Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre stirs controversy
Stewart maintains that collecting Indigenous languages does not constitute "meaningful consultation".

Dateline: Tuesday, February 13, 2007

by Stewart Steinhauer
"When we want to trap a fox, we scatter meat all around the trap; when the fox is in the trap, we knock him on the head. I want none of the Queen's presents; let her representatives come and speak with us, face to face, like men."
These words, translated by a Methodist missionary and set to paper in 1871, record the Big Bear's response to an offer of gifts made to entice Cree headmen to acquiesce to the Crown's demands. The Big Bear also asked the Crown's representatives: "Who is this man, Government? Bring him to us so that we may speak with him."
Since the 1990s, anything that has come out of the federal government with the word "Aboriginal" in it has been part of the "Aboriginal doctrine".

In the 1960s and '70s Bobtail Smallboy reminded Cree folks of the Big Bear's warning about the "rope around the neck". In the late 1800s, Crown representatives believed that the Big Bear must have committed murder because he was always talking about his fear of the rope being put around his neck. In their ignorance, they believed he was referring to Canada's form of capital punishment at that time.
Although the Big Bear did point out the logical inconsistency of killing a person because that person had killed another person, and did remind folks of the simple fact that the great mystery gave life and took it away, and that it was therefore not a human task, the hangman's rope was not the one that worried the Big Bear.
He feared the snare wire hidden under stacks of glittering material objects, he feared the lust those glittery objects aroused. He feared the halter rope of the reserve system and the Indian Agent, snared by the offer of the Queen's gifts into accepting the "rope around the neck". He feared the loss of freedom, haltered to the reserve, with the firm hand of the Indian Agent on the halter rope. He feared the forced induction into the Crown's system of economic, political and social slavery, the system we now call modernity.
Almost 100 years later a descendant of the Big Bear, Bobtail Smallboy, led a visionary struggle to regain freedom by breaking Canada's Indian Act/Indian Agent halter rope. One of his intentional actions was to insist that he could not speak, read or write in English, although he was known to follow world news in English language newspapers. He understood that international forces created the reserve conditions he sought freedom from, and made personal journeys to London and Rome, seeking audiences with global power brokers.
He kept alive Big Bear's warning about the "rope around the neck", and passed that warning forward to our current generation. Now, almost 50 years after Bobtail Smallboy's break for freedom, we struggle with Canada's efforts to complete the haltering process begun with the Indian Act/Indian Agent.
Delgamuukw [Delgamuukw vs The Queen, 1999] demonstrated that the Crown had not met its own standards in asserting title to land inside of the territory called Canada. Since then, Canada has been conducting a hasty rearguard action to reduce the Crown's risks, the most serious of which is "uncertainty" for the international business community in their Canadian-based operations.
The "uncertainty" introduced by Delgamuukw has been met with the pseudo-legal development of the "Aboriginal Doctrine". Since the late 1990s, anything that has come out of the Federal Government bearing the word "Aboriginal" in its title, and powered with Canadian taxpayer's dollars, has been developed specifically as a component of this new "Aboriginal Doctrine."
At the core of this new Doctrine is the attempt to induce the original Peoples of the territory now called Canada to forget the genocidal past, the apartheid pass law reserve system complete with forced starvation, the forced assimilation residential "schools" inside of which up to 50,000 "students" physically died over a 100 year period, the psychological breaking of many once free and independent Peoples, and the creation and micro-management of the Rez Zone, as it stands in 2007, complete with near-100 percent levels of language loss, severe disabling addictions, unemployment, incarceration and educational failure.
While encouraging historical amnesia about this genocidal past, and spinning the present to explain observed phenomena like suicide as the leading single cause of death amongst on-reserve "aboriginal populations", followed closely by alcohol/benzo-diazapine mixture-influenced single vehicle accidents and homicide, as proof of our need for protection from ourselves via the Indian Act/Indian Agent, rather than as a genocidal effect of current Canadian Indian policy, the "Aboriginal Doctrine" wants Indigenous Peoples to believe that we are "ethnic minority Canadians of aboriginal ancestry", a tidy end run around the problem of title and jurisdiction raised by Delgamuukw.
To this end, Canada has made proclamations that Indigenous languages are now recognized by the Canadian state, and can be called official second languages, each language recognized in the region of Canada most densely populated with first language speakers of each of these languages.
With language comes knowledge; therefore an arm's length not-for-profit federally incorporated and federally funded organization has been created with the express purpose of gathering what's left of Indigenous knowledge, and claiming Canadian ownership of that knowledge, all neatly subsumed under the "Aboriginal Doctrine."
Nothing has changed since the Big Bear's time. Money is dangled as bait to lure starving Indigenous intellectuals struggling to survive within the choking environment of the Academy. Key people with serious credentials from within the real Indigenous Nations are "purchased" to carry out the day-by-day work of gathering this information, assembling it into useful form, and storing it with the Aboriginal Knowledge Centre.
When asked, "who will use this information?" the lead co-chair responded, in descending order: "Canadians" "Aboriginal people" "Policy-makers and professionals".
A recent poll conducted just before the last election showed that "Canadians" rank "aboriginal issues" dead last out of 100 choices, so it won't be "Canadians" who use the gathered information. Ordinary Canadians, now as much as ever, simply want Canada's "Indian Problem" to simply disappear.
From sea to sea to sea, Indigenous educational professionals lament over the incredibly low level of English literacy amongst "aboriginal" populations. If Indigenous folks can't read, never mind being able to read with comprehension information written in the jargon of the Academy, then it won't be "aboriginal people" who use this information.
That leaves policy-makers and professionals. Currently, Canadian policy-makers and professionals are working feverishly at developing something called the "Aboriginal Doctrine".
Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that "aboriginals" must be meaningfully consulted, and must give informed consent to Canadian decisions affecting traditional lands and resources, including intellectual property. I hereby declare that neither the activities of this Language Bundle, nor the combined activities of the Aboriginal Knowledge Centre, constitute the meaningful consultation referred to by the Supreme Court of Canada. Further, I personally uphold the efforts undertaken historically by Elders now gone, like the Big Bear, and Bobtail Smallboy, by asserting my own responsibilities and spiritual obligations to my Indigenous ancestors.
Fully informed, I hereby deny consent to Canada's "Aboriginal Doctrine", while giving full consent to Indigenous People's spiritually-gifted right to speak our own languages and practice our own spiritual, cultural, economic, governance and other social practices as needs be for a Peoples to maintain a meaningful existence. Anything less constitutes genocide.
When we want to trap a fox, we scatter meat around the trap; when the fox is in the trap we knock him on the head. I want none of this Aboriginal Knowledge Centre gift money. Let Mr. Government come and speak with me, face to face, Man to Magpie.
Stewart Steinhauer is an internationally-known stone sculptor who lives on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, where he was born and raised. He enjoyed success as a market gardener, a furniture builder and a house builder, before he turned to sculpting. He is the author of Voice from the Coffin, about life on the Rez. Visit his website below.

Related addresses: URL 1: www.bluequills.ca/Language_Learning_Bundle.htm (external - login to view)
URL 2: www.indigenius.biz (external - login to view)
URL 3: www.delgamuukw.org/ (external - login to view)