Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tetlas on TV

There's a TV show that includes a segment about tetlas that's going to be on tomorrow (Sunday March 17, 2013) and seven times during the course of the following week.

Meaghie Champion was interviewed by Jack Etkin, the host of a TV show called Citizen Forum on Shaw cable channel 4.

The interview was taped a few days ago and seemed to go very well. The web address of the tetla website (at was mentioned prominently. Here's the schedule of when it's going to be on:

On Channel 4 in Victoria and Saltspring
Sunday (March 17, 2013) at 10:00 AM and 9:30 PM
Monday (March 18, 2013) at 11:00 PM
Tuesday (March 19, 2013) at 5:00 PM
Thursday (March 20, 2013) at 4:00 PM
Saturday (March 21, 2013) at 11:30 AM and 11 PM
If you don't see it when it's on TV, you'll be able to see it on the internet.

More Than Protesting

More Than Protesting
What Can Be Done

By Meaghie Champion

We've protested and we've protested. The protests have gotten larger and more frequent, but still there has been very little response from the Canadian government. They haven't even repealed bill C-45. Many of us are asking, "What more can we do?"

There are some ideas. Block more highways? More ferry terminals? More railroads? Blockade the border crossings? Occupy government buildings? Build a village in the path of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline? Build a village on the lawn of the parliament building? More hunger strikes? Something even more confrontational?

Idle No More has grown from four women and a twitter account into a major international movement. We haven't gotten the Canadian government to do anything except another pointless meeting. Yet we have the attention of the media and the public in Canada and large parts of the rest of the world. United Nations officials have publicly advised Canada to deal with us fairly.

We have made history already, but at this point, we need a strategy for what to do next. Many of us could and would keep protesting day after day for years if necessary, but we might not hold the attention of the world if we do. We probably could not keep the number of people participating in the protests going up unless there is some sign that we are going somewhere with this. Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems determined to give no indication that anything will ever really change.

He'll meet with chiefs. He'll say some words to the media. But he is doing what governments usually do when faced with opposition: refuse to admit they have ever made any mistake in their entire lives and carry on.

One reason they can get away with this is that the whole idea of a political struggle between protestors and government is completely one-sided in favor of the government. To keep the protests going, the Idle No More movement has to mobilize and coordinate thousands of protestors to keep holding protests. It is a significant effort. What does government have to do? A few guys raised their hands to vote for C-45. That's all. If thousands of people protest for months sometimes in freezing weather, risking arrest, the government might, maybe, repeal bill C-45. Or part of it so they don't have to admit the whole thing was a mistake. Then, when the protestors go away, they can just pass it again under a new name. They have to raise their hands one time. We have to mobilize thousands of people for months.

There's a reason they think they can outlast us. Protesting only brings victory if the government gives in and does something. Government doesn't have to convince us to do anything. They can vote for bills and we can't stop them. They can implement the bills and we can protest while they implement them anyway.

We need a strategy that reverses this. What if protestors were not trying to get the government to take action? What if, instead, the protestors themselves were carrying out the action we want done? Then, if the government did what it usually does and just waited for the protestors to go away, the protestors win. We would have successfully carried out what we wanted done.

Whether this is much of a victory depends a lot on what the protestors want done and how long we can keep doing it. After all, the protestors can't protest all day every day. Eventually people have to go home. People have to go to work or go to school or take care of their kids. Regular life calls.

Government officials are getting paid to do what they do. They can do it all day every working day. Protestors are taking time away from the things they normally do. Protestors are suspending their normal life to oppose government. Government officials carry on regardless because what they are doing IS their normal life. The way this works almost guarantees that the government can just wait and the protestors will go away. Maybe a few homeless activists can camp out somewhere 24/7, but not hundreds of people or thousands or more.

We need to change this situation. To do this, we need two things:

1) We need a way that if the government ignores the protests, then we win.
2) We need a way that protests can continue all day, every working day.

The way to change things so that we win if the government ignores the protests is for protestors to do something that accomplishes our main objective instead of asking government to do it.

What is the most important objective that aboriginal rights activists can accomplish? The repeal of bill C-45? No. The government can just wait a few years and pass a new bill. Or pass it in bits and pieces hidden in other bills. What we need to repeal is their ability to decide what the law is in our territory.

We are told that they have the right to pass laws because they are the government. We are told that we have to obey laws because we are the citizens. Yet it was not so long ago that our people were told we were not citizens of Canada. Why not? Because we were part of other nations -- our own nations. Nations do not pass laws for other nations to obey. No matter how large or how small, nations make their own decisions. This is a principle of international law called sovereignty.

Before the non-natives came here, our nations had sovereignty over the lands and waters here that are now called our traditional territory. They were our sovereign territory. The non-natives say that ever since they arrived, our nations do not exist any longer. How did that happen? Did we surrender? No. There was no surrender. There wasn't even a war. Not here. Not on Vancouver Island or anywhere in BC. Was there a treaty? Did we agree to give them our lands and let them rule over us and call this place part of Canada? No. When did our nations go out of existence? When did this land stop being ours? Ask the elders. I have heard their answer. The answer is "never". The lands are still ours. Our nations still exist. We still have sovereignty over our traditional territory. That means it doesn't matter what bills they pass in Ottawa. Nobody in Ottawa has the power to make laws that we must obey. If they try to force us to obey their laws in our territory, they are the criminals, not us.

Of course, the government and the police and the newspapers say differently. They say this is part of Canada and maybe native people should get more money or something for losing their land, but it's gone and it's too late to undo that. The truth is that the non-natives have not "taken our land." The land is still there. The land is still ours. They just built things on it. Even if we let them get away with that, they do not have any right to tell us what to do on our own land. They may say they got the land in the Douglas Treaties. Read the treaties. Nobody ever gave them permission to rule us.

So how do we get them to stop ruling us? The answer is to start doing what's right according to our own traditions and ignore their laws. This is why we blockade highways. Their law says it's a highway and the public can drive on it. Our law says it's still our land and people shouldn't drive on it without our permission. Sometimes we revoke that permission just to make the point. It's an important point to make. Especially since it gets attention for a vitally important issue. But it gets attention because it causes problems for people. Ordinary non-native people are inconvenienced when we block highways they're trying to drive on. Some of them may sympathize with our cause, but it is a problem for them. If we chose different laws to ignore, we could do things that would be good for them instead of inconvenient for them. For example, the Canadian government used to admit that it had no right to tax us. Now, more and more, they are finding ways to tax us. Non-natives often say we should pay taxes "like everybody else".

The law should treat people fairly. There is no good reason why some people are forced to pay taxes and others are exempt in the same jurisdiction. Natives didn't create this situation. The government of Canada created this situation. They created this situation by trying to impose their laws on sovereign aboriginal nations. They haven't quite gotten away with taxing the native people as much as they want, but they have gotten away with taxing the non-natives in the territory of aboriginal nations. The truth is that if a place is the sovereign territory of Canada, and Canada imposes a tax that is legal and moral, then everyone should pay the tax. It is also true that if a place is the sovereign territory of some other nation, that Canada has no authority to impose any taxes or laws on anyone there.

That is just as true whether the other nation is the United States or the Haida Nation or the Six Nations. The attitude of non-natives will change if they find that instead of arguing that we should get a special privilege of not paying taxes in Canada that we are arguing that this place isn't part of Canada and nobody has to pay taxes here.

If the struggle is natives versus non-natives, we are horribly outnumbered. If the struggle is natives and our non-native friends and everybody who'd rather not pay taxes against a few people in the government and their cronies, then we will outnumber them. If that happens, we will win. Not in 50 years. Not in 10 years. Much sooner. Every law, tax and regulation of theirs that is not enforced in our territory is a victory for us. This is how they will lose the power to write laws to rule us with.

So there is a way that if the government ignores the protests, then we win. If we ignore their laws and they ignore us, they aren't ruling us anymore and we win. That's item one on the list. Let's consider item two.

1) We need a way that if the government ignores the protests, then we win.
2) We need a way that protests can continue all day, every working day.

Thinking about the way to make it possible for protestors to continue every day and never go away, I look at the government. The government never just gives up and goes away. Why not? Because the law establishes a government? That's not the reason. The government keeps going even when it's breaking the law. I think the main reason people working for the government keep doing what they do is simply because it's their job. They get paid to do it.

Maybe we can find a way to make protesting our job and get paid to do it. Here's how. We find something that is a regular job, but one that the government says you need their permission to do. Then we do it without their permission.

For example, catching fish and selling them. Or selling native handicrafts by the side of the road. It could be anything. Carpentry work. Cutting peoples' hair for money. Cleaning houses for money. Gardening, junk hauling, making pizzas and selling them, offering native tours to tourists, canoe rides for tourists, running bingo games to fundraise for elders needs or other worthy causes. Driving people in an informal taxi-service, running a 50/50 raffle, etc. It could be anything economic in nature. The government says you need their permission to do any of these things unless you do them entirely on an Indian Reserve. Some of them, they say you have to get their permission and follow their rules and pay them money even if you are doing it entirely on an Indian Reserve. They need a reminder of whose territory this is.

They don't call it begging for permission to earn a living. They call it applying for a municipal business license if you are in a city or registering your business with the province even if you're not in a city. You might think that just making and selling native art isn't a business. It's just an artist working. The government says even if you are just working to earn a living by yourself, that's still a business and you must ask for permission. Even just to make and sell native art.

Not only that, you must pay $70 for the cheapest way to get that permission. Another $100 or so every year if you ever do business with anyone who lives in a city. If you are actually earning enough to pay the bills for yourself and your family, they will say you now have to work for them as a tax collector. You will be required to collect sales tax from every customer, even if the extra cost drives away some of your customers. You must fill out papers and send them to the government. You also have to pay tax on your own income in many cases, even if you are an Indian. If  you live off reserve or if you do work off reserve or you deliver products off reserve or if you're not a status Indian or if your chief and council agreed to a treaty that lets the government tax you even though you are a status Indian on reserve, then the government says you owe part of every dollar you make to them.

What if the next time we show up at a shopping mall and do a round dance and sing and drum, we also bring things to sell and sell them there without permission from the government or the people running the shopping mall and without collecting or paying any taxes? Of course, we would choose a shopping mall that was built on native land where there either is no treaty or where the treaty has been broken by the government. It would also be appropriate to obtain permission in advance from the true owners of the land where the event will be held. Not who Canadian law says the owners are. Get permission from whoever ancient aboriginal traditions say is the real owner or authority over that land where the shopping center was built. Not the chief and council unless they are also the traditional authorities.

I realize that there will be objections to trying to make money at an Idle No More protest. Or any protest. There are people who tell us this is not appropriate at a protest. Maybe it wasn't before, but I am suggesting we should make it a strategic goal of the protests to create sustainable economic activities in defiance of the "colonial" authorities. Before I explain why this is an important strategic objective that the Idle No More protests could achieve, I first want to talk about some common ideas about money and economics and how they relate to our traditions.

Some people tell us that Indians were not materialistic and owned very little or owned everything collectively as a tribe. There are people who will tell us that earning money is something corrupt that we learned from the non-natives. Some people tell us that being Indian means being poor. Well, nowadays, being Indian usually does mean being poor. That's not tradition. That's what's been done to us. It may be true that some aboriginal peoples had very few material possessions. Nomadic hunters of the plains had little use for more possessions than they could carry with them as they followed the buffalo herds. That was fine for them, but they're not nomadic anymore. Most aboriginal people on this continent were not nomadic in the first place. Here in Coast Salish territory and all the nearby territories on the coast, people lived in permanent settlements and they were not poor. They were prosperous. They could even be described as wealthy. They did own property and land and fishing grounds. Not collectively as a tribe but individually or as a family. And yes, we were, and still are, a bit materialistc. Not like the Europeans. In Coast Salish culture, people did not ordinarily go hungry because they were poor. Wealth served a different function in society. Because of the "potlatch" system, people gained more by giving things away than by hoarding wealth like greedy fat-cat bankers of today's financial crises. The most honoured people or si'em, were wealthy, but wealth alone did not make you a si'em. A si'em also used wealth to help their friends and relatives. Our economy worked very differently from those in Europe, but it did work and it worked very well and sustainably for a very long time. Thousands of years. In other areas, other aboriginal nations may have different traditions, but theirs also worked for them. We were not the only prosperous people.

Working, trading with others, even those far away, as well as earning and using wealth the Coast Salish way are an important part of our tradition. We even invented several different kinds of money before the Europeans ever showed up. A particular kind of seashell found only in deep water was one kind of money we used. Hand woven blankets especially those made with mountain goat wool were another. Pieces of copper were also used at times. And then there's also wampum from our Eastern Brothers and sisters. In Canada, many universities teach a Marxist view of economics and history. Karl Marx had some important insights, but he was a European in Europe and his ideas are part of European culture, not ours. The economic system he called capitalism was also a European thing and there was really no parallel to it here until the Europeans brought it with them. The Marxist view is a universalist view that is supposed to apply to the whole world. My Coast Salish view is that the whole Marxist versus Capitalist struggle is a struggle within European culture for reasons that are distinctly their own. Lenin reworked Marxist ideas to identify capitalism with European colonialists such as those we had here and to identify native resistance in various parts of the world with Marxism. These were popular ideas in the 20th century, but they are still European ideas invented by Europeans in Europe. Lenin was not an Indian. He was a European. The idea that aboriginal people oppressed by a capitalist system imported from Europe need to have solidarity with other poor people and replace the capitalist system with socialism in order to achieve freedom and prosperity is an argument for assimilation.

Regardless of whether capitalism or socialism or some mixture of the two is better, they are all part of European culture and giving up our own traditions to adopt these is assimilation and means the end of our culture. Why should we be talking about Marxism and a Marxist view of our history? Why aren't Europeans talking about Coast Salish economics and a Coast Salish view of their history? Maybe they really should. Just once to get a very different viewpoint. There is a lot that could be learned.

One thing we can learn is that this idea that money is the root of all evil and any kind of economic activity besides socialism is morally wrong comes from a foreign culture that doesn't even know how our economic system works. We are also flooded with newer ideas that long-distance trade is only possible because of fossil fuels that are horribly destructive and unsustainable and we simply must reduce all economic activity to local biospheres. Maybe European-derived cultures don't know this, but the Coast Salish people carried out long distance trade with many other nations for thousands of years before fossil fuels were even discovered. Early European explorers reported that our people already had iron knives. They assumed we got them from other Europeans, but recently scientists studied one of those old knives and proved that it came originally from Japan. If this is surprising, it is only due to how little our culture is understood. They still call our ships "canoes". They were sailing ships larger than those used by Columbus. We traded with Japan. Back when the Roman Empire still ruled most of Europe, you could travel from Vancouver Island to Hawaii and on to the Marquesas Islands 3,000 miles away all by sailing ship and never run into anyone who had even heard of Europeans. Long distance trade can be very sustainable and mutually beneficial and does not have to involve multinational corporations running everything. We know what we're talking about. We've done this stuff for a long time.

So I say all this to try to clear away the European mindset so that as soon as I talk about work and money, that it doesn't sound like I'm saying we're going to have capitalism and we should be happy just to have jobs. That's not even remotely what I'm talking about. When I refer to "jobs" I mean opportunities to work and earn money or profit by barter. I mean mutually beneficial transactions for everyone that create more wealth, not transfer wealth unfairly from one person to another. I mean mutually beneficial trade, not "expropriating the products of the labour of the working class".

In Coast Salish society traditionally all sorts of economic societies existed in order to preserve different aspects of the culture. Some of these economic societies were strictly religous or spiritual in nature. But there were also economic societies that existed for mutual aid and protection. Marriages in Coast Salish culture were arranged institutions to allow all families participating the ability to increase their trade routes and trading power and increase military alliances for mutual self-defence from our enemies from the north.

But getting back to the point at hand. I am not talking about people getting "McJobs" and being happy about it. I mean self-employment and work within traditional groups called "tsetsuwatil" in our language. I mean being competent to negotiate deals and trade, to create and carry out economic activities for yourself and for your family and your extended family of families just like our ancestors did. I don't mean being a low paid employee of some huge corporation. I mean rebuilding our economy our way, the way we have done it successfully for thousands of years. We were not just primitve "hunter-gatherers" barely one step up from cave-men and the most important aspects of our economy work as well or better with higher technology than they did in earlier times. That's why the colonial authorities outlawed "potlatch" ceremonies and confiscated all property used in them. Until we were poor, they could not hope to dominate us. So they destroyed our economy.

In a very real sense, trying to brainwash generations of Aboriginal children (regardless of their actual historical culture) into believing that it's some sort of virtue for "All Indians" to be poor, is a horrific sort of oppression in and of itself. It's one of the ways that the colonial regime has kept our people oppressed for so long. We have been told over and over again that the only kind of economic activity that the courts will recognize as needing to be protected are those that result in only subsistence. Not commerce. The reality is however, Coast Salish people engaged in commerical fishing for thousands of years. We smoked huge amounts of fish and other seafoods and then traded it for scarce commodities from our relatives and trade partners in the interior.

No nation can sustain itself or even survive without a functioning economy. When we had it, we were very strong. When it was destroyed, we became weak. Until we rebuild it, we will remain weak. If we don't rebuild it our way, if we look to European models of capitalism or socialism or democratic socialism or mixed market or free market or any of that and ignore our own economic traditions... we will have already been assimilated.

It will take a lot of creativity and a lot of work, but we could take the protests to the next level this way. It could start with selling some handicraft items to shoppers at a mall. It could grow to where we occupy a strip by the side of the road and set up tents and tables and have our own mall. Like we do at modern pow wows. Or we could offer to sell services tax-free to anyone and refuse to get any kind of permission or pay or charge any kind of tax. We could temporarily occupy a park that is really native land and set up a table for each such "business" and invite the public, native and non-natives both to come learn what economic activities we are doing and see if they want to hire us to mow their lawns, clean their houses, paint their houses or if they want to buy anything we have made or grown or cooked that we have for sale.

We can also have dances and drumming and signs to protest what the government has done wrong and is continuing to do wrong. But we won't just be trying to get the government to give in and treat us fairly. We will be removing their laws from our territory. If they write a law, but it's not enforced, it's just a piece of paper. We will also be building our own economy in our own territory. We don't have to do it their way. We don't have to be greedy or mistreat people or destroy the environment. We don't have to operate "businesses" that exist only to make a profit or "corporations" that do the same, often on a larger scale. Did we have these things in the past? Are they our tradition? In the hul'qumi'num language of the Coast Salish people, we have the word "tsetsuwatil". It means "working together" or "helping one another". It's still work. It can still involve money, though traditionally it was often done with barter. There can be profit, but the idea is that everyone who participates benefits. It is not easy to define the difference, but there is a different spirit to it.

Some people's idea of "business" is to trick customers into thinking they are getting a benefit when they aren't. Or to do huge, long-term damage to the environment to get a short term profit for a very few. Or to build expensive houses on native land, sell them to non-natives and leave the natives living in decrepit houses, never asking for permission for the use of their land nor paying them anything for it. Or getting a license from the government to carry on a highly profitable business -- like banking -- that other people can't do because they don't have the license, then using the profits to hire a lobbyist to make it even harder for anyone else to be in that business. Those kinds of things may be "business", but they are defnitely not tsetsuwatil and never will be.

The beautiful thing about using tsetsuwatil as a protest strategy is that when it works, we can do it every day. It can be our "job". It can pay our bills. We won't ever go away. It can be very non-confrontational. It doesn't have to be done in a shopping mall or a public park where the government can pretend we don't have a right to be there. After it gets going, we could pay to use places if necessary or set up tsetsuwatil markets on reserves if enough shoppers will come there. We could work our way up to more ambitious projects. I don't know what, but huge potlatch type activities, perhaps. Internet activities? Our own shopping malls? Manufacturing? Organic farming to provide alternatives to factory farms and genetically modified foods? Shipbuilding, possibly ships that don't use fossil fuels? I don't know what will work, but all sorts of things are possible. If we can succeed on a small scale, we can start to succeed on a larger scale. We could even earn enough money to buy back lands that the government says don't belong to us anymore. They'll admit it's our land if we have a title deed. Then we can sue the government for the price we paid to buy our own land back. Whether we win or lose the lawsuit, we still get the keep the land.

One of the best things about Idle No More is how it has brought out non-native protestors to help us. Tsetsuwatil can mean natives and non-natives working together for mutual benefit. There is no reason non-natives would not support us building our own economy using the ideas of tsetsuwatil. Many will prefer to buy from us just to help our cause. They are the sort of people who are already supporting our protests. Even people who don't support our protests would still like to buy things without paying sales tax. We can help them. Tsetsuwatil is not about any kind of confrontation. It is about helping one another. Who could this approach possibly harm?

People who are on our land and paid to be there, but never paid us? We don't have to go into their shopping malls if they don't want us to. But having our events in their malls probably draws more shoppers into the mall than they would otherwise have. That helps them. If we start buying out non-natives to get our land back, that puts lots of money in their hands and drives up the prices of "their" real estate. They profit from it. They don't lose.

Who else could be harmed? Businesses that collect sales tax and sell the same things we might sell without sales tax? Maybe. But only if they keep collecting the government's tax. The native authorities can give them permission to stop. It's our territory. Canada doesn't actually have the authority to impose taxes here anyway. Not without our permission. That's what sovereignty means.

Idle No More protestors using a tsetsuwatil strategy would be helping everyone. Even the Canadian government. It doesn't seem like it. It seems like a tsetsuwatil strategy that ignores the government's laws undermines the government's authority and reduces their tax revenue. But in fact, this is only true on unceded aboriginal territory or territory ceded by sovereign native authorities where the treaties have been broken. Canada does not actually have any right to exert authority or collect taxes in these areas. Not legally. Not morally. What Canada does have is an enormous political mess that it has not been able to solve. The people of Canada, by a huge majority, want to do the right thing. They want to be good people. They want the world to see them as good people. They want the natives to see them as good people. How can this be when they have broken the treaties, treated our people terribly, built on land, especially British Columbia, where there was never any treaty? How can they ever look us in the eyes and say they are our friends? Can they say that to the residential school survivors? The baby scoop kids? Those who were taken away to foster care and abused and neglected while under the care of the Canadian government? When they see a clearcut forest where we used to hunt and harvest cedar bark, when they read that the Pacific Salmon is in danger of extinction, when they remember the herds of buffalo that used to roam the plains, how can they look us in the eye? When another native child of the new generation -- our only hope for the future -- commits suicide because Canada has left her no hope, how can the non-natives look us in the eye and say they are our friends? How can they tell themselves they have done the right thing. How can they believe they are good people?

A lot of them don't know what to do and therefore don't want to think about it. Sometimes when they do think about it, the whole situation makes them angry. They don't want to be bad people, they refuse to accept that they or their family or their country has done anything wrong, so they look for ways to blame the Indians and direct that  anger towards us. It is all because they don't know how they could ever possibly make it right.

We can give them back what they have lost. Something more precious than lands. More valuable than money. We can show them the way to make it right.

We will rebuild our nations. We will make jobs for ourselves in our own way. We will relearn our native languages and continue our ancient traditions. We will prosper again as we did in the past. We will not be poor. We will buy back our land if we have to. Non-native people can be part of this, as residents of our nations, not occupiers. All we need to do is go work on it. All the government needs to do for us to create a solution to their "Indian problem", is stay out of our way. So far, the government has been staying out of the way of the Idle No More protests. If they keep doing that, and we do tsetsuwatil like this, we win. Everyone wins. They may not think of it as a victory at first. They may not like seeing native traditions and laws replacing their own in large parts of the land they call Canada. They may not like our nations being autonomous or even having the right to decide whether to be completely independent. But if Canada can allow Quebec to preserve its own language and culture and decide for itself whether to be an independent country, it must allow aboriginal nations the same right. And it is our right. It is a right called "the right of self-determination of peoples". Virtually every nation in the world acknowledges this right. It is mentioned in the Charter of the United Nations. Every year on November 11, Canadians wear red poppies. This is to commemorate November 11, 1918, the end of the Great War. One of the principles that so many Canadians, British, French and Americans fought for in that war was "the right of self-determination of peoples". The same right that says the aboriginal people have a right to self-determination, the right to be sovereign nations if we choose to. Canadian soldiers were told they were fighting and dying to preserve that right for all peoples, for all time, in a war that was so big and so terrible that they thought it would be "the war to end all wars". It was not the last war. The right to self-determination of peoples has been violated many times since. But Canada can at least uphold that principle today where it has the power to do so. Canada can be the good guys. We can show them how. Tsetsuwatil.

Despite all that has happened, there is almost no talk of revenge amongst aboriginal people. There is almost no talk of forcibly evicting non-natives from lands even where they have no lawful right to be there. We do not want to give up our lands, not a single acre, but if our ownership were admitted, we would be generous to those who have built their homes and their lives here and are our neighbors. We might let them stay there, rent-free for their entire lives or for three generations or for 100 years. We might ask only a token amount of rent or none at all. If we have to buy back our lands and sue the government for the price we had to pay, we don't have to be paid right away. We don't have to charge interest on the debt. Maybe, when we have regained control of all our lands and waters, when our nations are restored to full health. When our languages and traditions are thriving throughout our territories and we are prospering, when many years have passed and the government has treated us fairly for a long time and paid diligently on the debt their own courts ruled that they owe us... maybe we will even forgive that debt as we forgive our other friends and relatives for their mistakes.

Our greatest gift to Canadians will be to mend the wound in their soul that is ripped open all over again every time the Canadian government adds a new abuse or injustice to the record of their relationship with us. The Canadian government does not see how it could ever afford to pay us enough money to be able to keep lands that we would not sell for any price. The Canadian government does not see any way to help us prosper except to assimilate us and we keep telling them to stop the assimilation and let us be ourselves. The Canadian government sees this as a conflict between natives and non-natives or at least between the natives and the government. We can show them we are building a solution that will work for them and for us. We won't need their permission. We just need them to keep ignoring us and hoping we go away. Like they are doing now.