Tuesday, 10 March 2020
When two distinct cultures meet and occupy the same lands with one more technically advanced, there evolves a litany of friendships, co-operation, frictions, warfare, exploitation, genocide, death by introduced diseases, and, sometimes, eventual admissions of guilt and stumbling reforms.
Estimates of human population of the Americas prior to 1492 and the arrival of Europeans vary from 8 to 112 million, declining to under 6 million by 1650. Today Canada, estimated to have had 200,000 in 1492, now has 1.7 million, 4.9% of its population of aboriginal descent (977,230 First Nations, 587,545 Metis, 65,025 Inuit). The USA has 6.79 million, 2.1% of its population. Mexico has 6,740.000, 5.2% of its population. Thousands of European settlers captured and adopted by native tribes and later rescued chose to return to tribal life which they preferred.
Land ownership in Canada today: Federal government 41%, Provincial 48%, Private 11%. Parliament buildings sit on unceded Algonquin land. First Nations claim all rights to 36,000 sq km.
Beneficial change is now stumbling towards positive reforms, and actually making some, so a review:
The Two Row Wampum Treaty (also known as: The Guswenta, The Kaswentha, and The Tawagonshi): In 1613 in upper New York State, representatives of the Iroquois 5 Nations (Haudenosaunee) and the Dutch government tried to legislate peaceful and mutually-beneficial co-existence. Each was to go its own way without dominance from the other.
New Netherland: was then founded in 1624 by the Dutch West India Company. In 1626 the Dutch governor bought from the Manhattans their island for $24. The Manhattans knew not what this meant as land ownership was unknown. The city of New Amsterdam grew as did the Dutch population to about 9,000 scattered throughout New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Conflict came in 1641 causing the deaths of 1,000. In 1664 a British naval squadron took New Amsterdam which became New York. British settlers followed and lived peacefully with the Dutch.
The Iroquois lived along the Mohawk River and the southern shores of Lake Ontario. About 1600 the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas formed an Iroquois confederacy to end their civil wars. The Tuscaroras joined in 1722. Having sided with the British during the 1775-83 American Revolutionary War, many chose to flee to Canada thus enabling sparsely populated Canada to defeat numerous invasions, most during the War of 1812.
Pontiac: With the 1758 Treaty of Easton British colonists made peace with the Shawnee and Lenape promising not to advance beyond the Allegheny Mountains. After the 1760 capture of Montreal and the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the 7 Years War war with Britain the victor, the British moved into French posts in the Ohio and Great Lakes areas with harsher policies dashing the hopes of Algonquins, Hurons, Senecas, Ojibwe, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Delawares, Wyandots, and Mingos. From among these Pontiac, an Ottawa chief, led an opposition that included the siege of Forts Detroit and Pitt, capturing 8 other forts, killing all defenders, and the Battle of Bloody Run in which 20 British soldiers were killed and 34 wounded. General Jeffrey Amherst offered 200 pounds to the person who would kill Pontiac, In 1776 a Peoria did , infuriating other tribes that bitterly attacked the Peoria almost wiping them out. The alliance fell apart. It had caused the deaths of 2,000 settlers and 400 soldiers. At the siege of Fort Pitt blankets infested with smallpox were left out for natives to take and die from.
Tecumseh: Major General Sir Isaac Brock, from Guernsey, Channel Islands, placed Tecumseh, a Shawnee, born in 1768 in Ohio and named for a meteor that flashed across the skies at the time, in command of all Native forces. A great orator Tecumseh had toured most of the south and west, organizing tribes to oppose land grabs by settlers before entering Ontario to seek British and Canadian help.
In August 1812, using clever deceptions Tecumseh’s and Brock’s forces convinced US General William Hull in command of Fort Detroit that his actually superior forces were heavily outnumbered so he surrendered, thus giving a tremendous boost to the hope that the US behemoth could be forced to leave. Other victories followed until . . . .
On 05 October 1813, outnumbered 6 to 1 at the Battle of the Thames, Tecumseh-Brock forces faced General Richard Mentor Harrison’s invaders, 24 of whom, including Harrison (the US 9th vice president). took credit for killing Tecumseh, Brock was killed a week later.
The December 1814 Treaty of Ghent, Belgium, ended the war. It left Iroquois lands south of Lake Ontario in US hands so the government in Canada compensated the Iroquois with land grants in Ontario.
Named for Tecumseh there is a town of 23,229 people east of Windsor, Ontario.
US Westward Expansion: The 1848 discovery of gold led to an inrush of new settlers who ignored treaties, stole native land, introduced cattle ranching, and slaughtered buffalo herds to starve indigenous people. Resistance was led by the likes of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse, a Sioux of the Oglala band of the Lakotas who took part in several battles of the 1874-76 Black Hills War including with Sitting Bull in June 1876 Little Big Horn where George Armstrong Custer and over 200 of his men were killed. The Sioux lost 50 men.
In 1948 sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started a huge statue, 172m high, 195m long in a Custer county, South Dakota mountain of Crazy Horse on horseback. It is still a work in progress. When finished it will be the world’s second largest statue. Korczak died in 1982. His wife and family are continuing the task.
Sitting Bull, 1831-1890, a Hunkpapa Lakota chief, whose people were starving from lack of buffalo, led a band into Canada in 1877 seeking sanctuary. They were met by two North West Mounted Police, saying they could stay as long as they obeyed the Queen’s laws. The Sioux called the country Grandmother’s Land after Queen Victoria. For 4 years they lived a peaceful life until their young warriors got bored so harassed local tribes, causing problems for the police who tried persuading them to return to the USA which Sitting Bull did in 1881 with 187 followers. He ended up in the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota where he was killed in 1890 by Sioux police while resisting arrest after the Ghost Dance uprising.
Among European settlers, natives liked the French best as they did not bring their families with them and intermarried with native women.
Britain became more acceptable when it announced it could no longer support the 11 regiments required to rotate to the colonies to protect advancing settlers, so all settlements west of the Appalachians would cease and the land left forever in native hands. This became a cause of the Revolution as people like Colonel George Washington had to desert Britain to keep control of his acquired acreage and Sam Adams with his financial interests in Dutch tea.
Since the 1973 introduction of updated land claims procedures only 16 of 780 have been settled.
Canadian Integration and Reconciliation: The Indian Act of 1857 was designed to assimilate all residents into one nation. Severe restrictions were placed on native cultures. The act was not repealed until 1951. Catholic and Anglican missionaries competed for converts from Animism. Our government for over a hundred years financed a program that collected children from scattered native communities to transport them, often by air, to resident schools teaching an Alberta curriculum, returning them each summer to their homes. As military commander of the 500-mile-long Cape Parry DEW Line site, I befriended many of these students in the summers of 1961-62. To me our good intentions had too many flaws. We could employ only a few graduates so we were producing bewildered people fit for neither world. I advised them to cherish their culture, not to allow us to steal their land, to use our education to get into our politics, and earn an equal role. Some did. (See my blog 176 of 23 Aug 2017 “My Inuit Friends”.) What I did not know was the fact that 2,800 of the 150,000 students died from physical and sexual abuse, and inadequate supervision revealed in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is sad that so many of those involved were good people wanting to help others. For instance my good friend, Father DeHurtevant devoted his life to bring the Catholic faith to the Inuit. He was allowed only one one-month trip back to his beloved France every five years. Inuit complained to me that he did little to improve their economic status.
During the Cold War, to strengthen its claim to the Arctic archipelago, Canada relocated Inuit from northern Quebec to Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands (Resolute and Grise Fiord) where they faced starvation but were forced to stay. It took 40 years for an apology and paid compensation to be welcomed.
There were, in the 2011 census 59,400 Inuit in Canada.
On 01 April 1999, after two decades of intense friendly negotiations Nunavut (Our Land) was created out of the North West Territories. It is equal in area to the world’s 15th largest country but with a population in 2019 of only 38,780, 84% of which is Inuit. Greenland has about the same area with twice the population. Nunavut involves a massive cultural adaptation. From isolated mobile families surviving on hunting and fishing to sedentary occupations financed by incomes from often temporary mining and military interests living in communities of warm houses with TV and electronic games. Over 700 businesses, including Air Nunavut, based in Iqualuit, the capital, population 7,082, are owned by Inuit.
In spite of amazing progress the unemployment and incarceration rates are higher than for the rest of Canadians. Sexual harassment of women is 7 times the national rate. The RCMP have created programs among males to combat this. The Nunavut suicide rate has been ten times the Canadian average. It has declined the past two years, perhaps helped by a concerned group setting up an annual hunting trip for young men. Commercial transportation is needed as wildlife has moved far from settlements.
Diamonds and Aboriginals: A good example of the current attitude towards aboriginals is shown in diamonds. The first diamond mine, Ekati, opened in Canada in 1998. A half dozen followed, making Canada the world’s third largest producer. From negotiating land leases to recruiting, training, employment, housing, sports and entertainment facilities, transportation to wildlife areas for hunting trips, and accepting environmental responsibilities, Ekati has been quite beneficial to aboriginals, From 1999 to 2006 it spent $847 million with aboriginal businesses, 78% of total costs with northern and aboriginal businesses. Of its total work force of 800, plus 600 support contractors, 33% are aboriginal including 123 women.
Climate Crisis vs Fossil Fuel Industries: First Nation groups are split between those benefiting financially and those protecting the environment. The federal government has the dilemma of negotiations.
It has the responsibility of controlling the climate crisis, supporting green energy, meeting its 2016 Paris Climate Agreement goals, cushioning the economic loss of areas dependent on fossil fuel incomes, and respecting aboriginal rights.
Wet'suwet'en vs Canadian Government Provincial governments and economic interests are pressuring Ottawa to enforce the end of a multi-week crippling blockade of road, rail, and shipping traffic that has been joined by sympathetic groups across the nation, creating disruptions, financial loss, and anger among thousands of citizens.
There are 84,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada carrying fossil fuels (3.8 million km in USA). Early in 2019 Coastal GasLink Company began constructing a $6.6 billion pipeline to carry liquefied natural gas from northeast British Columbia to Kitimat on the coast where LNG Canada has started an $18 billion terminal. 190 of the 670 km route cross Wet’sutwet’en land. All 20 of the elected First Nations councils along the route have agreed but 7 of the 8 hereditary Wet’sutwet’en chiefs oppose it. Coastal Gas Link argues it will pay aboriginal tribes $115 million in dividends over 25 years, and spend $60 million in contracts with aboriginal companies. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rules out force in favour of dialogue made difficult by the refusal of the Wet’suwet’en to join talks until all RCMP federal police on their land are replaced by their own. The RCMP offer to do this. The elected matriarch criticizes the hereditary chiefs and outside interests for the blockade. The pipeline will actually help reduce global warming by transporting natural gas to China permitting it to reduce coal-fired plants as it is 55% less polluting than coal.
Proposed pipelines cross lands claimed by 150 First Nations so opposition is formidable. On 24 February environmental concerns caused Teck Resources to pull out of its massive, largest yet, Frontier oil sands mine estimated to cost $20.6 billion to construct to export Alberta’s bitumen to world markets. It would emit 4.1 megatons of greenhouse gasses annually. Teck claims new techniques have reduced this by 289,000 since 2011 far from what is needed.
Living in harmony with humanity and nature is a must in this fragile, unique, world. We all need to recognize and obey our responsibilities. Sufferings are inevitable but we can work to minimize them. What other choice do we have?
Ye Olde Scribe, George