Real issues related to identity, culture and unity

To the Expositor:

This is in response to Andrea McGraw’s article in the Wednesday October 26 issue of the Manitoulin Expositor (‘Leadership must be based on accountability, page 4). I can, and do, appreciate Andrea McGraw’s perspective regarding Joe Hare and his election. I know that many can understand her viewpoint. However, her perspective can be viewed as a limited glimpse into a grassroots Indigenous perspective based on a degree of nepotism and bias. The issues, I am afraid, are a little more important than the rendition provided by my good friend, Andrea McGraw.

The issues have much to do with maintaining identity and culture. However, due to colonial interference, many of our people including our leaders have lost a great degree of traditional knowledge (TK) including traditional governance. Having said this, some First Nations do in fact have custom election codes which govern community elections. The issue here is that not all election codes are based on TK and governance. Sadly and unfortunately, such codes are nothing more than an extension of the Indian Act. Of course, one has to be familiar with the Indian Act to come to that conclusion. If such codes were approved by the department of Indian Affairs—as were M’Chigeeng’s codes—then such codes must have been in-line with the Indian Act. Calling such codes “custom” does not make them “Indian” anymore than calling the Indian Act “Indian.” There is absolutely nothing “Indian” about such codes or the Indian Act, for that matter. I would gladly debate with anyone who would argue otherwise. As a proud but educated member of the Anishnabek nation and former M’Chigeeng governance committee member, I consider myself to be very familiar with the governance issues of M’Chigeeng. Effective governance remains an ongoing issue with the M’Chigeeng Anishnabek, in my opinion.

In addition to identity and culture, the issue of “unity” is ultimately an important perspective as we enter the new millennium. In the end, and as far as unity is concerned, there is no room for nepotism or bias, which are “service to self” perspectives. These create division and social fissures that only serve to tear at the social fabric of a once politically proud and well organized Indigenous society. It is precisely because of the Indian Act, nepotism and bias that these political but viable social systems disintegrated into the dysfunctional socio-political units that are now characteristic of many of our Anishnabek communities. I am saddened and disheartened that such a contemporary confused state of being has permeated the hearts and minds of many of my people. This in light of the fact that such confusion was never part of the Anishnabek worldview orientation or identity.

I would like to challenge Ms. Andrea McGraw to provide information that would increase our knowledge and respect for the issues, minus the criticism and bias. Having an open mind is key. Spending more time on a “service to others” perspective will go a lot further than spending that same time on a “service to self” orientation. I say this respectfully and appreciate Ms. McGraw’s comments.

Patrick Corbiere

Birch Island