It is often said that one of the culprits of Western culture and the process of colonization is the way it converted larger communities and families into nuclear homes with individualistic and/or egotistical values. Historically and traditionally here on Turtle Island we lived within communities where we were all related to one another and where we all had a role in teaching children values and morals. For the most part these values and morals were embodied through teachings, songs, and rituals. Once these values and morals were embodied, during times when our bodies and minds failed us, family and community members would remind one another of their collective obligations. In this way family and community members were an important element of Indigenous governance tradition.
Oftentimes some people will actually excuse a family member’s lack of good moral judgement through statements such as, “I am not responsible for her actions” or “she is doing her job and she really is a nice person”. This line of reasoning, though, is rooted in an oppressive governance structure that relies on individualistic and/or egotistical values, and must be reconsidered; this is especially so if one claims to be leftist. Said another way, family and community members who remain silent as they stand beside violators of human rights are themselves complicit in the violation. And further, through their silence they remain stuck within an oppressive governance system; an oppressive system that is comparable to the system that has forced many families to find refuge in Canada.
The contradiction of a young family finding refuge in Canada, yet that same family then denies Indigenous women and children their land and treaty rights, exists in plain sight for all to see.
Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. In 2017 she won an Ontario Court of Appeal case on sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Algonquin land claims process. Recently she published Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. You can reach her through, and see more of her work, at www.lynngehl.com
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