Things are not getting better
In 1973, First Nation (FN) leaders presented a document, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, to the federal government –proposing a settlement agreement that prioritized the protection of the people and future generations. The ‘bright new tomorrow’ they spoke about; there are glimpses of it but it is still a long ways off. Our people are still tired, cold, hungry, unemployed, and homeless. Back then, that living document – land claims was to protect the people from a repeat of today’s problems in the future. Today, poverty and homelessness is still pervasive in our First Nation communities.
I remember listening to elders, and reading about it, talk about colonization… the displacement and marginalization of First Nations for development: the gentrification of Whitehorse. First Nation people would go home only to find an eviction notice declaring them squatters, trespassers on our own land. Or, their homes moved or demolished. All their worldly possessions, hunting/trapping gear, some of which were handed down from generation-to-generation, their livelihood gone, just like that. First Nations were kicked to the outskirts of town, pretty much, becoming refugees in our own homeland; their homes and livelihood ripped from them. Government policy/procedure made sure it happened because, if the people did not have a home, there was nothing to build a life from.
In Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN), history is repeating itself. Systemic discrimination is perpetual. KDFN citizens, instead of being helped, are stereotyped as lazy, drunks, and trouble-makers by our own self-government; they are discarded and disregarded. Every now and then, I would see empty residences with a dumpster that is used to haul away citizens’ possessions. A couple of times, I saw citizen’s personal memories – photos, writings, and artwork – personal clothing in boxes by the curb. I saw the things that gave their life meaning torn from them.
Now, I see some of those people living at the shelter/hotels, couch-surfing, or living on the street. They are lost, wandering Whitehorse streets aimlessly without any hope of that ‘bright new tomorrow’. Many have turned to substance use/abuse to gain a false sense of euphoria resulting in the deaths of our people. And, the demographics are getting younger and younger.
About five years ago, an elder, who is blind, was mislead into losing his home of thirty years or so, by being told that they were going to renovate it. Then, they renovated his place and gave it to another. Since then, he has been living in a hotel with, pretty much, no help at all. This is elder abuse and systemic discrimination. It is horrible the way KDFN treats its citizens; it is confounding and shocking KDFN citizens have to endure the same oppression/suppression, discrimination, and racism, from our very own self-government, that our ancestors went through.
Policies/procedures are brought in by non-Indigenous people which are used to maintain the status quo: subjugate, marginalize, and divide our people –limiting our capacity to build a better future. The old colonial ways – bringing in and revamping government policies/procedures – is not working for KDFN citizens; they lead to poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and eventually suicide.
Another shocking thought is that child welfare is still allowed to police KDFN community, considering their huge part/role in the apprehension/abduction, past and present, of our children. They have an office in KDFN and continue to cause/create stress for sober, working KDFN families; even just by being in the community.
Over these last two terms of office, life has gotten worse for KDFN citizens. The equity and equality is not there. Employment opportunities are given to contractors and non KDFN citizens. Even when a citizen/beneficiary is hired, in the same day, he/she is told, in some instances, that they have no funding for the job and is let go. In the past six years or so, no homes have been built.
Five houses were built on Macauley Road but those are for sale to KDFN citizens/beneficiaries who pretty much owns those homes in the first place. They were built with KDFN money which is the same as citizen/beneficiary money, or possibly other monies allocated, by other agencies, for KDFN units. There will be a lottery draw for five recipients who will be loaned $6,500 or so, of their own money, to purchase a home that belongs to them in the first place. This kind of logic is not helping our people, and not what our ancestors had in mind.
Meanwhile, in that time, KDFN has built: a multimillion dollar administration building, two new gas bars, are in the process of building a baseball complex, planning on building a new House of Learning and the construction of the new Northwestel, have invested millions into non- renewable resources, and spent a hundred thousand or so on stone pillars. Yet, our people are still living in the shelter/hotels, couch-surfing, or living on the street.
Right now, the bright new tomorrow is way off because things are worse, not better. Sure, there is some programming, some jobs, some housing but only for select few. It is time to move away from colonial policies/procedures, that colonial mindset.
Through their actions, they have failed to provide/protect KDFN citizens/beneficiaries. There is no transparency or accountability. KDFN administration has had many opportunities to help our people out of poverty and homeless. The equity and equality is not there for our people. It is obvious KDFN citizens/beneficiaries have become less salient.
With the current KDFN administration, there is no ‘bright new tomorrow’. Kwanlin Dün needs leadership. Chief and council is not a nine-to-five job and when they are elected, the people are the first priority. Without the people, there is no nation – politically, economically, and socially. The people, no matter what, should always come first. With that….
I humbly ask Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief and Council, the KDFN directors, the KDFN Elders council, and those who continue to keep that systemic wheel rolling to resign.