A series on issues that beg the question.
Jodi Bruhn | November 30, 2014
Addressing the language of the Aboriginal/ settler relationship.
A version of this article appeared in the December 8 2014 edition of the Ottawa Citizen.
We need to talk. We’ve heard it from all sides—from First Nations leaders and former prime ministers, from academics, novelists and public intellectuals. If we are finally to move from conflict to cooperation, non-Aboriginal Canadians need to enter into a deep, difficult dialogue with Aboriginal peoples.
But when we talk, will our words foster understanding? Or will they only reinforce the barricades? The language we use to describe the Aboriginal/settler relationship is by turns polarized, vague, and brutally abstract. Too often it's political language as George Orwell described it in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language.
Take a word of significance to the Aboriginal/settler relationship. Start a dialogue among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Observe the rift that opens up.
Treaties. What are the treaties? The courts have defined their place in Canadian law. But it’s far from clear that our settler society or our governments—or, for that matter, treaty First Nations—have accepted their interpretation. Did the treaties amount to land transfers alienating Aboriginal land ownership in exchange for defined rights? Or are they renewable covenants among sovereign nations? The fronts remain divided. And yet treaties are defining elements of the Aboriginal/settler relationship. How can we talk about honouring them without a shared sense of what they are?
Here’s another word: partnerships. Governments like it. The word connotes mutual respect and benefit. But Aboriginal people and communities are often wary with good reason. Can we call it a partnership if one “partner” reserves for itself all jurisdiction, all authority to set expenditures, all discretion to dispense or withhold funds according to formulas it sets on its own?
Full article: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/jodi-bruhn-the-words-that-were-weapons
Posts in the Series
Indigenous rights are human rights:
A reminder from Argentina
On surfing and strawberry tea: how your spring break could promote reconciliation
The right guy at the right time: Gord Downie's contribution to reconciliation
Encore une Commission...
Munich, 1933: The good bureaucrat, Josef Hartinger
Addressing the language of the Aboriginal/settler relationship
From big to better data through indigenous data governance
Toast to those who showed courage in public life
Excellence is everywhere: Blueprint 2020 and the future of the public service
Time to investigate options for resource revenue sharing
Speaking of accountability: examining the relationship of First Nation voters to their governments
About the Author
Jodi Bruhn (PhD, Notre Dame) is a published policy researcher, author and facilitator who specializes in governance and indigenous/Crown relations. She is director of Stratéjuste Canada.