November 23, 2008

Findings of the Band Council Meetings

Every Wednesday, the 16 elected band councilors of the Squamish Nation meet to pass motions put forward by staff, the community, or councilors themselves. They operate on Roberts Rule of Order. Community members are allowed to attend, unless Council motions and passes to have an "in-camera" session. I attended last Wednesday's meeting, and here are my findings. :)


There is a disconnection between some politicians from the grassroots community level, in huge ways. The positions or views expressed from some councilors made it apparent to me when they discussed the issue and what their concerns, thoughts, and idea’s were regarding issues. The paradigm they followed showed this disconnect and don’t think where the people come from, don’t think about what the people will see on the issue. Their time on council (read: many terms) has created this disconnection.

Council members who hold high ranking Staff or Department Head positions have more power then their elected colleagues. A handful of councilors hold staff and department head positions, and they are all senior members of council. Control of finances within their department, the knowledge and information coming from their staff position, or weight in decision making in what will or won’t do are all indicators they consolidated power within themselves. This balance of power is unequal on the council table, and has not been determined by the people. They are able to control and dominate more of the Squamish Nation.

Newly elected council members worked to create change from the status-quo and founded new policy within the Squamish Nation, but this same policy can be thrown out when, it seems like, the senior councilors want to.

Decision making, dialogue around issues, research, and power dynamics in Band Council governance is not known by the general community. The people that know how the band council works are the ones who work within that system. For the 60 something people who run every 4 years in the elections, all but the current or past council members know how the system works. Our people don’t know and didn’t decide how our own governance works. Who created or choose to operate on this system? It sure as hell wasn’t the people. 

The system that they operate under is following oppressive colonialism values. The voice of opposition is not respected, is silenced, or discounted quite quickly. There is no open discussion around the issue at hand and those who offer any kind of dissent on an issue are scorned for their “malcontent” behavior. Thus, if you put something forward strong enough, fast enough, efficiently enough, it can be passed through without any kind of open discussion around the issue. Even if what is being proposed is an extremely bad idea, or even if it’s something morally wrong like helping support corruption, benefiting individuals with nation resources, or consolidating power within a few. So what the established politicians want is for you to be silence and agree with their genius plan. You are not supposed to voice out concern, because that is bad. Geeez, why does this sound like Residential School to me. 

Money is the major force on the council. The majority of the band council’s time, energy, resources, and innovation is spent on money. This detrimentally determines the focus of the 4 year term politicians and means a greater part of their focus is not on issues the community want addressed. Issues like homes, language loss, community violence, health, and education. If they changed their focus in time and energy to the issues, there could be more change within our community. I am not speaking of simply forming a committee and discussing the issue, but putting wise thinking into wise action. That they actually work on the ground to change the issues at hand. 

Some councils view the people are a group of whinny cry baby’s who just complain, complain, complain. This arrogance was apparent among some of the council members in the way they viewed the community’s voice on issues. I found this view to be quite startling because it means they are so arrogant, anything the community addresses or shows concern about, is disregarded or overlooked. This reminded me of the same arrogance shown from senior council members shown to the newer councilors.

The last thing I discovered after this meeting is that the levels of corruption, the power dynamics between band councilors and some senior staff is weak and unstable. That is all I will say about this. ;-) :-)


Attended last week’s Band Council meeting was a great experience for me. Observing the Band Council was a revealing and a learning experience for me. The irony, hypocrisy and the "special" treatment of "special" individuals was revealing. Learning how they work will help me understand the massive system at work that is causing so many problems for my people, when something so much better is possible and achievable. After last weeks meetings, I’ve decided I will be attending every meeting I can between now and the Winter Holiday Break, with weekly updates on my findings. I also highly suggest any our people from my community to join me and attend. Come see for yourself how it works.

Till next week,
Dustin Rivers
Aboriginalism Systems Specialist Consultant


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