Perhaps a vengeful fallacy, perhaps a sentiment we're raising our children to believe... Growing up in western Canada, where the history of natives is long, and the recent attempts of reconciliation strong, the division between the white man and the First Nations people is glaringly apparent. It worries me, that such distinction is forced upon people, of whom the vast majority were not alive for the events of imperialism and oppression which justify the modern situation.

Because your great-great-grandfather did nasty things to his great-great-grandfather, they don't have to pay taxes.

Sorry.

But hey, it doesn't give them any sort of advantage. Those innocent descendants of aboriginals, despite being treated better than myself, getting all sorts of freebies, are still doing much worse. A native reservation, from my naive caucasian eyes, looks much worse for wear than any other neighbourhood in Vancouver I can think of.

And so, even as I cringe for stepping over a line of political correctness, as I shudder that I dare bring up such a fiery topic, I must ask the question,

Should indigenous people be treated better than you or me?

Those who don't want to take some responsibility for the sins of their colonist ancestors should think about forfeiting their inheritance of the wealth and privilege those sins made possible. And I'm not just talking about individual family wealth; there's social wealth in the form of public infrastructure, universities, hospitals, and the like, which have been developed thanks to the wealth of stolen land, designed to benefit primarily (often exclusively) the descendents of the colonists. A collective will to forfeit (some) of that inheritance would result in moderate reparations to descendents of the colonized.

Your ancestors doing horrible things doesn't make you a worse person than anyone else. But distancing yourself from their acts, while refusing to relinquish anything that you've gained from those acts is reprehensible.


m_turner:
Almost any idea taken to its extreme can be made to look ridiculous. Unlike your examples, we are talking about identifiable groups of living people, and crimes that didn't start all that long ago (especially in the terms you have set) and are still going on. It's possibly debatable whether they're still going on in the U.S. and Canada, but they are certainly many living people who were subjected to genocidal policies. I know native americans from New Mexico my own age whose parents were forced into a boarding school system that was designed to destroy native american culture, where they were harshly punished for speaking their native languages.

I don't think there's any credible group seriously suggesting that white people should leave North America, or anything remotely like it. But is it too much to ask that we acknowledge that Native Americans (and African Americans, latinos, and asian americans too for that matter) have been wronged and deserve a bigger piece of our collective wealth and privilege? And then we can reasonably discuss what steps can be made to create improved conditions for groups that have been (and still are) discriminated against, equal opportunity, and better inter-ethnic relations.

Your argument that "At one time or another, every culture has moved into the territory of another culture and taken it for themselves," doesn't justify anything. Just about every culture in history has enslaved their enemies, killed religious heretics, persecuted homosexuals, and believed that mental illness was caused by supernatural possession.

You are correct that putting a monetary value on the damages is difficult. How much? Who owes it? Who is owed? But there are many choices between 'trivial' and enough to 'bankrupt nations'. And, by the way, I don't think the groups asking for reparations consider their proposals 'trivial'.

Some 35,000 years ago, there was a race known as Homo Sapiens neanderthalensis. Where they are today, we don't know. One possibility is that Homo Sapiens Sapiens (modern man) took their land and territory and simply out competed the Neanderthals for resources. Another possibility is that the sapiens waged a war of genocide against Neanderthals and killed them all. We don't know if either of these is actually what happened or if it just turns out that sapiens out-sexed them and our genes won.

Whatever the case, there are no Neanderthals alive today (unless you try to count football and hockey teams).

If it turns out that sapiens did indeed do horrible things to the neanderthalensis, we owe them and their legacy big time. Most all of Europe should be ceded over as a graveyard and historical museum park in the memory of these gentle giants.

Likewise, all resources that we have collected from Europe should be returned with interest. This is stolen land from the indigenous people of Europe! And yet, we sit here in our modern day and age, and look back upon the sins of our ancient ancestors. It does not matter if we distance ourselves from these acts - we are not better or worse for it. Anything short of relinquishing the whole of Europe to the memory of the neanderalensis is reprehensible.


We are the Borg
We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
You will be assimilated.
Resistance is futile.

Unfortunately, this is the logical extreme of repartitions. At one time or another, every culture has moved into the territory of another culture and taken it for themselves. However high and noble our ideals are, there is some of the Borg in everyone - be it one 'primitive' tribe taking the land or women from another, or colonists moving out from one place to another. Do the 'native' Canadians who are descended from Viking explorers owe a debt of some sort to the people who got to Canada first over a Siberian land bridge? If it turns out that the Kennewick Man comes from an earlier migration, do the 'indigenous' (if it turns out that Kennewick Man comes from a different culture that predates that of Native Americans) people of North America owe a debt of some sort to the Ainu which he closely resembles? For that matter, should much of Japan be ceded back to the Ainu who were absorbed by the Yayoi-Japanese by 100 AD?

The slope of repartitions of some sort for wrongs of our ancestors is a very slippery one to walk on. Especially as history continues to be uncovered to show waves of migrations and lost cultures.

In many cases it is impractical to try to put a monetary value upon the land, life, and culture. And when such a value is found it is either trivial or an amount that would bankrupt nations.

What we can do going forward is help people preserve the culture that they do have, and make sure that we do not make the same mistakes again - that we respective the native life on this planet and others.


Answering the question of native rights with rage only repeats the mistakes of the past - "give me" is so selfish and does little to repair the mistakes of the past.

Instead, we must learn about and respect other cultures. Preserve and understand those cultures and ways of life that are dying. To allow them to be forgotten would be the greatest tragedy.

Write about the songs and stories of your people. If you don't know any, go to your elders, rabbi or priest - much of what they do is learn about and preserve the old ways and the traditions that they represent.

The Native American culture is full of stories that are being forgotten and songs that aren't sung. Tell of the dances and the meaning. Sing the songs and tell others what the words mean so they too can feel the beat of the drum in their hearts.

African Americans have many heros of civil rights - often people in the family. Tell their story. Write about their bravery and actions. Don't let people forget. There are many people whose place in history is slowly being forgotten and their contributions lost.

This goes for immigrants also. The Jewish people have a long history that some try to obscure. Many families have a person who was a part of the Holocaust - tell their story.

To go around demanding a piece of what has been taken in the past, while your culture may have every right to ask for it often leads to more tension rather than satisfaction.

If you happen to be a new steward of the land that you now live on, learn about the history of it and share that history with all.

Everything2 is a wonderful place to tell others about your history. Don't do it with rage, for that does little to foster understanding.

Don't ask who is to blame, but rather look to see how we can share what we do have now while keeping the old ways alive in our hearts.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.