Thursday, February 9, 2012

Indigenous History

Methods of governance have been around since two people had the need to work together, whenever that is. As society grew so did the rules of interaction. Most of these rules were passed along through speech, which is known as oral history. This form of information sharing is the largest form of passing information that we have. Many civilizations use oral history to this day. Truth and Reconciliation processes hinge on the people “telling their stories”.
Oral history has long been discounted because those that doubted it were dishonest people.  Even today we share that dishonesty with the phrase “get it in writing”. Yet there is the foundation of a person that often points to character when they are described as “a person of their word”. I am mentioning this because at the moment I am researching the unwritten governance models of the First Nations people in Canada.
I have learned that many of the governance models British philosophers used were based on information gained through knowledge of First Nations diplomacy. People such as Bentham, Locke, Smith and Keynes have all been influenced by the logic in governance used by the First Nations. The reason this is not well known rests on the fact that the First Nations people used oral history rather than written history. Their words meant something but words are easily forgotten.
Here in Canada we have a dark history of treatment towards the First Nations. That history has created a real mess as it has been eroding the fabric of life for millions of Canadians. However we are fortunate enough to understand the loss of knowledge is too great to let it go. We have a great mountain of work ahead of us.
As I worked in areas of violent conflict, the cultural methods of peace were always sought for. In the past twenty years, here in Canada we have looked into our past and retrieved the idea of restorative justice models from First Nations governance.  There will be more changes to our system as we progress.
There is no one turning point because there have been so many points of great progress. For example in 2001 Canada, the people of Nunavut negotiated the largest government and land control transfer ever undertaken in the world. This is one moment when the history of the First Nations was understood as Canada’s history. The entire people of Canada are beneficiaries of the collected efforts of all history in this country. The good and the bad, we all own it and we are all part of it. The history of the Inuit is the history of Canada, as are the histories of all the nations that make up Canada.
Within this information I have been learning, I can see a different future. I can understand the contributions to our culture as it changes. What is even more important to me is that I know I live the words I write here. I listen, learn, understand, change in order to provide a world more peaceful than the one I was born into.

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