Friday, January 31, 2014

Elite Indians versus Grass Root Indians.

There is a lot of talk and an on going tit for tat on the internet (Facebook) regarding the war between the Indian Elite and the Indian Grassroots.  In a couple of my earlier posts I touched on the subject of the Indian Elite.  Of course I did one post tongue in cheek in a way to make light of the complex issue of identity.

Now you have the Indians  accusing each other of not doing right. The fight has turned into a fight of the have's and the have not's. There are  people like the  Honourable Justice Murry Sinclair, the current Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (for Indian Residential Schools) taking on Ogichidaa Jo Seenie of Roseau River First Nation. A classic picture of the well do to do and the day by day Indians.

In an earlier post I spoke on the University of Winnipeg speaking engagement of Mr. Phil Fontaine, former Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief. I have to say that it has caused quite an out pour of opinions and emotions regarding the cancellation of the event or disruption (which every you prefer to call it). Even the president of the University, Mr. Lloyd Axworthy, (former Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada) came out swinging against the people like Jo Seenie (the protesters).

Jo Seenie is a self professed Keeper of Mother Earth and an Ogichidaa. Ogichidaa is a peace keeper/warrior for the people. Jo Seenie has be very active most of her life following a path to protect the Land and stand with the people, Anishinaabeg. Jo Seenie is not well to do in terms of wealth.  She does have a very supportive group of Women (and men) that share the same ideals as she does. They are determined to have Indian people respected and heard. Jo Seenie has some strong Grassroots friends: Chickadee Richard, Shannon Buck, Judy Da Silva, Cheryl James and others.

It is easy to be upset when things don't go according to plan. No one really likes controversy or confrontation. With Justice Sinclair it is understandable for him to be upset and to attack (be it in a passive aggressive style of using the Traditional Teaching to slap someone) the protesters (as they are called, as it was an act of protest). After all Fontaine is one of Sinclair's contemporaries. They are both successful Indian people that have made a good life in the main stream society. Both have been accused of being a Apple. Apple is a derogatory term used to chastise Indians that "seem" to be less Indian than other Indians. White on the inside and red on the outside. A very nasty remark to any Aboriginal person. So the attack on Mr. Fontaine could be an attack (in the eyes) on all successful main stream Indians. The other thing is it natural to take up for your friend. That is what friends do. It is not a bad thing at all.

The thing is (as in many fights) the root of the issue takes a backward step. In this case it is not about the issue any more. It is about the characters involved. It has become a fight of individuals. The so called Grassroots taking on the Elites.  The Elites (all though they may not call themselves by that term) battling back against the protesters. What does that accomplish? 

And there is the further divide now. We have well meaning well to do Indians being attacked? Why because they are doing well in their circles? The not as well off Indians starting to feel superior to the well to do's simply because they don't have as much wealth as they do? It becomes a game of identity bashing. You know?  Like we are more Indian because we are right here on the ground while you are right there in the clouds! I don't think it is constructive or accomplishes much when we divide ourselves even more than we are.

It gets to the point as to how can we gain an edge in this society when we battle within ourselves?  A stronger front if we stick to the issue/problem. I know that is pollyanna way to thinking but there is some truth there.

I'm like all of you there, I see myself in a group. I want to belong. We all do. It gets to that we can be very judgmental of others if they don't fit in our "group", or what we perceive is our group. We may think that someone is not as good or is as not as kind or is not one of us because of their situation.  Give you an example. Mr Bill Wilson  is a very well known and outspoken First Nations man. He can never be thought of as an Apple.  He has made a career for being a strong Indian man who fights for Native issues.Mr. Wilson has been successful. He is an Indian. Could it be said that his children are not as Indian as him. After all they are the children of a "real" Indian, regardless of his financial or political status? His children presumably grew up different than he did, most likely in a well to do household? Are they less in tune with the Earth, the People?  I don't know?  See, that is what happens when we put more labels on ourselves. We can see the daughters of Mr. Wilson as privileged. Not really understanding the way it is for most of the Indian population in Canada. Being poor, being marginalized and so on.

However, at the same time we know that we can lose touch with our environment, our families if we stray to far. In our Reserve we have a couple that have won fifty million bucks. Can you imagine?  If it were me I would probably be in a far warmer climate. Not these people, they still are in the Reserve, go figure that one out? 

I am happy for people that make in this world, after all we have so much that don't. I am also grateful for the people with their feet on the ground. The warriors, the protesters, the workers, the Helpers, the Mom and Dads. Our Indian society has many different kinds of people. Even some of the wealthy can be Ogichidaa. Even the one with humble means can have a strong voice.

So go ahead people argue and take up for your friend, that is what friends are suppose to do, but try to keep the issue in the front of the fight. We only get side tracked by putting our cousins down. 


I think what the Grassroots people have done is necessary. Like I said in my early post, it is not about the individual it is much larger than that. It is about the long term future of our relatives, our children and their children. Nothing can get much bigger than that or nothing can get much more personal. 

Not sure how to label the protesters without using labels?  So I used the label grassroots. :)  Wild eh? 


  1. the struggle is not between the have's & the have nots... it's about the grassroots & warriors doing what it takes to save the waters from further destruction by the gas/oil industry...which btw Fontaine represents..

  2. There is another struggle with the so called "elites" and the so called "grassroots", and that is in mainstream society...this whole situation is about the future of all children...the elites need their money to maintain their elite lifestyle, and the country of America needs to keep that lifestyle up with the consumption of goods from the situation...the thing is both elites and grassroots are going to suffer from the problems of the situation both in Native country and in White country if we don't do something about it...the elite have been greedy enough for what they profit from for such a select lifestyle...grassroots also benefit from that to a smaller degree...but the problem is we all have to change our lifestyle for the future of all of the children, it involves everyone...for poor people we already know what its like to be without, but for those that have had it easier than others, your children or grandchildren will be the ones to have no choice in the future...having less so that the future is brighter for children of the future will not be easy for the elite to make, because they have not sacrificed in today's world, or understand that lifestyle is what requires consumption...can all of society work together so that our future looks hopeful...can we find new ways of dealing with consumption without risking our earth further...that's a great challenge for all...

  3. I think most people in general are having a hard time with the elites of society. I am happy that Indians make in this world. I think we should not forget our cousins as well. Many people, general society think they are part of the main stream and benefit from the real elite. They don't realize that the super elite are not concerned with their well being. If that were the case we would have much more research and commitment to the long term of the Earth. More alternative methods of fuel consumption and the like.