The idea of taking back control also incorporates a return to the ways of knowing and being–not necessarily back in time, but back to strengths in the ways of doing things. We can keep our modern lives, but still be connected to the wisdom of the past. It is what we always have had, and why we have survived. We need to step back into our truth.
—Susie McPherson-Derendy, Cree Knowledge Keeper
As we have seen, in the past the Government of Canada has unilaterally enacted laws and policies that have adversely affected Indigenous Peoples. This continues to happen. However, Indigenous Peoples have been pursuing recognition of their “rights and title” and self-government. Some have done this through treaties, the courts, and/or negotiations. Increasingly, Indigenous Peoples are taking back control over the decisions that affect them. Some examples of important ways that nations are assuming control are by providing their own child and family services, culturally appropriate education, and reclaiming of language and place names.
Check these websites for examples of how Indigenous governments are taking back control over many aspects of organization of governance and services within Manitoba:
Although they have had serious consequences, the laws and policies stemming from the Indian Act did not succeed in destroying all Indigenous traditions. Indigenous Peoples have always fought against the Indian Act and for their rights.
Indigenous Peoples have continued to practice their culture underground and have found new ways to avoid persecution. They organized against residential schools and won court victories and an official apology from the Government of Canada.
Often Indigenous Peoples and their allies will use blockades as a way to raise awareness for climate and environmental issues or to dispute the misuse of Indigenous lands and/or resources by private or public organizations. If we think about how nations operate on a global scale, often governments will impose tariffs, embargoes, or blockades to resist unfair treatment by other nations. These forms of resistance are made on a nation-to-nation basis and are generally peaceful, though they are meant to create uncomfortable conditions to raise consciousness for their cause. Recall that Treaties have been negotiated on a nation-to-nation basis; therefore, blockades or other forms of peaceful protest are often the best tool Indigenous Peoples have to make their case known to a wide audience and especially to those in the position to uphold treaty rights.
One of the most well-known blockades to have occurred in Canada was the Kanesatake Resistance (also known as the Mohawk Resistance or the Oka Crisis). This blockade began with peaceful protestors but was responded to by armed troops from the Canadian Army along with Quebec police. Mohawk warriors became engaged when the protestors were acted upon with violence. This armed conflict has become recognized for the violent way in which non-Indigenous authorities responded to the initially peacefully conducted Mohawk protest over the proposed use of sacred land. For more on this pivotal event, see Kanesatake Resistance.5
Indigenous Peoples have continued to raise their children to be proud of their cultures and identities and to resist assimilation in their everyday lives.
Response to the White Paper: Authoring of the Red Paper7 (also known as Citizens Plus authored by the Indian Chiefs of Alberta, 1970)
Idle No More
A well-known recent response to colonization was the Idle No More movement. The movement began in November 2012 when four Saskatchewan women, Jessica Gordon (Cree), Sylvia McAdam (Cree), Nina Wilson (Nakota/Plains Cree), and Sheelah McLean (Canadian) responded to the government’s omnibus Bill C-45, which challenged First Nations sovereignty and weakened environmental protections throughout Canada. Using Facebook and Twitter, #IdleNoMore was created to promote a series of “teach-ins” on the impacts of Bill C-45.
The Idle No More movement inspired more than 100 protests, flash mobs, and round dances in shopping malls and in the streets. Support for Idle No More spread outside of Canada, with solidarity protests in the US, Sweden, UK, Germany, New Zealand, and Egypt.
Manitoba has a number of urban reserves that have been established by First Nations. These areas are often purchased with funds that have been provided through the settlement of Indigenous Title with the federal government. The urban reserve model provides many mutually beneficial development considerations to the municipality in which the reserve is located and the First Nations owner. The reserve can provide jobs closer to cities and tax exemption benefits to members.
Here are links to more information on just some of the urban reserve projects in Manitoba:
Here are just some examples of community-based organizations in Manitoba. There are many more Indigenous-centred organizations that promote the wellbeing, livelihood, artistic, cultural, and academic excellence of their members.
The Brandon Bear Clan is a community-based organization that came about as a result of Winnipeg Bear Clan work. According to their Facebook page, “The Patrol is a community based solution to crime prevention, providing a sense of safety, solidarity and belonging to both its members and to the community.” Part of the scope of the Winnipeg Bear Clan has been to take on the work of finding Missing and Murdered people. From those beginnings, the movement has spread and the work is essential to the street-involved folks living mostly downtown. Brandon Bear Clan’s scope is to prevent people from becoming missing or murdered. The Bear Clan reaches out to folks who are street-involved and cares for them in very direct ways.
Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council
This organization is currently chaired by Leah LaPlante of the Manitoba Métis Federation. The Council played a key role in promoting the establishment of urban reserves like the one for Gambler First Nation in Brandon. The council builds cultural awareness within the City of Brandon. The City is open to advice from BUAPC to make things better for Indigenous residents.
Indigenous rights, title, self-determination, and government
Indigenous rights are collective rights that flow from the fact that Indigenous Peoples continuously occupied the land that is now called Canada. They are inherent rights, which Indigenous peoples have practised and enjoyed since before settler contact. In Canadian law, Indigenous title and rights are different from the rights of non-Indigenous Canadian citizens. Indigenous title and rights do not come from the Canadian government, although they are recognized by it. They are rights that come from Indigenous Peoples’ relationships with their territories and land, even before Canada became a country, and from Indigenous social, political, economic, and legal systems that have been in place for a long time.
Aboriginal title is the inherent right of Indigenous Peoples to their lands and waters. It is recognized by common law. This inherent right comes from the long history Indigenous Peoples have had with the land. Inherent means nobody can take the right away.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes the right to self-determination. The Assembly of First Nations describes self-determination as a Nation’s right to choose its own government and decide on its own economic, social, and cultural development. Today, Indigenous Peoples are exercising their Indigenous rights and title for self-determination and benefiting from the wealth and resources of this land that is now called Canada.
Self-government means First Nations can take control of and responsibility for decisions affecting them. Self-government can take many forms. It can include making laws and deciding how to spend money or raise money through taxation, deliver programs, and build economic opportunities. First Nations governed themselves for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers. Their governments were organized to meet their economic, social, and geographic conditions and needs and were shaped by their cultures and beliefs. First Nations governments were weakened by policies that imposed settler laws and forms of government. Under the Indian Act, the Canadian government created Indian Bands and Councils to administer and provide services to their memberships and made aspects of traditional Indigenous government illegal. First Nations are in the process of nation rebuilding and asserting self-government.
In 2014, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba became the first plains nation in Canada to formally enter into self-governance (Elias, 2017).
‘Kanesatake Resistance, July 11, 1990 to September 26, 1990’ (Injuneering) is licensed under a Public Domain License.
- Government Agreement: Sioux Valley Dakota Nation (https://www.gov.mb.ca/inr/resources/pubs/sioux%20valley%20dakota%20nation%20tripartite%20agreement%20(aug%202013).pdf)
- Your Métis Government (https://www.mmf.mb.ca/government-structure)
- Métis Nation 2020-Manitoba 150 (http://aga.manitobametis.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Manitoba-150-Metis-2020-Promo-booklet-mar-16.pdf)
- Birdtail in Treaty Talks with Feds (https://www.brandonsun.com/local/birdtail-in-treaty-talks-with-feds-564331792.html)
- Kanesatake Resistancence (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/oka-crisis)
- Red River Resistance (https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/red-river-resistance/)
- Response to the White Paper: Authoring the White Paper (https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/aps/index.php/aps/article/view/11690/8926)
- Urban Reserves in Manitoba (https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1100100020463/1616074450028)
- Brandon: First Nations Urban Development Area (https://www.brandon.ca/images/pdf/council/FN_UrbanDevelopmentAreas_PublicInfo.pdf)
- Treaty 1 Development Corporation (https://treaty1.ca/kapyong/)
- Naawi-Oodena (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/kapyong-barracks-name-naawi-oodena-winnipeg-1.5997787)
- Waywayseecappo Gas Bar (https://www.facebook.com/Waywaybrandon/)