It is correct that the Indian Act is archaic and on its way out through the second-generation cut-off rule. It is correct that there are some members in First Nations that are not Indigenous such as the situation where non-Indigenous women married Indigenous men. Yes, many know about the history and future of the Indian Act.
Algonquin Identity Appropriation
There is a new epidemic that is causing all kinds of issues for the Algonquin: Indigenous identity appropriation. Many non-Indigenous people are claiming an Indigenous identity for the purpose of culture, exoticness, student funding, research funding, awards, and employment. This is not a small issue. It is huge. It is a colonial industry. Indigenous people are in need of the resources that are directed toward them. It is Indigenous people who need to direct and shape their futures through education and research that ultimately shapes policy and legislation such as health care and family services. Indigenous people do not need settler Canadians to do this for us and we do not need people usurping our identities, funding, and employment opportunities. Please stop.
Non-Algonquin Claiming to be Algonquin Who are Pro-Land Claim
The Algonquin living in Ontario are in a terrible situation where it is said that as many as 1,000 - 1,500 settler people claiming to be Algonquin when they are not Algonquin. Some of these people are in very powerful positions making decisions about our settlement dollars, settlement dollar investments, and land choices and land selections. In actuality due to issues of root ancestors it is said that there are as many as 4,000 people enrolled in the Algonquin land claims that should not be. This is 50% of the enrollees. For the most part it seems that these people are pro-land claims possibly for the purposes already stated above, or for the purpose of gaining Indigenous rights. Sadly, because they are pro-land claim some Algonquin seem to take a soft position about their inclusion. Yet these people represent a tyranny over genuine Algonquin.
Non-Algonquin Claiming to be Algonquin and Who are Anti-Land Claim
There is also another group of settler people who are claiming to be Algonquin yet they too are not. These people are also taking up important space, funding, research direction, and academic employment opportunities from genuine Algonquin. When confronted many of these people argue that they are being challenged because they are anti-land claim. This is a complete obfuscation. No hegemony is ever that complete so much so that this can be correctly stated. In fact there are many genuine Algonquin who are anti-land claim and other genuine Algonquin who are pro-land claim. In making this argument these Algonquin identity appropriators obfuscate and confuse matters because they need to manipulate and shift the focus away from the real issue that they are claiming to be Algonquin when they are not. What makes this situation more difficult is that many of them are directors and professors making important decisions about funding and graduation, consequently they have many administrators, and students under their wings whose agency is pacified, controlled, or silenced. Many of us put down semma praying that this appropriation ends but it seems like the power of institutions are unable address this because they are under the thumb of an oppressive all-encompassing economic paradigm.
In sum, while the Indian Act has let in non-Indigenous people into our communities, there are people today who are actively appropriating Algonquin identity to first, become beneficiaries in the land claim and second, for funding and employment. It is important for people to pull all this apart and think deeply about the layers.
People appropriating Algonquin identity are a huge concern and interference. Pikwàkanagàn’s First Nation members, inclusive of the non-status Algonquin, are unable to get to the real and many issues of the land claim. Genuine Algonquin people have a very legitimate concern as the last thing they need is another ‘settler tyranny of the majority’. Some people think the nation state likes this.
This issue of identity appropriation is causing an incredible interference in the Ontario Algonquin land claim. The most vocal Algonquin are the ones who are able to pull it all apart and examine it for what it is: colonial genocide. We must stand behind and listen to the voices of the people who continue to remain strong. They are not ‘children of the state’ that must be pacified and controlled. Rather, they are descendants of a long tradition of warriors who taught them to protect their community.
While the interference of the nation state via the Indian Act is a terrible history, the modern-day issue of Indigenous identity appropriation has reached an epidemic proportion.
Lastly, Bob Lovelace does not speak for us.
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-Ikwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She is a member of Pikwàkanàgan First Nation She is a published author of Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit and The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process. Her most recent book is titled Gehl v Canada: Challenging Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act. You can reach her and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.