One view of the Aboriginal Dilemma

We, as a country, have created an untenable situation for our aboriginal people. They have contributed to this situation, but it is not entirely of their doing, not by a long shot.

There is no such thing as a traditional life. Hunting from snowmobiles with modern cartridge rifles is not traditional. Use of fossil fuels and modern materials is not traditional.

There appears to be no such thing as integration either. Reserves have, at least in those cases in the news, poor housing, poor health care, poor income levels. Yet a study of aboriginals living in Hamilton (in the Toronto Star recently) found that their in-city living conditions were also substandard. It is unclear why this is so.

Generally the cure for substandard conditions is education, and of both genders. Perhaps our standard education is viewed as an insidious attack on another culture. Perhaps it is, if the goal is integration. If we can get them to flip burgers and drive taxis, maybe they will look more like us. To do this we have to make them think more like us. Perhaps the failure to integrate is a cultural hold-out. Our Canadian attempt to not-integrate with the USA is a similar cultural hold-out, one that is under constant attack, sometimes from our own Federal Government. We can find some sympathy for cultural hold-outs, as should those of us speaking French, for example.

Nevertheless I believe that part of the aboriginal dilemma is in the folkways. By folkways, I mean how everything is implicitly understood (in a community) to work: birth death marriage relationships and most importantly, how goods are obtained and distributed or shared. I think we have broken the aboriginal folkways. It is not clear who could, or how anyone could, design a new set of folkways that work for the aboriginals and allow them to have things work for them at the same time. Perhaps they have to do it themselves.

Or are they “trapped in their own world” of not-integration and still not-traditional, whereby the poverty trap holds them from generation to generation? What to do? Lives are being wasted, for what?

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