Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

On 'Modest Proposals' to Further Reduce the Aboriginal Landbase by Privatizing Reserve Land©

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

On 'Modest Proposals' to Further Reduce the Aboriginal Landbase by Privatizing Reserve Land©

Article excerpt

Abstract / Résumé

This responds to Christopher Alcantara's "Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves" that appeared in XXI11:2 (2003) of the CJNS. Some special interest groups-mainly but not exclusively of the political far Right-have suggested that privatizing Canadian 'Indian Reserve' land would facilitate ameliorating the dreadful conditions endemic to Reserves. This paper explores the experience of U.S. First Nations when Reservation land was privatized. Under the 1887 General Allotment Act (known as the Dawes Act) the U.S. Aboriginal land-base shrank from approximately 150 million acres to only about 48 million by 1935, when the Dawes Act was reversed.

L'article répond à l'article de Christopher Alcantara intitulé « Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves », qui a paru dans le n° 2 du volume 23 de la CJNS. Certains groupes d'intérêts, qui proviennent principalement, mais non exclusivement de !'extrême-droite politique, ont suggéré que la privatisation des terres des réserves indiennes du Canada faciliterait l'amélioration des conditions déplorables qui sont endémiques dans les réserves. L'article explore l'expérience des Premières nations des États-Unis où les terres de réserve ont été privatisées. En vertu de la General Allotment Act de 1887, connue sous le nom de « Dawes Act », l'assise territoriale des Autochtones américains s'est rétrécie pour passer d'environ 150 millions d'acres à environ 48 millions d'acres en 1935, lors que la Dawes Act a été révoquée.

Reform is always afoot in the field of Indian affairs.

-Vine Deloria Jr. (1933-2005) & C.M. Lytle1

Over a decade ago the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended that Canada provide First Nations with lands "sufficient in size and quality to foster Aboriginal economic self-reliance and cultural and political autonomy."2 Although according to the 2001 Canadian Census 'status Indians' numbered only 558,175, Aboriginal people constitute at least 3.5 percent of the population.3 Reserves account for under 0.5 percent of the land - 6.5 million acres fragmented into 2,242 tracts with an average size of only 2.89 acres.4 There are powerful special interest groups in Canada that, rather than appreciating how much has been appropriated from Aboriginal people at cut-rate prices, remain keen to be rid of the nuisance of treaties, land-'claims' cases, constitutional negotiations involving Aboriginal rights, time-consuming environmental impact studies, and the costs and embarrassments associated with the Department of Indian Affairs.

Given their importance to people living on many Canadian Reserves (or who would if the Indian befand other factors allowed), 'Certificates of Possession' (CPs) have been an unaccountably neglected topic for research. This was demonstrated by Christopher Alcantara's 2003 Canadian Journal of Native Studies article on "Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves," a compressed version of his 2002 University of Calgary M.A. thesis "Certificates of Possession: A Solution to the Aboriginal Housing Crisis."5 Alcantara's thesis supervisor was U.S.born and educated Reform-Conservative political scientist Tom Flanagan. Professor Flanagan has made a career, academic and otherwise, of opposing Indigenous rights, most recently those of the original Australians.6 How prominent Flanagan is amongst Canada's leading new Conservatives is illustrated most pointedly by his recent book Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power.7

We now turn to consider the fact that, in many parts of Canada, CPs represent the most common type of Reserve land-holding6 and the thin edge of the proverbial wedge for the derogation of Aboriginal rights by those who are politely termed 'neo-Conservatives.'9 Among the more recent, if least subtle, expressions of this was "Road to Prosperity - Five Steps To Change Aboriginal Policy," a September 2005 pronouncement from the Calgary-based Canadian Taxpayers Federation 'Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change. …

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