"Freedom to Choose": Direct Payment of Treaty Money to All StatusIndians

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Fri Jan 5 17:20:08 MST 2001


Direct payment of treaty money to all status Indians, at the same
time as the elimination of welfare, seems to be the preferred
solution to the problem of corruption among the supporters of Ms.
Leona Freed....

At 3:20 PM -0800 1/5/01, Jim Craven wrote:
>But the reality and horrible costs of Tribal corruption are very real and
>there are, as Jackson Browne's song suggests "Lives in the Balance". The
>actvists you will not see in the press, the real traditionals, dedicated
>activists and respected Elders and real Chiefs, will never go for any form
>of privatization; they intend nothing less that full and unreserved
>nationhood and sovereignty. for those outside of Indian Country, these
>articles are written by outsiders who have not even glimpsed the tip of the
>iceberg. There is so much more going on; some favor using the elements of
>the powers-that-be against other elements of the same (exacerbating
>contradicitons in the enemy camp) but most of the grass-roots activists do
>know exactly who is who and what is what in Indian Country.

I agree with Jim, but unfortunately it appears that the voices of
grassroots activists whom Jim supports are not getting across.  It's
really tough fighting corruption in the age of neoliberalism, because
there are lots of politicians out there who would like to take up the
anti-corruption rhetoric in their neoliberal efforts to decrease
government deficits, transfer payments of all kinds, etc.  The
problem not unique to struggles of First Nation activists....

*****   ...Leona Freed was banned from her reserve in Manitoba
because she kept demanding the chief-for-life and his appointed
council account for federal funding when the $170 a month welfare
cheques kept bouncing. Freed, a mother of six and a part-time onion
bagger, became the driving force behind the First Nations
Accountability Coalition - a group of angry, dispossessed and
marginalized Indians from reserves across Canada demanding
accountability from chiefs and councils, and very opposed to
entrenching self-government in the Constitution. This, of course, has
made her and her supporters targets of the Indian political
organizations.

Freed has a very difficult task in the face of a system that has
shown itself as able to destroy any threats to its autonomy, but she
may have help in the form of the Corbiere Case. In 1999, the Supreme
Court ruled that off-reserve band members could no longer be
prevented from voting in band elections. Since many reserves have
more members living off-reserve than on, this has the potential to
significantly undermine the dictatorial control of the system at the
reserve level. It could be the most significant change to the Indian
Act since its inception. (The results of the Corbiere Case are
currently evolving, but some aspects are not finalized). However, the
system is already in the process of turning the ruling to its
advantage by attempting to bring off-reserve Indians under the
control of the system. The Davids in this story are going up against
a Goliath that has an estimated $9-billion in funding and is
accountable to no one. This is hardly a fair fight.

7. The Treaties: Empowering Indians

The key to re-empowering Indians is to change the paths through which
power and money are distributed. The means for doing this has been
available since the signing of the treaties, where the five dollars
paid annually to every man, woman and child would today be worth
about $5,000 per person. But the treaty annuity has been ignored
because it doesn't serve the interests of the system. The massive
increase in money going into the system has been justified on the
basis of modernizing treaty rights, where a horse and buggy, along
with nets and bullets for the chief had now become tens of billions
of dollars for cheifs and councils. The sole exception being the
annual payment of treaty money to individuals. This has not change by
one penny since the 1880s. It is still five dollars.

In this chapter, we look at the feasibility of direct payment of
treaty money to all status Indians using a delivery method outside
the system. A good example is the BC government's Family Bonus
program paid to low income families that is piggy-backed on the Child
Tax Benefit program at a very minimal cost. The treaty money would
amount to about $400 per month paid to every man, woman and child,
and in the case of children, the money would be paid on their behalf
to their parents or guardians.

Modernization of treaty money is justiciable, in that it can be
pursued in court the same way the "medicine chest" case was in 1960s.
It will be very difficult for Indian political organizations to
object to this, since the argument for treaty money is legally far
superior to those used to justify economic development and social
programs. With $5,000 annual treaty money paid on a monthly basis in
the hands of every man, woman and child, Indians will have the
resources to make decisions for themselves.

This section also deals with the destructive effects of simply
eliminating the system and paying all the money going into Indian
Affairs directly to eligible Indians - even though that might seem
like an obvious solution. This approach has been advocated by some
federal politicians, which demonstrates a lack of understanding of
the implications of such a drastic measure.

8. Freedom to Choose

With modernized treaty money in the hands of individuals, Indians in
Canada will have something they have been denied for some 125 years -
the ability to make decisions that affect their own lives. This
chapter looks at the effects of treaty money empowerment, both on and
off reserve, and the implications for Canadian society as a whole.

On reserve: the elimination of almost all welfare, the resources to
develop businesses to buy and sell goods to each other, protection
from punitive action by chiefs and councils in the form of
withholding welfare or other services, the resources to leave the
reserve if desired (transportability of treaty rights), the
development of the moderating influence of a middle class, the
increasing self-esteem of those running their own lives and having
the power to develop communities and a civil government as they see
fit. Some individuals may decide to use the reserve as a summer
resort while working elsewhere, others may see them as religious
retreats, retirement communities, tourist destinations, or service
centres for surrounding small communities. It will be up to each band
member to decide what their reserves will become for them, and it
will be up to them how their local government works.

Off reserve: the elimination of welfare dependence for eligible
Indian families which will have a large impact in urban areas where
slum housing, unsafe neighbourhoods, youth gang violence, frequent
changes in schools, etc. are an on-going problem, the dramatic impact
treaty money is likely to have on low-income urban families based on
the 1999 Canadian Council on Social Development child well-being
study, the implications of transportability of all treaty
entitlements.

Canadian society: specifically and immediately addressing Third World
living conditions on reserves, the social benefits of a significant
number of Canadians switching from the demoralizing effects of
welfare dependency to the self-affirming effects of entitlement to
treaty money, the value of Indians as participants in the economic
system as customers, the employed, and employers. (RCAP analyzed the
current cost of Indian non-participation in the economy of
$7.5-billion in lost productivity and tax revenue and guesstimated
that if things don't change, that cost will escalate to $11-billion
by 2016.)

This chapter also includes a brief look at the importance of Indians
paying taxes, where non-taxation is the equivalent of
non-accountability, and is a plum handed by Indian Affairs to
high-income earning Indians in the system as a reward for their
compliance....

...Please direct any comments or questions regarding this outline to:

Jean Allard
376 Eugenie, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2H 0Y8
Phone (204) 231-9334

Those who wish to support Leona Freed in her efforts to educate
Indians and the general population of Canada regarding the Indian
Treaties should forward their contributions in trust to:

Wayne Helgason, Executive Director
Social planning Council of Winnipeg, 412 McDermot Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3A 0A9
Phone: 1-(204) 943-2561 Email: spc at solutions.net

<http://www.spcw.mb.ca/reference/doc_bigbear.html>   *****

Yoshie





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