Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A (few) (Im)Modest Proposal(s) - Part 2: First Nations Constituencies

This is an idea that I've been kicking around for a while,
and it's a doozie.

Add several seats to The Canadian House of Commons, reserved for First Nations Constituencies.

I can already hear the howling, head-shaking, "wtf"-s and lip-trembling from here, but let me elaborate a little bit before you dump this post (and site bookmark).

"The Native Vote" and voice, in Canada, is split up by geography, historic gerrymandering, statistical dilution in urban populations, etc. If First Nations' voters could choose an election to vote in, which was not bounded by a physical riding, but rather by a larger cultural constituency, then our votes would have more meaning.

There are currently 308 MP (Member of Parliament) seats in The House, so let's say...
10 more seats, scattered across the country and crossing provincial/territorial boundaries to better reflect cultural regions.

By "choosing", I mean that a First Nation member would have to declare in advance whether to vote in the local riding election or the larger First Nation Constituency "riding".
One Shinnob, one vote.

I foresee the riding associations of established Canadian Federal parties and newly rising Federal First Nations' parties running candidates from locally represented First Nations or, perhaps, nationally recognised Native personalities.

Canada (& the USA) needs to give meaningful representation to their "Native American"/First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples. Great lip service has been paid to the sovereignty of tribes, consultation with First Nations , mutual respect and fulfillment of treaty obligations, with few concrete results: Promises made and broken, years long studies with "recommendations" that are never enacted, payments that get eaten up by lawyers, bean-counters, substandard construction and civil servants, instead of doing actual work.

Perhaps politicians are not to blame, but the system itself; constraining them from making good on "best intentions" when faced with more affluent constituencies with generous lobbyists. Having a set of MPs in The House which are less compromised by corporate influence and more informed by culture and conscience will allow Parliament to get more work done, with less BS.

And in the United States; maybe four Senate seats? North, East, South and West.

It may seem obvious that this would benefit First Nations, but how does this benefit the greater societies in which they are embedded?

-Most reservations and First Nations are located far outside of urban centres; First Nation Constituency seats would give greater voice to rural areas which are overlooked at the federal level.

-The greater part of the world's population sees North America as a near-monolithic, consuming capitalist oppressor that refuses to acknowledge its mistakes and deleterious effect upon the struggling peoples of the world. Acknowledging and empowering its own "fourth world", would go a long, long way to assuring the rest of the world that real change is possible, over here.

-New parties may be formed; widening democratic possibilities.

-Creating real economies and reliable infrastructure on reservations would go a long way to ending cultures of dependence and paternalism.

-Really, finally, settle all land claims; and move on, together.


Alright. Let me know what you think and spread the word. I need feedback and help molding what this idea might look like, in practice. More pros and cons, constitutional impediments/ ramifications, etc.
Constructive criticism, please.


Gebwáunuhse (hawk) Pics click to enlarge.






Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual, at Sentient Developments

One man's custody problem, is a culture's battle for its children.

A Native history of the Allegheny, from the Anthropik Network.

Rewild; a wiki that looks like a neoprimitivist manual for dealing with the future.
"... symbolizing a process of undoing domestication, not the endpoint of it. It may look like a woman breast-feeding her child. It may look like a group of people collecting wild edibles. It may look like someone turning off their TV for an hour a day. It may look like hanging out with your friends. It may look like refusing to pay rent or buy food. It may look like killing a deer for the first time..."

It seems like there is to be a slightly butchered version of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, being made into a film on HBO.

Sherman Alexie interview.

The ugly necklace contest.

On the Outside of America Looking In : Tim Giago.

Native artist, Doug Bell, says it is time to move on, concerning the residential school period. We'll see.


If you're a Canadian, personally invested in the arts, The Canada Council for the Arts wants your input
"... the Canada Council is working on a strategic planning exercise to inform its corporate plan for 2008-2011. By developing a strategic plan, we will identify where our energies and resources can best be focused in the immediate term."



Anonymous said...

Canada (& the USA) needs to give meaningful representation to their "Native American"/First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples.

I most certainly agree... And I also would have to agree that the deficiency is likely more a result of the system than of the politicians themselves.

Really, finally, settle all land claims; and move on, together.

I'll keep dreaming of that day too. Sorry I don't have time to offer more constructive criticism... but I do think after a quick browse of your thoughts that you have a solid, clear foundation for your idea - it's just the application that gets tricky.

Where I see hangups are all those places that politics and governments operate with built-in gridlock to slow the system. I shudder to see how long politicians could windbag over the pros and cons of four regional Native American representatives in the US.... Since it would be completely outside of the existing system for electing representatives, even a seemingly small change like that would require lots of policy rewrites and cultural shifts... none of which I shy away from, mind you, but it's easy to see how the need for a strong, vocal, "Native Vote" has persisted for so long with so much resistence.

I'll have to chew on this some more... still, it's good to read your thoughts on the subject. Have you thought about composing your thoughts as an editorial and sharing it with Indian Country... I would bet that you would garner more feedback if you could swing a bigger audience for your thoughts. ;)

Of course, art looks good as always Eric.


Hoka-shay-honaqut said...

Thanks JLB. Sure it would take a long time and would be a huge shift in the democratic systems of North America, but I can see it as an acceptable reason for essential change. I know that proportional representation in the United States is probably a pipedream; but this is the kind of change that could be sold to the system, eventually.
Pass the word.

The Local Crank said...

It's a good idea, but far more realistic in a parliamentary system like Canada's than in the United States (even though several tribes, including the Cherokee, are guaranteed delegates to Congress by treaty. The Lenape/Delaware were even offered statehood, but you see how far that got). There wouldn't be enough "Indian seats" to affect who controlled the House of Representatives, and thanks to our two party duopoly, there are no governing coalitions where small groups might form the balance of power. Any Indian representation would likely be like the non-voting delegates from Guam, American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico: irrelevant.