Indian is Not a Four-Letter Word

by Ray Bobb – Member of the Seabird Island Indian Band (January 12, 2012)

RI Editorial Note: The following article was submitted to us by a follower of our blog from Vancouver. It’s author, Ray Bobb was part of the Maoist Red Power Movement in Canada in the ‘60s and ‘70s (See previous posting also by Ray Bobb, “Red Power and Socialist Study: 1967-1975”).  It was written just before the Canada-First Nations Summit in January 2012 was convened.  Its official pronouncement of providing greater autonomy for First Nations was a ruse to obscure the processes of municipalisation of the native land-base that Canada has been pushing since the 1973 Comprehensive Land Claims Settlement Policy (CLC). Municipalisation and incorporation of native lands would extinguish the collective rights of native people to the land and give monopoly capital unbridled access to the exploitation of the land.

Indian can be equated with European.  The western hemisphere contains Bolivian Indians, Canadian Indians, etc.  Europe contains French Europeans, German Europeans, etc.  There are over 200 million Indians in the western hemisphere.  It is sometimes said that Indian is not a valid word because it is a European invention.  However, most of the modern peoples and nations on earth were created by European colonialism.

In the great age of exploration and discovery, so-called, the peoples of tribal nations were no match for capitalist empires that were covering the world.  Imperialism divided the world amongst European great powers and, in doing so, unified the peoples of thousands of separately existing tribal nations, arbitrarily, into areas of exclusive profitmaking, i.e., colonies of oppressed nations.  Having created a world of exploitation of nation by nation, the imperialists then faced the reality that modern nations – former de jure colonies – could expel them from or defeat them in the present-day third world.  Examples of this capacity are, in the last century, China led by Mao Tse-Tung and Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh.  Intrinsic to the turning of the tide in world history are modern people and nations.  Their strength within and between nations, is not only greater than that of their former status but also greater than that of the imperialists.  Meanwhile, the imperialists still do employ tribalism and division to maintain hegemony.

At contact, natives outnumbered settlers in the remaining colonies of British North America.  England made treaties of alliance with tribal nations in order to (1) defeat other tribal nations, (2) defeat the French (1760) and American (1812) competitors, and, (3) facilitate settlement.  This treaty process was formalized in the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  This was a period in the world wherein all non-European peoples were being incorporated, by genocidal wars, into empires of European capital.  The population of the non-European world was severely reduced.  Some island peoples – in Tasmania, Newfoundland and islands in the Caribbean – were completely wiped out.  In the western hemisphere, the establishment of European sovereignty is estimated to have cost over 70 million lives.

1867, Confederation, marked the transformation of the remaining British colonies in North America into, another, imperialist settler-state – the Dominion of Canada.  Also created, from the survivors of the tribal nations destroyed by the British, was modern people – Canadian Indians – and a native internal colony administered by the Department of Indian Affairs under the authority of the Indian Act.

In 1969, with the (proposed) White Paper Policy On Indians (WP), the federal government signalled that its unrelenting attack on Indian people would escalate from an attack on Indian culture, implemented in the forced removal of all Indian children to residential schools, to a wholesale attack on Indians as a people.  The WP proposed to, unilaterally, abolish the Indian Act, dismantle the Department of Indian Affairs, remove the protection of land reserved for Indians and nullify any legal distinction between Indians and the Canadian people.  That is, the problem of internal colonialism would be resolved by extinguishment, i.e., by legislating Indians out of existence.  The WP was met by opposition from Indians and in 1971 it was retracted.  In 1973, the objectives of the WP were reinstated in the Comprehensive Land Claims Settlement Policy (CLC) as a treaty process in which native communities, one at a time or in groups, would be required to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of the Indian Act and incorporate into a Canadian jurisdiction, i.e., a Canadian municipality or territory.    To effect such a piece-meal treaty process the federal government ostensibly recognized Indian bands as nations, i.e., First Nations.

To date, the federal government’s treaty process has taken place in the entire Canadian north, e.g., Nunavut, and many communities of the Canadian south, e.g., the Nishga’a and Tsawwassen, providing to the financial and corporate elite certainty of investment and freedom of access to native resources.  (The Inuit people of the Canadian North are a distinct part of the native internal colony.  Their relationship to Canada and their experience with residential schools and treaties is, categorically, the same as that of the Indian people.)

The requirements of the CLC treaty process violate international laws protecting peoples’ rights to their nationality and self-determination, i.e., Article 15 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 1 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The federal government’s treaty process is coercive in that resources are withheld from underprivileged communities in order to force them into the treaty process.  The federal government’s treaty process is fraudulent in that, in negotiations involving the colonial relationship between two opposed national entities, the federal government funds the native representatives.  The federal governement’s treaty process is an act of war against the native people in that it forces members of native communities to disenfranchise and secede from the native internal colony.  Native people cannot expel or defeat Canadian imperialism.  However, by virtue of being completely expropriated, native people are also members of the Canadian working class.  Being active in this class will bring about a unity and understanding whereby, one day, natives can negotiate with the Canadian working class for self-determination up to including sovereignty.  Until then, survival dictates that there can be no negotiations with the Canadian imperialist settler-state; only resistance.

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