I remember how the police used to seem to us on the Reserve. They were not our friends. They were considered mean. I had the opportunity to go to the Powerview high school in 1976 and 1977. Powerview is a small town not too far from our Reserve. I didn't mind going to that school. We made some friendly acquaintances with some of the people in school. Never went to socialize with them outside of school. Anyway the kids used to talk about the weekends. As most teenagers do, there had been some drinking on the weekend. This kids in Powerview talked about getting driven home by the police. On the Reserve that didn't happen. The only real relationship with the police was the one where you tried not to let them catch you. I had numerous drinking under age charges. With the court system at the time (and may be still that way) you were suppose to have your parents or guardian accompany you to court. We didn't really do that. I just went and pleaded guilty on those occasions and took a fine. Not all the police in Powerview were considered bad. A number of them were pretty good people. There were a number of Native police officers that treated the community very well and treated the people decently, with respect and kindness. Strongquill, Munroe, Wilson are just a few names that stand out. Sadly not all the police behave in the professional manner.
I think the reason for this is the environment that the police come into. The town's people are not that close to the Reserve community. There are two town's that border the Reserve, Pine Falls and Powerview. Pine Falls was private industry town for many years. The main industry in the area was the paper mill. The paper mill was the town of Pine Falls. Sagkeeng and Pine Falls were not close neighbours in the get along sense. However, some of the land that Pine Falls sits on is Reserve land. I think the town's culture influences the RCMP's view of the community. In addition the police officer meets people at their worse, so that skews their view even more. In any case the police does not have a relationship with the Reserve community, except as the odaapinigewininwag, (the men who take them away).
I had the opportunity to talk with the Sergeant of the Powerview RCMP detachment this summer. He is Brian Jack. I asked him about the relationship of the police and the community. "How come we never see the police having coffee at our restaurants? How come they never take part in the activities of the community?" I brought up the issue of gangs and how they do not represent any of the people in the community The Sergeant told me they were working towards a good relationship with the Reserve. He also said that he was speaking with the Chief about the gang situation in the Reserve.. I am not sure how realistic this is as one of our Councilors has very close family ties with active gang members in and out of the community. I imagine the police know this and would not be willing to let the Chief and Council know of their initiatives regarding the gang membership in our community. Lot of people are related or are friends and acquaintances of gang members. It makes for a difficult situation for the police to infiltrate and eradicate. There have been no major arrests of drug dealing in the community.
Not too long ago a friend and acquaintance was arrested in the community. He is a local businessman that owns and operates a hunting supply shop, White Wolf Hunting Supplies. This fellow, Cory is a very nice guy. He does a valued community service by providing gun safety instruction and administers the license requirements for gun owners. In Canada there is a law that prohibits people from gun possession or gun acquisition unless they are licensed. Prior to Cory offering this service, most of the Reserve members were in breach of the law.Cory has provided community members with local access and instruction of the license process.
The police acting on a tip said that Cory was a gang member and was providing guns for gang members. They raided his home, his place of business and have revoked his license. His stock has been seized and he can not conduct business as either a sales person or a safety trainer or a license provider.
He is in a battle to clear his name. Problem is this will take a lot of time. He will most likely lose his business. He will win his charges, but the damage to his reputation has been done. The police admitted to the news that none of the guns seized were illegal. It is likely the police have been provided gossip information about Cory. The nature of Reserves and the Indian factor. Community members can be very jealous of someone doing well in the community. Instead of wishing them well, Reserve members will hope for them to fail. That is the reality of a Reserve. Cory is just another casualty of a hurtful entity and individual. The police instead of investigating just go for the easy kill.
One of the things about police is that they paint everyone with the same brush. The Natives gangs make it difficult for everyday Native people to go about their daily lives. The reputation of gangs falls on the majority of Native people. What are the police going to do? Well they will treat everyone like a criminal and let the courts deal with it. It doesn't matter to them. Doesn't matter if an innocent person's life is in a shambles.
This is where the leadership of our community has to stand up. They have to make sure the police are doing their job responsibly. They have to make sure the community is not poisoned by gang activity.
However, the situation remains one where the police push forth with harassment of regular folk in the Reserve; the Chief and Council of the Reserve allows gang culture to putrefy the rest of the community.