Showing posts from January, 2010

What is Aboriginal Identity?

That is both an easy question and a tough one all at the same time. It is an easy question because identity is generally about self-identification - i.e., you are who you say you are. It is also a tough question because one's identity can also be reinforced or damaged by whether one's identity is also legally and/or politically recognized. That is to say, if one identifies as Mi'kmaq, but the Mi'kmaq Nation does not recognize that person, this makes the continued assertion of one's identity more difficult. Similarly, the Indian Act's status provisions have been imposed on Aboriginal peoples for so long that even some Aboriginal people question an individual's Aboriginal identity "credentials", if they don't hold a status card. Yet, it is important to remember that legal recognition as a status Indian has absolutely nothing to do with Aboriginal culture, heritage, traditions, customs, or practices. It is an administrative tool used by Canada to

From Frustration to Hope - Balancing Traditional Aboriginal Values with Pressing Social Needs

On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, I attended a breakfast event at the Toronto Board of Trade (BOT). The purpose of the event was to hear Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in- chut Atleo speak about how we can partner to improve First Nation economies. The event was hosted by the BOT and emceed by Clint Davis, the President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Aboriginal Business ( CCAB ). Clint Davis is from Nunatsiavut (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Chief Atleo is from Ahousaht (British Columbia). Chief Atleo gave a moving speech that one would not expect given the topic of Aboriginal business. He referred to the many life lessons he received from his family growing up and especially those of his late grandmother. Listening to Chief Atleo make the connections between the traditions, teachings and current issues faced by First Nations, reinforced in my mind the need for Aboriginal communities to not be so quick to abandon traditional values, ethics and lessons fo

What is a Non-Status Indian?

What is a Non-Status Indian? People ask me this question nearly everyday. Some people think Non-Status Indians are really just Métis people - those with mixed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestry. Others think that a Non-Status Indian is any person who is not registered under the Indian Act as an "Indian" - i.e. they are not Aboriginal people. I have even had government officials query whether we can ever know what a Non-Status Indian is as there is no legislative definition for them. For many years, some Aboriginal political organisations that represent Aboriginal peoples living off-reserve also represented Métis peoples. For example, the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council ( NBAPC ) used to be called the New Brunswick Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians. Although the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada ( INAC ) now has responsibility for Status Indians, Non-Status and Métis people, it wasn't always that way. The Minister of INAC used to b