January 6, 2009

Diving In Deeper

Searching for the "Need" In My Community

With the rise of success in capitalist business for First Nations, some of the indigenous communities where those First Nations are have experienced some offsetting effects. It could be apart of a larger systemic issue of bad governance, but it could also be tied to the nature of 'capitalism'- or both. Either way, it's manifesting in a type of individualism that shrouded in a veil of traditionalism and a gluttony in a "what they can (or should) do for me" ethic.

The individualism, which I see as a subcategory of capitalism, comes when self-guided interests guides individuals for their own, or very limited, benefit. That self interested approach is sometimes connected to our traditions, customs, and cultural knowledge in a way to prop themselves up and supplant others. Now we have a cultural elitism that pervades through the community where there isn't a successful succession of knowledge, empowerment, and traditions being passed on in a fluid of continuing motion. There's also this tactics, whether conscience or unconscious I don't know, where a person with cultural knowledge holds, not sharing it, for themselves. It's unfortunate, but in the elitism, you have to be from the right family to be apart of the culture.

As a community that's in a First Nation that exceeds a budget of $41 million, you would think it would be a 'progressive' nation ushering creative and innovative ways to combat the social issues, while at the same time promoting it's people in all area's. Far from the truth with the shiny but decaying Squamish Nation. As a community, we have made many leaps forward with community and individual health, as well as major accomplishments in cultural revival. It goes without mention, but there are still things like language loss, land return, education, alcohol and drug addictions, violence against women, corruption and embezzlement, youth self-esteem, intergenerational trauma, and assimilation, as well as a several of other issues that are still present in my community.

What could you do with 41 million dollars?

During the referendum on the Kistilano Land Settlement, which included 92.5 million dollars, it was outlined the priorities for how the money should be spent. Although the band council didn't agree with the creation of a Trust, instead wanting the $93.5 million to be moved into general source revenue, some of the main priorities for the Squamish Nation Trust were Housing, Land Return, Economic Development, and a few others. Housing is a big one for my people.

As of right now, every year (or so years) around 15 houses are built for Squamish Nation members. When you turn 18, you can place your name on the housing list, when your name comes up, you get $120,000 to built your new house on the assigned lot. If anyone drives over the Lion's Gate Bridge, you'll see major housing developments. Here is a google image of the reserve as of late. The idea is that eventually it will mostly become housing. This housing initiative has been going on since the mid 70's. The housing list also topples 1000 members. You sign up now, you'll get a house when your an elder.

In my search of conversations that need to happen, it brought me to the question of "What is the needs in my community?". For the most part, because of the ineffective and inefficient governance system for program and service delivery, as well as support for community initiative, the people are left to fight for their needs. The same gluttonous and individualism that exists helps this "Go for what I can get" sentiment. We neither have the space, not the mindset to discuss what each of our needs as a community are, commit to working together to address those needs, and work in wise and creative action plans to succeed, both short and long-term.

The immediate response to "What do you see as the need in our community?" is sometimes "Housing!". If we were to peer further into this, I wonder what other "needs" are deeper in this. Perhaps things like a need for community, a need for a home, a need to return home when they've never lived on the reserve before, a need to become involved and interest in finding their identity, don't have the initiative or education to attain the income they want or need to live in a house to their lifestyle, or a need to raise a family in a good environment. Those are all deeper issues then "I want my damn house!", and can be addressed in multiple ways then simply providing a family, individual, or otherwise with $120,000 to build their own house.

The need, when broken down, goes to the heart of the community issues. It's when we as responsible community members see what the common needs are we can collectively work together to address those issues.

Housing is just one example. I have my own take on the "needs" that "need" to be addressed, but don't know what others take on the same question is. Perhaps if people are interested in finding this out, approach me and we can work together to organize something in a way to gauge community interests and need, then self-organize around the common issues. I can't be alone in my thoughts forever, otherwise it will lead to self-destruction at the lack of growth or change. Do you want to see change in our community? Then let's damn do something about it.

Enough said.
by Rivers on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 |


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