Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Award for long lost Sculpture

Award for lost sculpture!
Help me find my sculpture. It's a long shot but with world wide social media tools, I think it is possible. This sculpture was part of the One World Art - the Right to Hope exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995 held in Johannesburg, S.A. The sculpture was on loan and should have been returned to me. The exhibit was supposed to tour the world. Its curator was a lady from England named Catherine Thicke. A book was published with the same name.

Please pass this on to all your contacts and use their contacts to help me find my lost sculpture. The sculpture is made of marble and was/is entitled, "Collaboration." It stands about 14" - 16" high.

Any concrete leads that will lead to finding and locating my sculpture will receive a carving of a polar bear worth $1000.CDN. Let's find it!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Noble sentiments, Difficult realities

Treaty-making in B.C.: noble sentiments, difficult realities.

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, July 24, 2010 and written by a Jeffrey Simpson.

The process of worldwide colonialism throughout the ages has always not been without its challenges including here in Canada. As some may know, the federal government once regarded the control of the Inuit, First Nations, and M├ętis of Canada as an “Indian problem.” And, as some may also know, the noble sentiment to the solution of the problem was to set up the former legislated residential school system. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally apologized to all Aboriginal people regarding that system with its legacy of physical and sexual abuses. Now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is embarking on their journey of capturing stories of the system from all involved and hopefully resulting in reconciliation. A noble sentiment. We’ll see.

Like yesteryear, the relationship of Aboriginal people and Canada included the sentiment of signed treaties across Canada. While there has been a number of treaties signed across Canada; apparently, that relationship is still an on-going process in the province of British Columbia. The province is without signed treaties save for a couple that were recently signed with the Tsawwassen First Nation in Vancouver and the Maa-nulth First Nation on Vancouver Island.

In 1991, the federal and provincial governments and aboriginal leaders created the B.C. Treaty Commission to resolve relations with Aboriginal people and other British Columbians. Again, a noble sentiment but contrasted with difficult realities today.

The above noted article goes on to read, “By any reasonable measure, the treaty-making process has been a disappointment – or, to be less polite, a failure.”

The idea was noble: “Treaties, it was hoped, would bring better economic possibilities and “certainty” in response to unanswered questions about ownership, title and territory. Treaties would create, in the words of a 1991 report, “a new relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding – through political negotiations.”

Instead, “We’ve spun our wheels and haven’t gone anywhere,” admits Sophie Pierre, Chief Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission. Nothing much to show after half a billion dollars spent. Going forward? Perhaps the parties should consider another process: land claim agreements? A noble sentiment that has resulted in certainty, mutual trust and understanding with some aboriginal groups such as the Nisga’a of BC, the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic, and the establishment of Nunavut. It’s not that easy though, BC boasts 198 First Nations, most with populations quite small with widespread overlapping territories and, of course, the suspicion about government is always a hurdle to overcome.

With the current rate, “…a century or more would pass before those aboriginals interested in treaties would sign one.”  The article goes on to read, “Success might breed more success – if more treaties are signed, it might encourage other aboriginals and the two governments to recommit themselves to the process of negotiations.” Now, that’s a noble sentiment. Fast forward to 2110 please?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Indigenous Indignity...Primal Fear.

“A return to Zoar: 83 years after bodies were stolen, Inuit go home.”

So read the headline of an article published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, July 21, 2010, written by a Les Perreaux.

Seems, in the past, a number of museums around the world regarded Indigenous people as some sort of human sub species. The latest example was noted in the above article as a young curator, William Duncan Strong was “told the museum (Field Museum in Chicago) wanted physical anthropological specimens…”

It was 1927. Mr. Strong had arrived on the coast of Labrador and had dug up marked graves. While rebuked by the Inuit and others to replace the bones and graves to their original state and through some deception, he returned to the Field Museum with the bones of 22 Inuit. The Inuit assumed he did the right thing and all was forgotten. Until now.

Based on some gossip, a researcher from the Smithsonian Institution sent a note to the Labrador’s Torngasok Cultural Centre who had heard, “the Field Museum may have the remains of some of your people.” Now, a small team from Labrador had launched a two-year quest that will end soon with the return of the bones. While U.S law requires all museums to return native remains in the United States, the Field Museum has led the way to voluntarily return remains to Canada, albeit, this time with a little pressure from the Labrador Torngasok Cultural Centre.

The Field Museum has agreed to pay for repatriating the remains and they will be buried in Zoar where they were unearthed 83 years ago. Something the young Curator, William Duncan Strong, should have and assumed he had done.

“The story is quite unbelievable. In a way, it could turn into a happy story, even though what was done was immoral, disrespectful and disgraceful,” said Johannes Lampe, Minister of Culture in the Nunatsiavut Inuit Government of northern Labrador. Unfortunately, Mr Strong is unable to apologize. He died in 1962. Wonder where he’s buried.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We don't lack the ability, we lack the opportunity.

Tapping a fresh northern resource.
Winnipeg construction firm tackles labour shortage with first nations apprenticeship program.

So read the GLOBE AND MAIL article published July 14, 2010 and written by a Patrick White.

Hail to Jamie Saulnier, owner of Connotec, a Manitoba based construction company. Nice to see a company, let alone the government tapping into the vast human resource found in Aboriginal communities: in this case, the remote community of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, about 800 kms north of Winnipeg.

While the government and other companies are urged to import foreign workers from China, Mexico, and other countries, Mr. Saulnier, has realized the need for skilled workers can be found right underneath your nose. Talk about being serious about this venture, he is even learning the Cree language. “Jamie is a breath of fresh air,” said Marcel Moody, a band councilor with the remote First Nation.

While other companies have spent money on importing workers, Mr. Saulnier has not spent one cent on that idea. He says, “I grew up in a small Northern Ontario town where I was surrounded by first nations communities where there were many good men and women who are just wishing for a job. That experience led to him thinking and later took action….”we decided to seek them out.”

Mr. Saulnier went on to set up the First Nations Apprenticeship Program. While other companies and even the government have failed in this type of idea, his program is seeing some excellent results. And it’s not just tokenism. Other companies feel a 2 or 3 percent is a good target for aboriginal participation, Mr. Saulnier is pushing for 50 per cent first nation involvement. Recruits are noticing the difference already. “We hear companies talk big like this all the time, “ said Jack Spence of Nelson House, who recently finished the program. “But it’s just talk. Connotec actually hires and sees you through to a journeyman’s ticket. That’s good.”

Mr. Saulnier has said, …”that’s the future of my company.”

Reminds me too, Nelson Mandela once said, “My people do not lack the ability, they lack the opportunity.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Federal out of sorts...Female out in courts?

“Senate approves bill to help divorced, abused female natives”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, dated July 7, 2010 and written by a Bill Curry.

Yes, like most Canadians know and if not, at least perceive the many challenges that face First Nations on reserve, some of which include economic issues, drug, alcohol, substance abuse, low graduation levels, etc. The above noted issue has reached the federal government level and is known as Bill S-4 which outlines, “The government bill sets up federal rules granting reserve residents access to the courts to sort out residency and ownership issues when a spouse wants protection from an abusive partner, or a couple breaks up.”

The Bill is still under review by the Senate.

Unbelievable to some in the Senate, a couple of female native Senators are urging their colleagues to not support the Bill. Government Leader in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton was “amazed” and “mystified” by the efforts of those two female native Senators. One, a Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, said she had experienced the abuses first-hand but is unsupportive of this bill on the grounds that inadequate consultation with native people was conducted and therefore “would leave women worse off.”

Looking at it objectively, I am all in support of any measures that would alleviate the social challenges that native people have on reserve including “legislation to help prevent women who live on reserves from losing their homes because of a divorce or abuse…”

However, I somewhat side with native female Senator, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas. Consultation is key in resolving issues between parties. Yes, the proposed legislation may give an avenue to protect native women on reserve by accessing the courts but how are the women to access the courts when they likely do not have the financial capacity to do so? Even if they have the capacity to access the courts, the women could be risking social status within their own respective community.

Perhaps, in trying to solve a problem, the federal government may create more challenges for people on reserve. Still, Senator Marjory LeBreton has said, I think we’ve talked long enough about it. It’s time to take action.” I concur. However, as a metaphor, you can give a person the keys to your car but he/she still needs to know how to drive. If the government is going to assist and protect native women with empowerment, they also need to address the need for capacity…something that most native women don’t have.