Intentioned disease transmission, forced relocations, residential schools, the Indian Act, and a complete disregard for Indigenous rights, jurisdiction and soveriegnty were tools used to destroy cultures and colonize. While I would like to write that colonization and Indigenous forced assimilation is over in Canada, it is not. Assimilation will continue until colonists win or Indigenous Peoples rebuild. At this time, colonial infrastructures for education, health care, justice, food, resource management, commerce and economic development have replaced Indigenous infrastructure counterparts, preventing modern Indigenous community infrastructures from developing on Indigenous jurisdiction and law. This is a type of “silent genocide,” a slow death of traditional ways where the only visible alternative to provide and care for one’s family is through colonial institutions. Today, many Indigenous communities cry out for mines and logging so they too can have jobs, have an economic infrastructure; but at what cost? These are jobs in a colonized society. To have them, First Nations simply have to stop being who they were created to be. I am not suggesting that Indigenous communities should not develop their resources, if they choose, or receive revenue from use of their land and resources. But, there is a way to move forward in a sustainable, respectful way that does not exlude traditional leaders or Creator-based ways.
By 1998, I gained awareness of this silent “cultural” genocide and began to refocus my skills towards alternatives to cultural genocide. I am a professional with a broad education. However, there were no courses on rebuilding culturally-based infrastructures destroyed in Canada through genocide of Indigenous Peoples; this knowledge comes from within and is honed by experience. I have spent over sixteen years learning and in discussion, teaching, developing and pursuing funding with Indigenous communities and traditional leaders. An objective is clear: Rebuild destroyed infrastructures in today’s global society on a foundation of Immemorial rights and traditional law, jurisdiction and sovereignty to provide benefits to Indigenous Peoples without loss of culture. For those who already understand this objective, it is not about turning back a clock, it is about moving forward.
I became involved in developing a cultural process through which missing First Nation infrastructure could be re-discovered, defined, developed and built. These rebuilt infrastructures will respect traditional Indigenous law and customs while harmonizing with outside municipal, provincial, federal and international law and customs. Restored and reconciled Indigenous traditional infrastructures will allow First Nations to take their place in a global community and achieve self-determination.
"After Healing", Kaska Carving, YT
I found the cultural process I was looking for. It was carried by traditional Elders/leaders and lay dormant waiting to be called upon. I now work through a charity I founded, Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments (CAID), to help rebuild traditional infrastructure destroyed by a Canadaian policy of forced assimilation. As I advanced in my understanding, I realized First Nations needed capacity to organize and initiate rebuilding processes and chose to provide that capacity.
I learned that a need for Indigenous administrative capacity was an insurmountable barrier in remote, or isolated, traditional groups and communities. Some community leaders noted a need for proposal writers and governance executive directors, but administrative capacity to move large projects is much more than that. Administrative needs start with data management systems plus capacity to use that information to provide support for traditional and community leaders to engage in informed decision-making and goverance. However, every infrastructure (health, education, resources, and more) requires its own functioning administrative system to support leaders in decision-making, management in developing service infrstructure and staff in program delivery.
Canada may have recognized Aboriginal and Treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, but they have not recognized Indigenous sovereignty, jurisdiction and Immemorial rights. Canadian government officials are mortified over Indigenous Peoples moving forward on Immemorial rights towards true self-determination. However, Canadian officials must not be afraid of rebuilt traditional infrastructures that affirm Immemorial rights when there is room in Canada to include Indigenous jurisdiction.
Dr. J. Richard G. Herbert
© Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments