Guest Post:- Maggie Blackbird
Okay, Billy, tell the readers at MM Fiction Café what life is like at an Ojibway community aka Indian Reserve, something the average person might not know.
Billy: I’ll do my best to limit my sarcasm. Anyway, most might not know we are governed under the Indian Act the Canadian government dreamed up in the late 1800s. We learned about this stuff in Ojibway culture that René’s uncle taught in elementary school. The whole purpose of this supposed “act” passed by Parliament relates to “registered Indians,” the bands, and the Indian Reserves.
Most might not know what a registered Indian is. The government (not us) defines who an Indian is under the Indian Act. And if you’re not recognized, you don’t get one of those status cards proving your Indian status. In other words, in the government’s eyes, you’re not an Indian. Yeah, weird. And don’t ask me to get into how an Indian is defined because that is a whole other ball game full of more craziness.
You’ll hear in the series “band” mentioned (don’t get confused when you hear us talk about René’s “band” because he drums in a rock group) or “band members.” Anyway, this is a band of Indians the government has approved of. This means I’m a band member who belongs to the band of Indians who reside at Thunder Mountain First Nation aka Thunder Mountain Indian Reserve. By the way, in Canada, it is Indian Reserve, not Indian Reservation. I’m using the word “Indian” even though it’s an outdated term in Canada.
As for reserves (what people in the here and now know as a First Nation), these are plots of land allotted by the Crown where the band of Indians get to live. We don’t own the land. Heck, we never believed in owning land in the first place. But the government decided to generously (sarcasm used) dish out a place to stick us.
So yeah, that’s the rez. We have the Indians (whoever the government recognizes as an Indian), a band (the groups of families who are recognized by the government as Indians), and the reserve (where the band of recognized Indians live).
Like I said, it can get very technical. I know the author did her best to try explain this stuff without straying from the plots in the novels. Being a registered Indian herself, and also being a part of a band, and living on the rez during the first twenty-five years of her life (and where the majority of her family still lives), this is easy for her to talk about, but the average reader doesn’t know the majority of this stuff.
You’ll hear me speak about Chief Oshawee. This goes back to “band.” Think about a city. There is the mayor, council, and city administration centre. It’s the same way on an Indian Reserve. The government dreamed up our election act, instead of letting us use the one our ancestors had developed. The chief gets elected for a certain length of time (what is known as a term) and so do band council. They oversee the operation of the reserve just like the mayor and city council do. As for the administration centre, we call it the “band office” and there is no CEO like a town/city has. Instead, we call this person the Band Manager.
The band office is the hub of the reserve. People like to chill there. Go there if they require something like housing. I won’t get into how housing operates because I’d need a whole guest post to talk about that, but let me tell you, it does not operate like it does when you’re buying a house off the reserve. Not even close. Nope. Nadda. And that’s why First Nations communities have major housing shortages.
The band office is staffed by people who are in charge of administration, economic development, social services, family services, education, operation & maintenance, housing, lands & resources, etc. Kind of like your average town/city operates.
We have places to go like Vernon’s Videos (that you hear about in the books), the rec centre, the powwow grounds (where the drum group takes place), The Waffle Wigwam, and a bunch of other stuff to amuses ourselves. The older folks like to go to the bingo hall and play bingo. There’s a sports field where you can play baseball or soccer.
We have our own police who police the reserve. There’s a shitload of what our law enforcement can and cannot do, which is why my brother Hoyt refers to them as the “toy cops” who are under the thumb of the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police).
But yeah, that’s the rez in a very basic nutshell. If people have a question or questions, I’ll be here to answer them in the comments section. Over and out.
Thanks, Billy. I really appreciated you informing the readers of MM Fiction Café about the technical part of reserve life.