Privatizing Canadian Native reserves dangerous

As I have already blogged, there is discussion in Canada about privatizing the ownership of the reserves of First Nations peoples in Canada.

I was at a conference in Bozeman in August 2010 and folks mentioned in this article, including one ex-Band leader, a politician, and two academics were promoting their idea about private land ownership on reserves and even sales and leases of reserve lands to non-natives.

They plan on drafting a bill to submit this idea to the Canadian Parliament, and have already written a book promoting the idea – “Beyond the Indian Act”.

Their “new idea” is that the plan would only apply on reserves where the tribal government opted-in to the plan and thus it would be a First Nations sovereign decision whether to be involved. The bill (which I think they have yet to draft) will also supposedly expressly maintain tribal jurisdiction over everyone who moves onto the reserves, non-natives included. (We will see how much time goes by before non-native Canadians would begin complaining about being under the jurisdiction of tribal governments; in the same way non-Indians who live on Indian reservations in the United States complain about any tribal jurisdiction or regulation of them.)

This idea sounds so similar to the disastrous Allotment era in U.S. Indian policy that it sends a chill up one’s spine.

Yet it is also intriguing because tribal governments in the U.S. do chafe under U.S. trust ownership of their lands and the paternalistic involvement of the U.S. into almost all tribal affairs. How do we get American Indian tribes and First Nations out from under the federal governments’ controlling powers while at the same time avoiding an Allotment era disaster? This is a very difficult thing to figure out.

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