At the request of several health directors from a number of Ontario Anishinaabe First Nations in Treaty #3, Dr. Richard G. Herbert shared about modern non-native solutions to dog control issues. Inherent in that consultation was introducing modern veterinary infrastructure. Modern veterinary infrastructure is involved with maintaining quality disease-free meat supplies, zoonotic disease (ex. rabies) prevention, companion animal (dog) population control, nuisance wildlife control, farm animal production, and the prevention of animal suffering. Veterinary infrastructure does not exist for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. The absence of an Aboriginal veterinary infrastructure has left Aboriginal community members at risk from eating un-inspected wild meat and fish, exposed to preventable diseases from domestic and wild animals, in danger of dog attacks, and without the wildlife management tools to sustain and excel in traditional lifestyles; including the development of an international trade and commerce with wildlife harvest. When these Northwestern Ontario Aboriginal leaders became aware of what a veterinary infrastructure could do, three basic infrastructure programs arose: Traditional trade and commerce, dog control, and a roles infrastructure program.
As work began to move forward every barrier imaginable sprang up in front of us. All with the purpose of preventing Aboriginal people from picking up pieces and restoring their lives, communities and culture. We literally ran into Canada's policy on forced assimilation and its barriers that are embedded in Canadian law, regulations and programs. This took the focus of our work away from specific end-stage programs capable of providing solutions (such as dog control programs and traditional food safety programs) and brought us to work on rebuilding traditional Aboriginal infrastructures that are missing because of Canada's policy on forced Aboriginal assimilation (such as veterinary infrastructure upon which dog and safe food programs are based). These foundational aboriginal infrastructures need to function (harmonize) with outside jurisdictions (provincial, federal and international). Without harmonization, traditional Aboriginal infrastructures will not function to provide end-stage programs capable of solving problems (such as sustainable economic development to end poverty). Harmonization identifies and removes barriers embedded in Canada's infrastructures that withhold Aboriginal rights from being realized. This brought our work to focus on rebuilding traditional core infrastructures in harmony with Canada's infrastructures; a process that functionally reconciles Canada with its Aboriginal Peoples. Missing core infrastructures that need to be rebuilt include trade and commerce, traditional food, education, health, resource management, justice, governance and community. With these infrastructures restored, Canada's Indigenous people can live traditional lives and take their place in the global system. To accomplish the rebuilding of lost culture-based core infrastructure we needed to know indigenous culture and have a process to guide the rebuilding. That process is meaningful consultation.
Initial discussions regarding veterinary infrastructure included ensuring that traditional meat and fish diets were safe. Veterinary infrastructures provide for inspection, harvest, handling, processing, storage, packaging, shipping, and exporting protocols to ensure the safety of all animal products, including meat and fish. It was soon understood that a food inspection infrastructure would result in a food product that met retail safety standards. In this manner, a traditional food infrastructure would allow for the retail of traditional food to the economic benefit of First Nations.
A pilot program model using surplus wild deer was developed. In this model, the management, harvest, and retail of surplus wild deer meat and deer by-products in a deer rich region are used to fuel culturally-defined tribal business development. The pilot surplus wild deer harvest model is used in conference, seminar, and workshop formats to identify missing infrastructures and roles needed to rebuild a traditional trade and commerce system. In this manner, sustainable economic development can be founded on traditional law and culture. The deer harvest-management aboriginal veterinary infrastructure model framework can be reproduced with any other species of surplus or nuisance wildlife in virtually any region of Canada. These wildlife harvest-management infrastructures and the traditional business framework pioneered by them form the infrastructure for other developing aboriginal industries (banking, logging, inland fisheries, etc.).
Initial First Nation veterinary infrastructure discussions also focused on ensuring communities were safe from dog-related problems. We shared with aboriginal leaders how dog overpopulation negatively impacts community public health through dog bites, pack aggression, mauling deaths, zoonotic disease transmission, and animal suffering. Neglecting dog populations and their derivative problems has a negative psychological impact on children and is linked to subsequent violent offences within a community. Dog-related public health crises in Nation communities are a direct result of the lack of veterinary infrastructure and veterinary infrastructure-related services to First Nation communities. In Canada, there are no aboriginal humane societies or animal shelters and very limited access to animal control or veterinary services within aboriginal communities. In fact, First Nation police themselves do not have the law enforcement infrastructures necessary to enforce reserve dog control bylaws or provincial and federal dog-related legislation. Dog-related problems on First Nations reserves are so severe that on-reserve dog bite incidents are 20-100 times above Canada’s national average and children under the age of eight living on-reserve are 18,000 percent more likely to be killed by a dog then children living off-reserve.
The dog control program is the development of dog-related infrastructure services for First Nation communities that will empower them and their law enforcement agencies to control dog populations. There are two aspects to the program, interim and long term solutions. Interim solutions are community focused and hands-on. Long term solutions are regional and national in focus. Long term solutions involve consultation and development of a respectful, tradition-based, harmonized dog control program through workshop, seminar, and conference formats.
We came to realize that most First Nation groups were unable to maintain non-traditional organizations and businesses because there was no harmonization with traditional roles. Creating jobs and creating traditional roles in a sustainable economy are not the same. There are two inter-dependent streams of activity that must be undertaken for a successful transition to a sustainable economy: One (using the veterinary infrastructure as an example), the harmonized veterinary infrastructure and its industries must be prepared to GIVE to the nation. The other, the nation and its citizens must be prepared to RECEIVE the infrastructure and its industries. The giving preparation is technical. It needs a very specialized non-governmental organization (NGO) to develop missing infrastructure respective of culture, identify needed missing traditional roles, and present new infrastructure framework models into the nation when ready. The receiving preparation is an adaptive process. It is about nation citizens learning who they are in the 21st century and adapting these newly re-discovered roles into new infrastructure and its industries.
Forced assimilation resulted in the loss of aboriginal infrastructure and so aboriginal roles could not, and have not, adapted to the 21st century. Technical development can not simply build a business and train nation citizens to operate positions within the business. That formula has, and will continue to, fail. Technical development must build tradition-based businesses with modernized, adapted, traditional roles. To do this we start by activating traditional roles within existing authority structures; Elders, community and citizens, specialized councils and nation organizations, regional tribal councils, and grand councils. The key to this activation process is to consult Elders and have their guidance provided in conference, seminar, and workshop format to each of these authority structures. This is referred to as a national Elder consultation process. The feedback from each of these authority structures defines their roles in newly emerging traditional infrastructures. Once defined, roles can be incorporated in the development of infrastructure frameworks. These re-emerging traditional roles, and the Elder teachings that define them, provide a framework of roles for the infrastructure being developed. This framework of roles, the Elder teachings that define them, and the harmonized infrastructure they are part of are developed into a cultural program to shared back with the nation. This "framework of roles" provides the guide for First Nations to harmonize existing and historical aboriginal infrastructures with newly re-established modern aboriginal infrastructures. The infrastructure framework for roles coupled with a harmonized infrastructure framework provides the foundation for the reestablishment of any traditional economic or social societal structure.
© Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments
Last Updated October 8, 2017