An elder shared a story with me years ago and I was about 14 yrs old at the time.
The elder shared this knowledge with me. “Long ago before we signed treaty, our Chiefs were the poorest of the people, each person was fed first, the Chief’s family ate last he made sure everyone ate first, the women & their children who lost their partner from war were always looked after, and were part of the camp circle, the women, children and elders were in the middle of the camp circle, the young bucks slept on the outskirts of the circle.
“No one went without. If a man did a bad thing depending on how bad it was he was killed or shamed or shunned. If shunned he had to leave the camp asap. We had our own laws, we had our own way of life.
“Now today the chief and his family and relations take everything first. Same with the Councillors they take whatever the chief leaves behind for their families and relations. Than the rest of the people get whatever’s left over. This is what the Indian Act and colonial capitalism has done to my people.”
Being a 10 year survivor of the Indian Residential School system, it was difficult for me to comprehend First Nation politics, to understand why we were so dysfunctional, angry and why so many of us abused alcohol, drugs and whatever which eased the pain and shame left behind from the atrocious abuses in the residential schools. I was lost and confused as to my own identity.
But now years later I have seen and have been told by many others what the Chiefs and Councillors are doing. We as band members are being systemically abused by our own leadership. Like we are not already going through enough suffering. I earned some understanding of what the elder was trying to teach me.
This was a huge motivator in my life which compelled me to engage in higher learning and exerting the effort and enduring even the academic racism to secure all that education successfully only to hit a high and thick wall of racism reinforced by negative stereotypes which still confront me daily. But I am working on trying to change public attitude one person at a time, one day at a time.
My recipe is simple; “Educate, do not berate, raise my message and not my voice” and slowly but surely I am seeing success however small.