First Nations

This essay will discuss the historical social aspects of Aboriginal peoples
in

Canada. Some topics include self-government of aboriginal, Health Care,
Education,

Native Organizations, and the way of life for an aboriginal person. These are
all very

important factors in the life of a status Indian, or native person. Every
native person has

to deal with these situations and institutions every day. Some living on the
reserve, and

others off, they all need health care and education, but some of the
institutions,

organizations, and government are not the same as a white Canadians. Their
social

conditions on and off the reserve, are completely different from our own.

In the days before European domination, aboriginal peoples chose their own

leaders according to their own traditions. This gave them rules that defined
their unique

institutions, or bands. Since then, aboriginal have had their own government.
This is

called self-government and means that the aboriginal peoples have a right to
govern

themselves as they decide, sharing power with the provinces. Although their
pattern of

government is somewhat different from our own, it is quite the same in the
fact that

todayís negotiations are very similar to those that took place over 130
years ago.

Controlling the land and its resources is a main point to the vision of
Indian

self-government. From the years 1980 and 1993, constitutional recognition of
aboriginal

self-government was the main goal of Indian band leaders. With this
recognition from

Canada, Aboriginal peoples would know that Canada has acknowledged them, and
their

right to govern themselves without the involvement of the provinces, along
with Ottawa.

Between 1970 and 1994 Ottawa spent more than $40 billion on a variety of
Indian

programs. Some of these include education, housing, and social assistance and
later on,

adding child welfare and policing.

In 1961, the life expectancy of Canadaís aboriginal people stood at
sixty-one

years. That is ten years less than the average Canadian life. In the 1960s,
health studies

showed that infant mortality rates stood at more than double the national
average.

Sexually transmitted diseases, accidental and violent deaths, alcohol abuse,
and teenage

pregnancies were all serious problems in aboriginal communities that the
government

had targeted for special attention. Although we donít see this happening,
not much has

changed since the sixties. The incidence of diseases such as tuberculosis,
which is linked

to substandard living conditions, have improved somewhat, but even these
rates remain

well above national averages. The rate for tuberculosis in 1993 was 60.8 per
100,000 for

aboriginal people, but for non-aboriginal born in Canada, the rate was 7.4
per 100,000.

By 1990, cancer and cardiovascular disease had become second most common
killers.

Diabetes, once unheard of among Indians, had reached epidemic proportions in
many

communities. As terrible as these facts sound, also a very high killer among
aboriginal

peoples is sexually transmitted diseases. The statistics are out of control
with some

estimates putting their incidence at ten times the Canadian average. Studies
presented

that eight out of ten aboriginal women had experienced some form of sexual
abuse.

Furthermore, death rates among the registered Indian population in 1991 were
two to four

times the Canadian average. Violence, including suicides and accidents,
remain number

one killer of Canadaís aboriginal people, and is closely linked to alcohol
and drug abuse.

Frustrated health officials throughout the country are speaking about native
people dying

from diseases linked to self-destructive lifestyles, poverty-stricken
environments, and the

legacy of intervention by non-native society. Therefore, it is because the
aboriginal

peoples are not helping themselves as much as they should be. Health care
officials say

that it is their own self-destruction, and unemployment rates that cause the
illnesses, and

the health care officials cannot do anything about that.

The big stump for native education hit in 1989 when the Indian Affairs
Minister

Pierre Cadieux placed a cap on the departmentís post-secondary education
budget. This

limited the spending to $130 million annually. With this decision, Indian
Affairs violated

its own objectives of increasing the number of Indian students attending
post-secondary

institutions. The Indian communities struggled with Ottawa, taking 30 day
hunger

strikes, this was the largest peaceful Indian demonstration in more than
twenty years.

Hundreds of protesters were arrested in offices in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.
Hundreds

more gathered at Parliament Hill beating drums and bearing placards. After
that

incident, the Catholic bishops announced their support for the native
demonstrators.

Although the communities came together and all protested, Cadieux
rationalized the cap

as a prudent budget measure, and it remains in place today. Aside from the
cap that

Pierre Cadieux placed on the education budget, in the past 25 years, Ottawa
has spent

more than $7.6 billion on native education with minimal results. Indian
students

continue to show higher drop-out rates, poorer test scores, and greater
number of grade

failures compared to national and provincial averages.

Native organizations are the machines of action in their society. They target

issues, orchestrate lobby efforts, and force change in a complex world.