State of Aboriginal Affairs …
In 2015, during this period of enlightenment, I have a Band number; #1420091701. I am a member of the Fort Albany First Nation. I live on Reserve Number 67A. Or, is it 67B? I always get the letters mixed up.
What I don’t get confused about is the fact that I live on a Reserve; A reserve that is 88 acres in size. That is a very tiny Reserv
e for a total member population of 3500+. No wonder we have members living in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, North Bay and Timmins, to name a few of the urban areas where our people have gone seeking work and education.
Education has become for us a way to exit the tiny Reserve. Not much future in a government holding cell for our members who have higher aspirations.
I, too, could not wait to graduate. At that time (1963) I needed very badly to escape from the total institution known as the St. Anne’s Residential School, which was within the bigger total institution, we still know as the Fort Albany Reserve. St. Anne’s was not a good place for a child.
My parents Abraham and Theresa, were loving, fun-loving, hard working people. My mother died two years ago. In 1963 we were living in a small house. But, that was home. Me and my dad spent many hours building it. He harvested the logs, had them converted to lumber and began to build.
Both were raised in the natural environment. As employment became available, my mother acquired work which she kept for thirty years. “(Canadian) Ranger Abraham Metatawabin is the first Ranger in Ontario to receive a clasp to his CD (Canadian Forces Decoration). The CD is awarded to those who have served 12 years in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the clasp represents additional 10 years of service.” (Anishnabek News, 01/31/2014).
Cree was spoken in the house. There was no television then. Visitors, conversation and laughter was the norm. That’s where I heard the stories. I listened to the adventures of Chakapesh, Hanaway, Ayash, Shinkapesh, Wemishoosh, Wisakejahk and many more keeping the oral history alive! It also gave me a sense belonging and ownership. My relations and elders were filling my entity with significant and sacred information.
To be a member of a Reserve in Canada or to have a Band Number meant you were represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs. This is true today. You do not have a financial identity. To start a serious business, compete for a major contract, to initiate financing, the First Nation member or a business entity must undergo serious hoops to qualify for a Ministerial guarantee. Only then will the bank give consideration.
Needless to say we live in Canada but, very separate from Canada. One day the stated terms of ‘sharing the land’ will one day come to fruition and we will sit together in the higher house discussing the good future of our country. That will be a wonderful day!