compensating for past ill treatment regardless of the
    regrettable and acknowledged extent of it. As is now being seen with the residential
    school settlement, the money is going towards pick-up trucks, drugs and
    gambling, while the real problems – low educational levels, poor health and
    substandard housing – remain.
    Frances Widdowson is a faculty member of the Department of Policy Studies at
    Mount Royal College, in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). Albert Howard has worked
    as a consultant for government and Native groups, and is currently an
    instructor and Director of Programs, at the Kennedy College of Technology in
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

  • #2
    Wow Black Bear, that is good reading.

    In large part I have to agree. While these initiatives do create some stable jobs for some of our people. The lawyers and consultants are making the most and are usually non-Native. I have often wondered why Native people (with the appropriate education) are not hired to do those royal commissions on Native people that rarely result in more then a vary expensive book of suggestions that don't seem to happen.

    We do however end up with some jobs like the ones at the friendship centers and of course tribal jobs. Are these the "Aboriginal elite"? I don't know if that is fair are lot of them worked hard to get the education required for these jobs. I know one local man who went from unemployed to college student driving pizza delivery to a healing and wellness worker. I wouldn't call him elite, I'd call him hard working but still struggling (financially). Certainly has more then many, but less then the middle class.

    So I'd say some good has happened but if we want a lot of good to come out of this we need to be getting some of our university grads in these lawyer & consultant positions. Also the Canadian Human Rights Code does allow for cultural groups to hire within their cultural group, we need to take further advantage of this and push for these lawyer and consultant positions to have hirings under this exception. We need to push the government on this one BIG time. Prehaps pushing the political left on this issue would be more helpful. Then we need to not target those of our people who worked hard to get these positions. Calling them elite in a degrading way isn't fair and it is not helpful to our children. If we want our children to strive for an education we need to look at these people as role models, and in turn they need to act as such in a culturally approprate way. Also we need to push for our children to be able to receive a k - grade 12 education at home in their communities. If all our communities had a school and all these schools went all the way to grade 12 then more of our children would finish their education thus giving more oppertunity to land these jobs. (Assuming we can convince white government to hire our people)


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