The latest instalment of Diversitas featured a presentation and a Q & A portion from the Treaty Relations Commissioner Dennis Whitebird this weekend.
"My message was about reconciliation," said Whitebird. "We need to reconcile many different things with respect to the treaties that have been made between Indigenous communities and the crown. As well as an informational workshop kind of an idea as to what that reconciliation could be, how we got to that point, and so on and so forth."
Whitebird noted reconciliation has to be done by the parties, and they need to find out what they want to reconcile.
"In terms of the mind set it's taken Canada 500 years to change that mind set and of course there is a lot of resistance to that change. It's not something you are going to get immediately. I think with education and with participation in events such as this there is the gradual move to a reconciliatory forum in the future," explained Whitebird.
He mentioned that in government circles he has said he's learned our language, it's time we learn his.
"In terms of my own language, I want my own children and grandchildren to be fluent in their own language. I think the government needs to reconcile that. They spend literally billions of dollars supporting the French language in Quebec, but anywhere else they don't provide any funding. They are responsible for everything in education and they haven't taken that responsibility to reconcile, and say 'we want to support your language instruction. We want to support your language retention'."
The Indian Act is another part of this topic of discussion. This act is a way for the federal government to administer Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land and communal monies. It was first introduced in 1876 as a consolidation of previous colonial ordinances that aimed to eradicate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. The act has been amended a pair of times, in 1951 and 1985, which focused on the removal of particularly discriminatory section.
"The Indian Act is a controlling mechanism. It was legislated to divide the community. The election process, you have families running and families fighting in order to who is going to take the lead. My won grandfather was a council member for thirty-seven years and he never went through an election process. When the election process came in 1951, that's when he walked away," said Whitebird. "If I (his grandfather) have to run against someone else, that's not our form of governance, I don't want it.
Whitebird went on to say the Indian Act destroys the Aboriginal governance structure.