May 17, 2008

Band Council Corruption and the 2010 Olympics

International Cry reminded me of the band council system and the ways power has changed of the years with it. What's true for many indigenous peoples is how the band council system replaced the Indian Agents. While this is kind of true, prior the Squamish Nation band council, the Christian Missionaries set up puppet-chiefs by making selected men in each of the communities chiefs. These "chieftainships" eventually merged with the culture, and created the hereditary chieftainship we have now. In 1923, these chiefs amalgamated and created the band council. Why would the government allowed a supposed "traditional" government exist at a time when they were trying to assimilate us? Well, it wasn't that traditional. Now it's traditional, because it's been in existence for nearly 100 years and many "traditions" like the hereditary chieftainship system come from it. But in 1923, a hereditary band council (doesn't that sound awful? lol) was created. It wasn't until amazingly huge amounts of corruption that a vote of non-confidence came from the membership and a elected council was put in. Not surprisingly, some of these corrupt "hereditary" chiefs got back in.

What's becoming the problem is the influx of money coming from the government or own source revenues. The more money in play, the more power exists. The more power, the more grab and fight for it. This now, a select few within the Squamish Nation have this power. Some of these people of power weren't even put in place by any of the people, but by those who hired them (the band council). Now we have more power grabbing, and consolidation of power, holding back of information from the people, all out of fear.

The 2010 Olympics is an example of this. In the early stages of the Olympics bid, there was no actual dialogue with the people. The politicians didn't seek out the people, discuss what agreeing and allowing the Olympics into our territory fully meant. Then next from this, there was no dialogue on what would be negotiated for. The lead negotiators for the band council have never talked to the people, never heard from the people, never listened to the people. Which is why unsurprisingly the Squamish Nation, and the Four Host First Nation, have negotiated diddley squat for co-operation.

One of the tactics the band council likes to use is the reference the late Joe Mathias. I'm too young to know or remember Joe, although the Mathias family and mine are closely related. Some of these politicians act like he was some sort of messiah to our people and that he always knew what was best. But Joe Mathias's dreams were not shared by all of our people. Let alone that, from what I know about him, of his protégé's, and of what he was, if he was still around, the corruption will still continue and he would be in it with the rest of them. Hard to say because you can't argue with the dead, but pulling this tactic of trying to somehow convince us a dead leader wanted is odd. Did he want this corruption? Did he want nepotism?

If we call upon this supposed “vision” of his, what of other ancestors and their “vision” for the future. Did our ancestors die, bleed, and struggle, so we can become capitalists? They wanted us to raise children to dream of working for multi-national corporations that feed off accumulation of wealth. To dream of being millionaires, showing our excess of wealth to our neighbors and families. To dream of individualistic manipulation of culture for ones own wants and needs. They want to pull "this person dreamed" card, what the people now have never heard of that dream, and maybe they don't agree with it.

Now that we have passed the 2 year countdown mark, I'm being told that a few million dollars are coming our way, to the Squamish Nation. The main components of the Olympics were things like Sports and Culture, Business and Tourism, and Lands. There was a notice in the awful flyer that is put out in Squamish Nation reserves about the 2010 Sports and Cultural fund. Community and sports groups from Squamish or Lil'wat can apply for up to 1'000$ for cultural or recreational use. There was also things like the wood taken from the Eagle Ridge Bluffs was given to the Squamish Nation and the carvers are having a go at it. Then there was the Olympian land deal in Whistler for a few hundred fee simple hectares. Some things being proposed for this land is condos, a golf course, and parking lots. Expected to make millions apparently.

Then there is of course the politics around this. In the early staged I mentioned, it was a few politicians of the 16 member council that went for the Olympics. They went back to the council, and they voted and approved. I think it was unanimous, but I'm not sure. Following this, there were half a dozen or more "agreements" signed between VANOC, Provincial government, and Four Host First Nations. All these different agreements related to different areas in what the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation were negotiating for. Note though that none of these agreements were discussed with the people, nor have any of the people seen these documents. Perhaps only the politicians involved, their staff, and a few other staff technicians.

Then we have the blatant cultural appropriation with things like the Olympics mascots, or more recently the disgusting disrespect for our people in giving native names to four different VANOC board members. The ceremony to do this was done in closed doors, out from the public, away from the community, and no one even knew about it. Everyone learned about it from the mainstream news sources.

Along with this, different politicians, their families and friends, and some high ranking staff, have enjoyed the pleasure of traveling to Athens, Beijing, Germany, New York, and a few other places. The Band Council of the Squamish Nation pays some of these trips for, while corporations related to the Olympics pay for other trips. Corporations like Four Seasons and such. When the budgets do come out for Squamish Nation expenditures, these kinds of travel arrangements are left out. Let alone the "honorarium" they receive from these engagements. Here is where moneys not coming through the normal Squamish Nation channels. Some of these politicians get paid from other sources, like VANOC, or other corporations. But the people will never know.

All in all, all this money, all this prestige, all this corruption, has greatly damaged my people. Never in my extremely short lifetime have I seen this much corruption and disregard, nor have I heard of it every being this bad before. Things are really ugly. So if you want to put a face to "No Justice on Stolen Land", put a face to what this 2010 Olympics has caused. What this will mean for our future progeny and the legacy we leave them of lands developed, culture non-existent or has just become co-opted by colonial forces (Aboriginal tourism, marketing, economic development), a governance that's corrupt up the wazoo, and a nation in shambles.

This is the Olympics dream.


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