This has been brewing for some time. Not so very long ago many to most Canadians were highly sympathetic to the plight of First Nations people. They were told of the Residential Schools abuses, the grotesque poverty and social ills on many Northern Canadian reserves, the over representation of Natives in the criminal justice system and other such serious problems. Many agreed that the Federal Government was not doing enough to address these issues. Well the times, they are a changing.
In the past there was a romanticising of the First Nations peoples, and a tendency to see them as victims. What with the information age, many abuses have come to light, and lets just say that the government was no longer seen as the prime reason why Native people were in such dire straights across the country. In the past some would speak of the need to balance entitlements with responsibility - and that the latter was seldom if ever discussed. It was far easier to just point the finger of blame in one direction - the Federal Government - a convenient target. In addition, something that might be termed "White guilt" was pervasive, where schools taught that it was Colonialism and assimilationalist policies that keep First Nations peoples from achieving any sort of success in life (with of course some outstanding exceptions). If a White person dared to assert that Natives needed to shoulder some of the "blame" for their own plight, they were "kept in their place" by being labelled "racists". This word has been used effectively by First Nations and their "solidarity" supporters in the White community to discourage any honest discussion of the facts. After all it was "known" that Natives were victims and the perpetrators were the "White settlers" and their government - end of story. Thus many Canadians bought into the prevailing politically correct view, and academics who dared to challenge the "accepted" view literally were putting their careers on the line.
False beliefs can exist only so long. Eventually they will be challenged when the facts become so blatantly apparent that only by doing an ostrich head in the sand posture could one not see that the matters that at one time seemed so simple, were anything but. Perhaps the most outlandish example, possibly the one which made many Canadians say enough is enough, was Chief Theresa Spence's ill conceived hunger strike outside Ottawa, which spawned the "Idle No More" movement. She was from Attiwaspikat, a Reserve that epitomises the ills that plague First Nations communities across Canada. Gasoline sniffing youth, domestic violence, alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, poverty, and on and on. Some reporters became curious about the whole matter and found out that far from being denied money for various services (e.g., to correct the substandard housing), huge sums of money had simply vanished. There appeared to be no accountability. The money was either being diverted, or was being misspent such that the problems remained, while curiously the Chiefs and their families were driving around in giant 4x4 trucks and living relatively lavish lifestyles, while the community was floundering under the weight of poverty. Many First Nations people seem to have adopted a, "well, that is just the way it is" approach and have not demanded that every penny being given to the Community be tracked so that they and Canada would know how their money was being spent. There is a revolutionary idea. Unfortunately it seems that the Government of Canada has been quite content to act as enablers and to not demand an audit of the expenditures of tax payer money on every Reserve and First Nations community in the country. Perhaps the answer would reflect badly on the "Aboriginal Industry", the group of lawyers and employees of the Indian and Northern Affairs etc. departments whose jobs require the maintenance of the status quo. So don't ruffle any feathers, just keep sending more good money after bad money and hope that the citizens will not question anything - after all only "racists" would call for an accounting of such matters.
Canadians are becoming increasingly fed up, and while the politicians may try to do everything possible to appease the vocal elements within Reserve communities (it being important to appear "sympathetic" which means not asking the hard questions about where the money goes), the Canadian Taxpayers Association and the average Canadian taxpayer is demanding to know why all of the huge sums of monies spent over the years has not even made a dent in the problems, particularly those of the isolated Northern communities. Now realities such as the over representation of Native people in the criminal justice system is not being seen as a legacy of Colonialism, but rather of the fact that for whatever reason, long after the Colonial era, Native people are committing crimes indicative of social decay (e.g., the wanton domestic abuse, often fueled by alcohol) because they chose to do so. There is a concept called "personal responsibility", and what with the many entitlements available to First Nations people, nothing seems to make a difference. People are getting fed up, and sympathy is in shorter supply. Perhaps the following article is indicative of what I have been speaking of - click here to see, and especially note the comments made by Canadians which are universally negative towards First Nations people - something that would have been rare only a couple of years ago.
Six Nations better begin to realise the tone of what is changing out there, and as the largest and most populous Reserve in Canada should lead the way in showing how the Community can stand on its own two feet without the constant flow of handouts from Canadian taxpayers. This money will dry up, and to be forewarned is to be given a chance to be proactive. This will be the first of many blog posts on this subject.
Update: The 18 december 2013 issue of Turtle Island News (p. 7) includes a brief article entitled, Sasketchewant FN accused of misspending social assistance. Here it is reported that, New documents show that some members of a Sasketchewan First Nations are facing allegations that they misused money meant for social assistance to buy themselves vehicles, horses and trailers. I don't know what to say - we will have to await the results of the forensic audit.