“We need help in Attawapiskat,”
April 11, 2016 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Attawapiskat Declares State of Emergency Over Spate of Suicide Attempts [CBC.ca] The chief and council for the Attawapiskat First Nation on remote James Bay have declared a state of emergency, saying they're overwhelmed by the number of attempted suicides in the community. On Saturday night alone, 11 people attempted to take their own lives, Chief Bruce Shisheesh said. Including Saturday's spate of suicide attempts, a total of 101 people of all ages have tried to kill themselves since September, Shisheesh said, with one person dying. The youngest was 11, the oldest 71. The Cree community — home to about 2,000 residents — saw 28 attempts in March alone. Last September, a group of five girls overdosed and had to be medevaced out of the community, Shisheesh said.

- Poverty, Inequality Fueling Suicide Crisis, First Nations Leader Says. by Tim Fontaine [CBC.ca]
In almost every one of these tragedies, the response from authorities has been the same. The community calls for help and the federal or provincial governments offer some kind of short-term relief, like trauma counsellors or crisis response teams. Health Canada says the department is working with the Assembly of First Nations to implement a "First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework," which will promote a culturally relevant approach to First Nations mental health. In an email, the department also says that last year, $300-million was spent on mental wellness programs for First Nations and Inuit communities. A spokesperson also said that over $13-million goes toward the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, which has been in place since 2004 and supports over 130 community-based suicide prevention projects across Canada. "Suicide is a complex and devastating issue that requires a comprehensive, multifaceted response targeting prevention, intervention and aftercare," the email reads.
- Manitoba community seeks answers as youth suicides soar. by Kathryn Blaze Baum [The Globe and Mail]
The statistics are bleak: Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading cause of death for First Nations people up to the age of 44 in this country; First Nations youth are five to six times more likely to die by suicide than their non-indigenous counterparts; at 11 times the national average, suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world. “The average Canadian citizen has got not the faintest sense of what it is like to be a native person in this country,” said Gabor Maté, a retired physician and author who specializes in addiction, stress and childhood development. “On the one hand, suicide is traumatic, but on the other hand, suicide is also an outcome of trauma. It’s just one more link in the chain of trauma.”
- Assembly of First Nations Chief Calls for National Suicide Strategy by Chinta Puxley [CTV News]
"It's a bigger issue than just Cross Lake," Bellegarde said. "There's got to be a huge intervention there, but also in a lot of communities across Canada. There's got to be a national strategy on mental health to deal with the youth suicide that is rampant amongst our communities." That strategy has to include adequate mental-health supports, as well as recreational facilities, proper education and the restoration of cultural pride among young people, he suggested. "Our young people need hope and inspiration," Bellegarde said. "They don't see that right now. We've got to make those key strategic interventions now. It's a life-and-death situation."
- Beyond Grief: An Innu Community's Stories by Christopher Curtis & Charlie Fidelman [Montreal Gazette]
Since the Uashat suicides, at least two other indigenous communities in this country have struggled with similar crises — Kuujjuaq, in northern Quebec, and the Cross Lake First Nation in Manitoba. Last year, police in Uashat and Maliotenam responded to 16 suicide attempts and 122 incidents in which people needed urgent psychological counselling. The community, however, refuses to be defined by this crisis. Despite great pain, residents invited three Montreal Gazette journalists last December. They wanted to share their struggles, but also the reasons they’re hopeful for the future. These are some of their stories.

Part 1: The lonely place.
Part 2: A history of violence.
Part 3: A new path.
- Health Canada: First Nations and Inuit Health [Government of Canada]
- Youth Suicide in First Nations Fact Sheet [Government of Canada]
- Suicide Prevention Resource Tool Kit: Metis, Inuit, First Nations, Aboriginal [.PDF]
- 24-hour Suicide Prevention Canadian Crisis Locations Across Canada [Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention]
posted by Fizz (37 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh my god.
posted by josher71 at 5:53 AM on April 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


From the link about Manitoba: “On the one hand, suicide is traumatic, but on the other hand, suicide is also an outcome of trauma. It’s just one more link in the chain of trauma.”

This, this. Copycat suicides are not just "copycats", but very often, a whole community collectively experiences trauma from one suicide, and those who are most vulnerable, due to poverty, lack of healthcare, and youth, feel that trauma the most desperately.

An acquaintance of mine committed suicide this time last year (we're American), and I was amazed at the number of people in our small community who swooped in to make sure that everyone who had known her was taking steps to prevent further tragedy.

I hope the Canadian government can fix this before more people get hurt.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:02 AM on April 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


And because it's always worth sharing whenever subjects like this hit the blue: ThereIsHelp MeFi Wiki
posted by Fizz at 6:13 AM on April 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


There is a similar epidemic of suicides in the Australian Aboriginal population in remote areas which I am more familiar with. And when you look at the reasons cited for suicide they are basically "isolation, unemployment, lack of prospects for the future".

On the other hand the demands of the cultural groups themselves are often for greater autonomy, the right to continue to live in remote areas, and maintain cultural practices. - but are not in today's world these desires the very same causes of the teen complaints? If you are brought up in a remote cultural group how can you actually have good employment prospects?
posted by mary8nne at 6:16 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:27 AM on April 11, 2016


On the other hand the demands of the cultural groups themselves are often for greater autonomy, the right to continue to live in remote areas, and maintain cultural practices. - but are not in today's world these desires the very same causes of the teen complaints? If you are brought up in a remote cultural group how can you actually have good employment prospects?

G20 countries spend $450b a year subsidizing oil companies to create jobs in remote communities. It's not a question of whether or not we can create jobs in remote places, it's a question of which horses our governments want to back and what kind of jobs and economy we want to invest in.
posted by scrittore at 6:52 AM on April 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


I hope the Canadian government can fix this before more people get hurt.

Trudeau earmarked a lot more money for First Nations in general in his first budget. What remains to be seen is whether that gets spent usefully (if at all, sigh), and how long it takes to have an effect.

This is, however, a level of horror that is beyond what's been going on (or known about...) before. White Canadians need to be walking around fucking ashamed all day, every day.

On the other hand the demands of the cultural groups themselves are often for greater autonomy, the right to continue to live in remote areas, and maintain cultural practices. - but are not in today's world these desires the very same causes of the teen complaints? If you are brought up in a remote cultural group how can you actually have good employment prospects?

Ah. See, the problem is that we came in, smashed their culture with a hammer, then used that same hammer to nail First Nations groups down to specific (and usually far removed from whites) pieces of land. It's not remoteness qua remoteness that is the problem, here. The problem, as usual, is white people.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:56 AM on April 11, 2016 [20 favorites]


On the other hand the demands of the cultural groups themselves are often for greater autonomy, the right to continue to live in remote areas, and maintain cultural practices. - but are not in today's world these desires the very same causes of the teen complaints? If you are brought up in a remote cultural group how can you actually have good employment prospects?

But people are often isolated in pretty awful situations - it's not like they're "isolated" in a spot with great infrastructure, lots of access to care, good education, etc. In theory you could imagine all kinds of stuff - people maybe go away to school and come back, they work remotely on IT stuff, they run small businesses, they teach or work in the community. In this day and age, mere physical isolation really shouldn't have to mean that your life is horrible and you can't have a reasonable job. Look at that dude who just moved to the ugliest county in Minnesota - he isn't moving there on the expectation that he'll just sit in a corner all day.

I was thinking about these articles on my way in to work. I think it just wears on you when you're treated like you don't have any value, which is what happens to all these Native people getting kicked around.

I'm a visibly queer and gender non-conforming person and lately I've just been feeling so much rage and pretty classic minority stress - getting treated like a freak all the time is tiring, and knowing that most people I encounter think I'm a freak/pervert/ugly/etc even if they don't say anything is just so tiring and saddening. It's really getting me down in ways that I did not used to think it could. And the feeling that I must choose between this bad treatment and disregard or faking who I am is also hard. It's just day in, day out, and I feel a lot angrier and more tired than I ever expected, and what's more, I've stopped really expecting it to change.

My life is a lot, lot easier than most Native people's lives, for all kinds of reasons of privilege and access. But I really, really can see how a lifetime of disregard and having to deal with just knowing that most people most of the time think you're deficient and it's never, ever going to get better - I can see why you'd think about killing yourself. I feel like what I encounter is running me down, and what I encounter really isn't that bad.

I think that's partly where the cultural stuff comes in - something to challenge the feeling that you're just pretty much despised and othered everywhere you go.

Two hundred years ago all the land around where I am right now was Native land and people were leading perfectly normal lives like anyone else, doing all the things - leadership and planning and art and education, plus everything else. And now their descendants get kicked around and treated like they're no good and can't manage their own lives. I live very close to a city Native housing community and amongst a variety of social services geared to Native people. It's like, people have gone from being regular humans who had regular lives on their own land to being, at best, the subjects of our very limited, very abusive welfare state, the subjects of public concern and charity. It's really contempt and disregard, and I think that eats away at you no matter where you live.
posted by Frowner at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2016 [37 favorites]




Frowner, Thank you for sharing your view. I appreciate it quite a bit.
posted by Fizz at 7:13 AM on April 11, 2016


It's like, people have gone from being regular humans who had regular lives on their own land to being, at best, the subjects of our very limited, very abusive welfare state, the subjects of public concern and charity.

To clarify - I meant more "being treated as regular members of society rather than as Other" - obviously Native people are regular people. I just encounter so much both around the university and in my neighborhood that's framed as "We-the-mainstream-society are going to do these things [to/for] Native people, who are this totally different population who are the subjects of our efforts, aren't we great for doing this!", and I've had a couple of conversations with Native friends about how othering this is.
posted by Frowner at 7:14 AM on April 11, 2016


Copycat suicides are not just "copycats", but very often, a whole community collectively experiences trauma from one suicide

Ages ago, I read a paper on suicide rates among an indigenous group in Palawan, in the Phillipines. That group had among the highest rates of suicide ever recorded for any group: 173/100K extrapolated over a 12 year period, compared to about 13/100K per year for the United States overall. This is shockingly high, but was in line with rates in groups the author classified as "self contained, endogamous, and relatively isolated populations" which are particularly vulnerable to group traumatization by a suicide. Part of the conclusion of the paper has stuck with me as part of how I think about suicide, and that is where the author discusses the idea of how a single act can ripple throughout a community, and can have enormous impact on small, insular groups:
[T]he “wave hypothesis” is not essentially premised on direct imitation, rather on the kind of process that is brought about by long-term socialization. In a small society like the Kulbi population set, every child grows up being exposed to occurrences of suicide and suicidal behavior amongst a very close circle of kin and neighbors. The child grows up accustomed to the idea. He sees or hears about elders, uncles, aunts, older cousins, friend’s parents killing themselves. Even if the “official” explicit social discourse speaks disparagingly of it, an unspoken and intimate adhesion to the idea of suicide might prevail in the minds of the young. Thus suicide becomes an accepted model of behavior, albeit one that may be condemned by explicit social and cultural rules. Direct imitation and clustering will then look more like “wavelets” that create a superficial turbulence added to waves propagating themselves through successive generations.
If anyone wants to read the whole thing, it's MacDonald 2003 "Urug. An Anthropological Investigation on Suicide in Palawan, Philippines,' and you can find the PDF here. It references an older article which I recommend as well, Brown 1986 "Power, Gender, and the Social Meaning of Aguaruna Suicide," the PDF of which is also online.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:45 AM on April 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


It would be interesting to know if the stats were.higher for indigenous people in Palawan. The Philippines also has a history of transferring entire communities of indigenous people, with long lasting effect, like Canada.
(Although I don't know if this particular form of colonialism is part of Attawapiskat's history)
posted by chapps at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2016


[Frowner]: it's not like they're "isolated" in a spot with great infrastructure,...

Isn't that an oxymoron? I mean if you have great infrastructure you are not isolated.

But I guess you are saying that if they instead had received land grants or treaties, for land just outside of Toronto, or Vancouver or something then they could still have both the traditional values and the modern conveniences? Would that have been possible?

In Sydney Australia there was a kind of ghetto in central Sydney, Redfern, (less so these days since the land is quite valuable) but I don't know that they managed to maintain any sort of traditional life with that proximity to the city.
posted by mary8nne at 8:03 AM on April 11, 2016


I was at a youth conference of some sort in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan shortly before the NWT split. One of the presenters was a first nations man who spoke about the importance of self-determination and talked a bit about the exciting prospect of Nunavut's self-government. When it came time for questions from the audience, holy shit I've never heard so much asinine BS in my life. It was ridiculous. I don't remember all of the questions, but one person asked straight up if it was really responsible to let "these people" be in charge of themselves? And even just leaving aside the blatant racism there for a second, could they do any fucking worse?
posted by ODiV at 8:03 AM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


If, say, the population of Sydney today was stricken by disease, war, famine and genocide then forcibly relocated, their children stolen to be indoctrinated, their descendants sequestered by policy that punishes them for leaving their ghettos leaving their great great grandchildren trying to piece together the scraps of what ever culture and history that may be left into some kind of tradition.... Given this do you think it would matter where the reserves were? What would "traditional life" even mean in such a situation? When the rest of the world got to grow and evolve, standing upon the shoulders of giants? When all you have left are the iconic, somewhat othering, traits and iconography that survive dislocated in time there is no way forward that doesn't force you to lose even more.

How would you counsel those brave souls trying to just get along abandoned on the outskirts Sydney in the early 2200's?
posted by mce at 9:02 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


ODiV, it is amazing to me how little many non-Aboriginal Canadians know about the history of colonization in Canada. It comes out as shocking racism. (Of course there are also people who do know but don't care and are racist.)

I teach a lit course that functions as an intro to Aboriginal issues and one of the things we do is a unit on residential school. I ask the students what they know about the topic ahead of time (my class is a mix of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students). Some know a lot but many know nothing or very little. We debrief afterwards and the students are very honest about how learning about the issues has changed their understanding of race relations and just the entire context of indigenous peoples in Canada. Many are very distraught to learn the truth.

I live in a place with a large Aboriginal population, but I didn't grow up here. Since coming here, I have learned a lot and my entire understanding of Canadian history has changed. I wish more people knew the real story of how Canada was built, on the backs of the first peoples. Once you know, none of this is surprising. It's the legacy of what Canada was built on.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]



Isn't that an oxymoron? I mean if you have great infrastructure you are not isolated.


The Shetland Islands (if memory services - if it's not the Shetland Islands it's another big island in the North Sea - have awesome infrastructure, because when the North Sea oil boom happened, they invested much of the money in public services. There's a big chapter in Andy Beckett's When The Lights Went Out about this. Being remote from the metropole does not mean a life of immiseration; that's a political choice about where the money gets spent.
posted by Frowner at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


If the First Nations are indeed Nations, the Canadian government has no right to tell them how to run themselves. The First Nations are given a lot of money with which to hire experts and build infrastructure and create social services. Some Nations have done so and are becoming very wealthy and well-integrated with the modern global economy. Other Nations are run by corrupt families who are, IMO, stealing their band's wealth. But is it the role of Canada, as a foreign nation, to invade and "fix" that problem? I do not think that it is possible to do so without destroying the Nationhood of the people. These issues are not easily resolved.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


If the First Nations are indeed Nations, the Canadian government has no right to tell them how to run themselves. The First Nations are given a lot of money with which to hire experts and build infrastructure and create social services. Some Nations have done so and are becoming very wealthy and well-integrated with the modern global economy. Other Nations are run by corrupt families who are, IMO, stealing their band's wealth.

Good lord this is some reductionist bullshit.

First Nations are not given money. They are owed money because we stole all of the land that is used to generate economic wealth in this country from them. The Algonquin people would have no problem putting together a booming economy if the 36,000 sq km. of unceeded territory which includes our Nation's capital was under their control. I suspect it'd cost us a lot more than $300m and some crown land to rent it from them if we were really honest about it.

Second - the conclusion from your either/or is that any community that is not successful today is run by a corrupt family if they are a First Nation. Do you feel this way about every other rural community in Canada that is crumbling as our country's wealth and economic power continues to feed into cities? That fishing and farming communities are corrupt and that's why they're struggling?

Rural/remote decline is a problem we have not solved in the broader country, so why exactly is it that First Nations need to have solved this problem already in order to not be seen as corrupt? The East gets an extraordinary amount of equalization/transfers and yet nobody's calling their continued struggle "corruption."

But is it the role of Canada, as a foreign nation, to invade and "fix" that problem? I do not think that it is possible to do so without destroying the Nationhood of the people. These issues are not easily resolved.

News Flash - we invaded, created these problems, and destroyed their Nations hundreds of years ago. The last residential school closed 20 years ago - schools aimed at "civilizing" people. It's our fuckups we are trying to fix, not theirs.
posted by scrittore at 10:32 AM on April 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


[mce] if the population of Sydney today was stricken by disease, war, famine and genocide then forcibly relocated, their children stolen to be indoctrinated, their descendants sequestered

While I agree that this did happen, and that the Indigenous of basically everywhere were totally screwed over in the 17th-19th Century by Europeans. It still seems unclear what exactly can be done to "fix" the situation.

That there are two doctrines in play in this field that are actually theoretically incompatible.
- One which argues for self-determination and autonomy for the indigenous nations of various countries.
- The other, which attempts to intervene and provide help but is inevitably paternalist and culturally imperialist.

The complaints of lack of infrastructure are not compatible with any kind of concept of self-government.
posted by mary8nne at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2016


Those 'two doctrines at play' ignore what the indigenous people themselves are saying. And who are, slowly, being listened to. e.g. the MMIW inquiry finally happening.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:44 AM on April 11, 2016


First Nations are not given money. They are owed money because we stole all of the land that is used to generate economic wealth in this country from them.

Oh FFS if this grammarian bullshit game is what you want to play, I'm out. You get an ice cream cone. You give the guy behind the counter the money. We took their land. We give them money. Or you "pay" the cashier. Whatever.

There are two important issues at play.

One: there is demonstrable proof that more than a fair few tribes are being run by dishonest crooks.

Two: they are nations.

The conflict between these two issues is the crux of the matter. The money is there to resolve many of the problems found on so many of these tribal/reserve Nations. Some Nations have, as Nations independent of Canada, proving intervention is not required.

So at what point do you take away their Nation to resolve the problem of misuse of funding and incompetent to outright criminal governance? I am hesitant to have Canada storm in there without some sort of globally recognized authority.

I am not okay with the government unilaterally stepping in to "fix" these problems without rigorous oversight by other countries. We need this to be handled better than other 3rd world interventions.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:34 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh FFS if this grammarian bullshit game is what you want to play, I'm out. You get an ice cream cone. You give the guy behind the counter the money. We took their land. We give them money. Or you "pay" the cashier. Whatever.

It's not grammatical bullshit - it's fundamental to the way First Nations have, and continue, to be treated in Canada.

People treat funds distributed to First Nations as charity - i.e., we are giving to them the same way we do to other charitable causes or nations, and therefore like other charitable causes if we don't agree with what they are spending their money on or don't feel like we're seeing enough results - we shouldn't give them any more money.

If you owe a debt, you are obligated to pay it regardless of your own perspectives on how money should be spent. Your landlord's finances are not your concern. Your options are to pay it or GTFO their land. We aren't going to do the latter, so we accept the former in perpetuity.

If First Nations wish to pursue models of governance we do not like or respect - that is not your, or my, decision to make. We continue to benefit from being on their land, so we continue to owe them a debt.

So at what point do you take away their Nation to resolve the problem of misuse of funding and incompetent to outright criminal governance? I am hesitant to have Canada storm in there without some sort of globally recognized authority.

How about never?

You don't get to take away Norway's sovereign independence because you perceive their leaders to be corrupt, nor does it negate the debt you owe them. Nations get to sort their affairs out themselves. That we have agreements on various services with First Nations in lieu of full compensation for our own residence does not take away from their sovereignty - services, I might add, we fuck up repeatedly and in ways we would not accept in our own communities.
posted by scrittore at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Cindy Blackstock just won a human rights tribunal that laid bare the systemic under-funding of resources for first nations people. Underfunding of up to 35% for children on reserve. Just think of that for a minute. This is 35% less than children in my rather wealthy neighbourhood, where we face school closures by districts short of cash and strikes over classroom size and lack of support for children with disabilities. I can't imagine my son's school even opening its doors with 35% less.

This is just current funding, not just historical inequity compounding year after year, with all of the health impacts that come along with inequity in social status so eloquently described by frowner above.

Yes, there are problems with governance on reserves. There are problems with governance in municipalities and school boards too.

I think it is important to remember that the less resources, health equity, and resilience there is in a community, the less that community will be able to build better systems and governance, or fight back against corruption. That is true whether we talk about reserves with impose colonial governance, traditional first nations systems or the legal systems used in other Canadian bodies based on our English and French roots.

I attended some Idle no More demos in the past two years, and I was struck by how some of the First Nations elders seemlessly blended their calls for sovereignty with a commitment to the Canadian charter and activism against dismantling democratic governance in Ottawa. increasingly I see people willing to live in a context of blended governance, and trying to build a new idea about what governance in a country with many nations looks like. I don't think we know yet. But I think we do know that 11 suicides in one day is not where we want to be, and that the well being of children living in first nations community has to be a national priority.

Like the Syrian boy whose death led Canadians to atone for a national failure with the creation of hundreds of refugee sponsorship groups, I wonder if we can begin atone for these suicides with some similar surge in solidarity.
posted by chapps at 1:01 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am not going to quibble about verbs with you. The failure of some First Nations is more important than the verb used to describe the transfer of monies to their Nation. Their independence from Canada is more important. It is more important that we decide how we assert authority to invade their Nation and deal with the governance issues that prevent them using their funding to achieve demonstrable improvements to their third-world nation. Debating a verb will not solve these problems.

I am finished this exchange with you.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:11 PM on April 11, 2016


well we could idk start by listening to the indigenous people themselves about what they want maybe
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:17 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I live in BC, btw. We have a fair few success stories. To the south of me are bands that are among the most progressive, wealthiest communities in Canada. To the north, communities where literal mafioso murders of competing tribal leaders have decided electoral outcomes. The one common thread is that those bands who eject the criminal leaders typically find solutions to many of the typical social issues.

It might also be worth noting that I believe non-native BC, ie. the part that elected the BC Liberals, is run by criminal elements every bit as corrupt and greedy as those running the bands that are failing to thrive. Like the bands, BC would thrive if someone came in and installed an honest and accountable regime.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:20 PM on April 11, 2016


I see people willing to live in a context of blended governance, and trying to build a new idea about what governance in a country with many nations looks like.

Damn straight. There are Nations in BC that I'd rather have running the province, than the set of white crooks currently ensconced in the seat of power.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:23 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would hesitantly suggest that the First Nations and their sovereignty bears more resemblance to, say, that of Puerto Rico than Norway.

It is exceptionally difficult to be a very small (often) 3rd world pocket completely ensconced within your largest trading partner. That also, y'know, systemically abuses their position of power. Let alone the whole walking-a-tight-rope situation of power vrs accountability. The corruption that has occurred in places might be viewed as a consequence rather than a cause of this arrangement.

Words are important, language is important.

It could be said that 1/2 of my great grandparents worked hard in their educational efforts within the Anglican Church and their schools to give the other half a chance of a better life. Or, perhaps, that 1/2 of my great grandparents were imprisioned in pretty awful conditions, brutally stripped from their homes and of their culture only to be left floundering when they were eventually left to fend for themselves with literally no safe place they belonged to call home.

Family reunions might be a rather interesting affair if pressures of the day hadn't resulted in an adoption and, so far as I know, neither side ever thought about the other ever again.

The point is that despite what we might think now (and the can be very different for various values of 'we' and 'now') neither side was wrong given their POV at the time and there is no objective place to stand, and no sufficiently long lever with which to unstick the situation. It's not easy being a subjugated people and even less so if your conquering predates international courts and war-crimes tribunals.

It would be nice to have somewhere, somehow, to have the discussion without the seemingly inevitable decline into bike-shedding that so often obscures any real effort towards an ideological understanding.
posted by mce at 2:00 PM on April 11, 2016


I should note that I certainly didn't mean to imply that moral relativism should carry the day - just that two very different cultures clashed, one definitely lost by every conceivable measure, the 'winning side' demonstrably committed atrocious crimes against humanity aaaannd.... There weren't merely two factions. There's a whole spectrum of hurt. And there's incredible danger in succumbing to the temptation to oversimplify any part of the inextricable mess.

Currently some simplish sounding things "incorporate true sovereignty! Abolish the franken-nation'hoodness to gain true citizenship & representational government!" Might offer a way forward but would hardly be simple, easy or even 'morally right' in practice.

Quibbling over the characterization of a fiscal transaction rather assumes some concrete understanding of the identities involved. I don't think we are anywhere near that yet. It might not even be canononically, definitively, possible.

If I could figure out who I am, who I'm supposed to be, who are my people, where I am supposed to come from, how to get any grip at all on how I/we got here then maybe I could begin to give a damn about some of the smaller specifics. And I'm one of the 'lucky' ones. I have a family, albeit one I look nothing like and can offer no continuity to anyone who came before me, a decent education and a minimal level of material comfort that insulates me from the need to squabble of the aforementioned "smaller specifics". Kind of like the country, in large part, as some kind of whole.

We have members, neighbors, family who aren't so lucky though and being that much closer to the line is killing them. I can't help but think that anything other than a concerted effort to address the larger issues, to make real change, to invest time/effort/energy in anything less than "changing the world" is tasteless at best.
posted by mce at 2:31 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really wish the news article had contextualized the suicide attempt statistic it presents. Someone might see that out of 101 known attempts, there was "only" one death and draw some really bad conclusions about what an attempt is or if these attempts were "genuine". From what I've read previously, suicide attempts generally have a lower success rate than you'd imagine and that younger people have a much lower than average rate than that. Even so, reading the number made me initially think, "Does that sound abnormal?" and I feel that something in the article would have helped a great deal to maintain the focus on the actual crisis. Maybe it's just my problem, but I think it would have helped.

I'm still very thankful the CBC is not allowing comments on articles pertaining to First Nations, but I'm much more disappointed that it's necessary.
posted by ODiV at 3:06 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd never heard of "bike-shedding". Thanks for that.

This thread has helped me understand First Nations a little better and led me to a lot of information I'd never known or known to look for. Fizz, thank you for posting this.
posted by josher71 at 3:18 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Buzzfeed captured the words of some Attawapiskat youth about what they want and need to improve things in their community. . .
Touching and also some good ideas here, some of which could be implemented quickly.
posted by chapps at 12:06 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Joseph Boyden writing in Macleans: The true tragedy of Attawapiskat.
In response to those that claim remoteness is the problem, he writes:
It’s certainly not so simple as to suggest we relocate our northern populations to the south. First off, the vast majority don’t want that at all and consider the idea a nightmare. Think of Tina Fontaine. Tina was the 15-year-old Cree girl found murdered and wrapped in plastic at the bottom of the Red River, and whose death forced the issue of our MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women] into the national headlines. Just ask her family if they thought her relocation from her reserve to the city of Winnipeg down south was the proper solution. Just as important, you don’t sever a people with thousands of years’ connection to their land from that very land. In another article I wrote for this magazine a number of years ago called “The hurting,” during another suicide crisis on James Bay, I argued that not only is suicide the direct fallout of the devastatingly destructive residential school system but that it is the land and connecting with it that offers some of the most potent medicine to combat these recurring crises. [Emphasis mine]
There's more to his article than just that, but it seems to me like a very important point that a lot of non-Indigenous Canadians are missing.
posted by Kabanos at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Including Jean Chrétien, apparently.
posted by Kabanos at 1:06 PM on April 13, 2016




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