A Past Conversation Of Future Actions Among Canada’s First Nations

“Our children here on the reserve, like a lot them, go to bed at night hungry and drink poor quality water, and some of them barely have a roof over their head.’?”

– John Levi, Elsipogtog warrior chief

We have been concerned about our Aboriginal and First Nations children for some time now.

As you read this, at this very instant, I am on an airplane. We are on our way back to Canada. I scheduled this to auto post at this time.

You might think that since we are venturing back to Canada, from Mali, West Africa, that we probably wish to put to rest the burdens, and human issues we carry every day in Mali, that returning to Canada is a needed break from these stressful human struggles to survive, we have joined.

No, we fly home to a Canada that has its own human struggles, seriously tragic ones too, mostly faced by our First Nations indigenous communities.

The year we rolled out our first water purification work for remote African camps was the same year my wife and I read an article about a Canadian aboriginal community that had been on a boil water order for EIGHTEEN years. Eighteen years of contamination.

We were dumbfounded at first. Then we became angry. I have never seen my wife so politically angry before.

“Here we are, hauling powerful and effective water purification filters from Canada to West Africa. All the while, we have Canadian families, with children, suffering from third world water problems, right here in Canada. It makes me very upset that this us permitted to continue in a country where my taxes are supposed to prevent such horrific stories.” Lynn Rayner

We have had a burden for these communities for a decade now. These conversations are nothing new to us, though we have never spoken publicly about the issues with you.

“Residents of Shoal Lake, which straddles Ontario and Manitoba, haven’t been able to drink community water for 19 years:…..We have many First Nations communities in Canada that are living in Third World conditions in a first world country. And that is not acceptable…… “While water is life, sometimes water has taken life. We have lost lives due to not having access,” Roxanne Green of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

As of 2017,we have 156 First Nations communities with water advisories. What the heck? Justin Trudeau. this is Canada, we can do this. Why not send drilling and  water purification teams in right now. Justin gave only 10% of the budget he promised for first nations development and infrastructure.  (Read this article of 156 First Nations communities with long-term water contamination issues)

We have been exploring food security and water work that we might undertake within Canada, in First Nations communities.

We have been quietly building  knowledge about growing food in a ZONE 1, hardiness zone. It certainly is a challenge to grow in such climates.

However, it is more than possible to grow a dozen varieties of vegetables and root crops, locally sourcing vegetables instead of importing vegetables at excessive costs due to high transport costs. Not to mention what all this transportation of goods, versus home grown, does to our environment.

Canada can do much work to become more food secure, by gardening in rural, urban, and northern communities

I shared about the water situation of some of our aboriginal communities on Facebook one time. One gentleman copied me a Canadian government link that basically said, transfer money goes to native communities, and the funds used as directed  by the first peoples communities.

So the point was… we give them money, so if a community is on an eighteen year boil water order, its their own  fault. We gave them the money……

Really?

Even if a big daddy chief is corrupt, has an “in crowd” lining  their pockets, should we not stand up for justice and help our suffering poor indigenous communities have a voice? Should the poor, not wanting to be targeted, intimidated or bullied by corrupt powers(assuming that is a wide spread issue) because they have to live there, and may even be related, be dismissed, ignored, not helped with water because “the Government gave the community money.”

God knows we will not be there to help them when a clan war breaks out.

It’s not as easily dismissed as “The government gives money”.

If the people receive none of the services that transfer was supposed to secure, those people, have, in fact, not received anything from the government.

Also, there is a huge assumption on our part that enough money was given to provide any adequate, quality service in the first place.  “Money”, is not a measurable amount.

We cannot wash our hands of the corrupt power we chose to work with. The boil-water-order families don’t want the corruption to stall development, and their health.

We gave them money so let them boil water… Really? That is our answer?

Certainly, some communities might possibly be controlled  by the equivalent of an aboriginal mafia, family or clan controlled. Yet the callousness of responses made me so sad that I deleted the thread.

  “Our attitudes accumulate, fester and harden…… Fed up with a double standard of aboriginal leaders who want more funds yet seem incompetent and irresponsible in their own management, many simply shut down listening.
However, could it be that at the core of the national, historical and disruptive issue of aboriginal claims, including the dysfunctional reservation system, and the suicidal tendencies of too many, there is a wounded heart? How might we deal with a dismissive reaction all too instinctive to many watching this situation unfold?”  Brian Stiller

Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on what we have done to Aboriginals. We have to acknowledge what our colonization has inflicted on people in Canada. We have lied, abused, and broken treaties.

New Canadians will soon promise to honour treaties with Indigenous peoples as part of their oath of citizenship. Will the already existing Canadians do so?

I will, for justice requires it.

According to the mandate letter, the proposed change is to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

That reads: “We call upon the government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including treaties with Indigenous peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”  Reported by CBC Kathleen Harris

I have no idea where to begin. Colonial Cowboys like me wouldn’t! Sometimes, i see that self-righteous hypocrite in me, and it is not pretty.

I have no idea how to fix years of widespread residential school sexual, verbal, and fleshly abuse. I don’t know how to reverse cultural genocide, and attempted linguistic annihilation by our colonial Cowboy ancestors, my ancestors, and the Christian Churches and our Christian Institution leaders, the every-day church servant people who perpetrated these inhuman abuses.  No wonder indigenous peoples despise the church in many ways, I would.

But maybe we can help a few communities with better health, water, gardens, fresh food, children green thumb programs?

For six years in Africa, my wife and I have sat here shaking our heads about the fact that we, and our tribe, really offer nothing to our very own “tribes” of aboriginal peoples. We work in Haiti, East and West Africa and Asia. Who, among my tribe and circles are getting on a plane to do AID, charity, education, agricultural, water, Medical, orhousing construction work for poor families in our first nations?

I bet we can find thousands of people in Indigenous communities could use our AID Boxes, our Christmas boxes, our gardening, our bed sheets, pencils and crayons, drip irrigation, a house without a leaking roof.

Might it be easier to get on a plane and fly south, than to fly east, west, or north in Winter? South toward beaches, a nice hotel meal, souvenir shops to peruse from time to time, and away from the cold north, eh? Could it be that it is easier for people like me to go to Africa? Could it be less a personal sacrifice, more comfortable, than turning my gaze, the movement of my feet and serving hands toward the Indigenous communities in Canada?  Is it possible, we don’t want to expose who we might be, colonizing cowboys and cowgirls with attitudes that erect a stone cold wall? Is it that we are afraid to expose (face) the attitudes, expressions, telling silence, and poor response we certainly will receive from the people and tribe we run with?

Is it even possible to work a partnership with a welcoming first peoples community desiring a food security gardening work with families or youth?

I don’t even know where to begin to make those connections. However, we are quietly talking, dreaming, and preparing.

Realize this, arriving in Canada does not, in any manner, take us further away from a place needing a gracious human response. People suffering because of corruption, neglected by Government investment, and where Food and water security is as serious a needed as some third world countries.

We fly home with a burden too. We can do better for Canada! Maybe I, and hopefully Man of Peace, can do something better too. How about you?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    Yes , what is required of us – like to know the people who are helping at least have honesty & integrity . We’re in !!

    Like

  2. Crystal says:

    Hallelujah Andy& Lynne!! I am thankful that somebody out there cares. What shall we do??

    Like

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