February 9, 2009

For All You "Dances With Dependency - Calvin Helin" Fanatics

I came across a book review of Dances with Dependency: Indigenous Success through Self-Reliance by Calvin Helin. that can be viewed here by Ethan Baptiste. I thouroughly enjoyed Ethan's breakdown by chapter of Dances with Dollars.

Let me first say, I have not read Dances with Dependency. I have been afraid to, simply because, I know I will be angry, annoyed, and fed up with it after a while resulting in me wasting my time and energy on an awful book when I already have a wicked reading list. I have heard from many people whose opinions I cherish with the utmost humility, and what I can deduce is: this book is seriously dangerous.

Perhaps you would think that my radical idealism and approach to politics would welcome such a "dangerous" book to the status-quo of reserve life. The thing that makes this book dangerous is not in the confusing thinking or assimilationist solutions, but in the possibility that indigenous people will believe in his idea's. Already the mainstream media, and government bodies have given him enough traction because his idea's espouse the same tireless thinking that has come out of those insitutions: indigenous people just need to smarten up and socially, economically, and political become apart Canadian business and politics.

Aboriginal politicans and bussinessmen I've heard from have rigourlously championed this book as new, exciting, and a breath of fresh air to support their own simple intellectual idea's of great economic development for salvation.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the book review, written by Ethan Baptiste:

There is a growing problem in consultation, both at the Band and community level. Band Councils continually object to the consultation process, lack of communication and level of involvement their own governments are subject to, within consultations with the Provincial and Federal governments and industry. However, the very same Band Councils fail to improve their own consultation policies and procedures. Instead they opt to basically subject their own community members to a reconstructed version of the model imposed on them. Furthermore, an additional tactic learned by Band Councils is the control of the media, where censorship and information is highly regulated by the band and “local newspapers are being referred to as ‘newsletter propaganda rags' sent out by some Band Councils” (154). By now, it should be clear who those Aboriginal governments model and learn from.

Wow, is this guy from the Squamish Nation because this sure sounds like the current Band Council!

I would like to take the author's discussion further. The underlying incentive to pursue the jobs-and-income approach is the direct quantitative results and statistical gains, which are both easily traceable. In contrast, the nation-building approach is one that is more difficult to gauge and qualitative in nature.

I know many eco-development junkies who espouse this but fail to think critically or wholistically, but it makes so much sense why they would fail to do so because of Euro-centric frameworks for evalutating success.

Doug Sandberg believed that “part of the problem, if not the main one, is that many Aboriginal leaders have only limited education and business experience themselves” (159). This is a valid statement but needs some qualifying. I agree that there is a problem with the lack of education in leadership, but this problem is more ideological, not accumulative, as business operations are effected more by the source of that education. I will elaborate. Many uneducated leaders enter office with no formal training in business management. Therefore, much of their education comes from mentorship of non-native business experts or, simply, trial and error. This is fine, in what Helin refers to as the “real world”, but can be detrimental to Aboriginal communities. First, the validation of such expert's knowledge is never questioned, a skill gained through formal education. Second, experts are limited to only one Eurocentric mechanistic world view and theories, such as capitalism, individuality, and exponential growth, which have been instilled through a Western education system. Third, leaders begin to accept that Indigenous knowledge is backward and primitive and that progress can only be achieved through Western frameworks. Eventually, leadership becomes susceptible to any outside expert projecting such ideals or equally complex analysis. Especially, if they are coupled with complex graphs, projections, statistics and equally frightening dialogue, wrought with complicated terminology to instill apprehension in leadership to not appear backward or primitive.

I have said before that the Squamish Nation politicans agenda at the table is not guided by public opinion, or by their constituents, but by other interests who have more resources, power, and influence on their decision making, much of which is unrecordable and unaccountable to scrutiny by the community. Laywers, consultants, and business elite guide the interests of many, if not most, of the current politicans, and yet leave their consultative process to business-like memo's to community members and authorative-approached dialogue meetings (You get the courage to stand up on the mic in front of 16 politicans, and the couple random non-nation members, sitting at a table at the front of the room and try and have...a diglouge? I'm sorry, that is not a dialogue, that is a bunch of monologues.)

For those who religiously favor Calvin Helin's "oh gee, why can't you be like us" road to success and his book Dances with Dollars, then please read this book review.

For those who haven't read Calivn Helin's book, please stay away, and instead read either this or this. You'll actually learn something important, instead of learning more ignorance.


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