The Connexions Annual:
Introduction to Native Peoples chapter

North American Native peoples are the victims of a historical calamity that is difficult for non-Natives to comprehend. In a relatively short period of time, a continent-wide web of self-sufficient communities, in balance with nature, was invaded and destroyed by an alien civilization. Most of their land was taken away, the animal populations they had relied on were decimated, they themselves were deliberately killed or ravaged by diseases to which they had no resistance. The survivors were shoved onto reservations with few means of livelihood, their economy, culture and traditions shattered.

Despite the catastrophe that befell them, the aboriginal peoples have shown a tenacious will to survive and prevail, and a great willingness to share their knowledge and spirit with non-Natives. The first whites to arrive could not have survived at all without the help given to them by the people they called Indians. Future generations owe more than they know to the accumulated knowledge of the original peoples. Today, the ecology movement is returning to the ideas of living in balance with nature which the Native people practised.

Across the country, Native people are organizing to deal with the critical and chronic problems that face them.

Land claims are far from being resolved. Multinational resource corporations and huge domestic entities like Quebec Hydro continue to explore and stake claims in the North, despite warnings of vast and irreparable ecological and social damage. The consequences of the institutional racism of Canadian society continue to damagingly affect Native people. This is reflected in rates of unemployment, number of suicides, incarceration and infant mortality rates that far exceed the national average, and substandard health care, education, and housing.

A principal concern of Native people across the country is to achieve viable forms of self-government and self-determination. Governments are being pressured to resolve land claims. Native communities are trying to develop models of self-sustaining economic activities that will give them greater control over their own economic future. Native centres are placing increased emphasis on preserving Native culture, heritage, and language through radio stations, videos, oral history projects, artisans networks and social activities.

Discriminatory legislation has been challenged in courts from the municipal, provincial and federal level to the United Nations. Native women successfully fought the section of the Indian Act which took away women's Native rights if they ``married out'' of their band.

However, the Indian Act remains a discriminatory piece of legislation, and little advance has been made in the fight to have Native peoples' rights recognized in Canada's constitution or in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Meanwhile, the federal government has been placing additional restrictions on funding for Native communities and Native education.

In the face of this, Natives have been intensifying their resistance, and more militant forms of protest are becoming increasingly common.

Canadians concerned with social justice can also be working in solidarity with the Native peoples in their struggle for justice. We can add our pressure to the demand for a quick and just resolution of land claims and for meaningful economic assistance to native communities. We can also join with them in promoting an approach to living on this continent that stresses self-reliance and ecological harmony.

Ulli Diemer

Contact information for Ulli Diemer:
Phone: 416-964-7799.

También disponible en español: El Anuario de Conexions: Introduccion al Capitulo de Personas Nativas.

Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Women section of the Connexions Annual
Resource and Reading List from the Connexions Annual

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