The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is organizing protests to slow down traffic and inconvenience thousands of Manitoban heading to cottage country. Friday saw the first disruption on number one highway to Lake of the Woods.
Chief Jerry Daniels explained: “We’re the original owners of this land and most marginalized. Our children don’t come into this world wanting to be in jail, wanting bad outcomes”. He demands that the government give Indigenous people more, and make First Nations equal partners in a recently announced Economic Growth Plan.
The Chief is right about the poverty of many First Nations, as well as former First Nations residents living in poverty in our cities. The gap between them and the mainstream has not changed in any meaningful way since records were first kept.
But, he is wrong that simply giving more money or powers to First Nations will solve the problem. Doing just that is exactly the plan followed since the 1960s – a spectacular failure. First Nations families are currently subsidized by at least $100,000 per family per year. Perhaps more than one trillion dollars has been spent subsidizing First Nations and paying for Indigenous issues, yet First Nations are still locked in poverty.
So, if spending even more money and power to the chiefs is not the answer, what is?
Many successful Indigenous Canadians have shown us what the answer. It has nothing to do with more money and power. It is the good old fashioned method that works for everyone – education and hard work.
Take Manitoba’s Wab Kinew. He experienced his share of racism and had other bumps in the road. However, as a result of educatioN and hard work he is now the leader of a political party. Jody Wilson-Raybould is another example of an Indigenous person who developed her talents by education and hard work. Canadians came to know her through the recent SNC Lavalin political controversy. They observed an extremely competent and determined Indigenous woman, an inspiration to every child, her future will be bright regardless of temporary setbacks.
Both Kinew and Wilson-Raybould grew up in the city, but there are numerous examples of Indigenous people who came from the reserve that achieved success despite modest beginnings. Senator Murray Sinclair is one. He credits his grandmother for giving him the inspiration and strength to achieve his potential. He left the reserve to complete his education and never looked back. Talent, hard work and determination defined his careers – that nobody gave him.
There are thousands of successful Indigenous people who not as well known. None achieved their success because someone gave them something. It was not treaties, special laws or status cards that helped them. And, it was certainly not dancing around on highway, but through education, determination, and hard work.
With all of these examples they achieved success without sacrificing their Indigenous identity or culture. They did not have to give up their culture; their Indigenous background was integral to their success.
Their lesson to a kid growing up in modest circumstances is take school seriously, find out what you are good at, and go where the jobs are. No Chief or government can give you success, you have to make yourself.
And you will not find it by dancing around on a highway.