Letter Published In Straightgoods

Kate Harries is an excellent writer, and her article surely outlines the misery and fear in a place like Kashechewan. Articles such as this serve to heighten awareness of the plight of some First Nations people, for non-aboriginal people (such as myself) — which is a good thing. The image of a MNR helicopter-rescuing people tells the tale here.

However and inadvertently, these kind of articles play right into the overall capitalist view of FN remote reserves of being so messed up the people should just be moved south. Capitalist apologists like Jeffrey Simpson and John Ibbitson have already written Kashechewan off as “doomed”, (Ibbitson’s words in a recent Globe and Mail article.)

These columnists and those like-minded people need to be reminded that there are explicit reasons for the devastation at Kashechewan and other remote reserves. For starters, who says a capitalist, wage economy is right for FN people? There is no credence given to a mixed economy, which one study (Berkes, F. et al. Wildlife, Harvesting and Sustainable Regional Native Economy in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario. Arctic. Vol. 4. No. 4. Dec. 1994. 350, 358, 359.) shows is remarkably able to generate an income and food. Also missed is the historical fact of the residential school experience, which was meant to kill the culture.

The people now living in the remote reserves, especially, have survived what many would describe as attempted genocide. Their culture and economy were devastated, not really by European contact as much as by European capitalism. That they can make a go of it as they are is a testament to their resilience as a people. We freak when the power goes out at the mall. If the same kind of cultural devastation should come our way, how well would we cope?

So, the people rely on MNR helicopters to pull them out of a flooding community the people did not want located at the mouth of the river in the first place. It’s there because the DIAND wanted it to be, so it was more easily supplied by barge — that’s right, so capitalists could make money off the situation.

The only way forward in starting to make a real change in the lives of FN people is for those of us who care, to admit we are the beneficiaries of exploitation and genocide, make amends, and do all that’s necessary to help FN people achieve true self-government. In terms of any FN news story, the media has a responsibility to always put the plight of FN people in the proper context of exploitation, genocide and assimilation. Otherwise they will always be viewed as helpless victims with no power over their future. They need to get the yoke of an oppressive economic system off their backs. Actually so do we all.


Paul Chislett
Sudbury, On

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Filed under Aboriginals in the Media, Politics

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