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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

It is time for an Indigenous prime minister

BY Xavier Kataquapit Sep 26, 2023

I feel like a survivor at times and there is good reason for that. As an Indigenous person living in this time and country, I have seen so much happen over the past four decades of my life. The sad reality is that I have lost many young and Elders close to me over the years through tragic situations.

No doubt about it I can point to colonization with issues like residential schools, racism, poverty, addictions and violence as causes of the hardships Indigenous people have faced over the past few hundred years. The problem is that things are not getting better fast enough. Too many of my people are still living difficult lives and we need to move quicker to make things better over the next decade.

It is up to all of us to be aware of the problems and challenges we are facing and to put in place real solutions that help us heal from the injustices of the past and focus on changing our world and in doing so making life on Mother Earth better for everyone. A report by Amnesty International points out that Indigenous peoples have a life expectancy that is 20 years lower than the non-Indigenous population. The reality is that we have high rates of poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and we suffer from all kinds of addictions that are more like epidemics in our First Nation communities right across Canada.

A lot of these issues result in people making mistakes and bad choices; the outcome is breaking the law and incarceration. Our jails in Canada are filled with Indigenous people at higher rates than those who are non-Indigenous. What could we possibly expect if our young people are growing up having to deal with extreme poverty, racism, addictions and a feeling of hopelessness? 

One of the most important quotes I have ever seen was when reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo many years ago. That quote hit me like a lightning bolt and has stayed with me ever since. It is: “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed; the guilty one is not he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness.” 

If you think about it, this quote challenges us to think more deeply as human beings to consider why things are like they are for so many of my people who have made and are making bad decisions. The problem is that we do not as a society really do our best to produce democracies that are dedicated to making life better for everyone. Most of us just don’t care if we are comfortable and have everything we want.

Although we are making some progress for Indigenous people over the past few decades, we still have not seen most treaties settled by governments and we still don’t have clean drinking water in many remote Indigenous communities. 

To add insult to injury we have had to deal with impostors in the arts, business and academics claiming to be Indigenous to reap any rewards that have been afforded to my people by governments and organizations over the past few decades. It bothers and saddens me to see these pretendindians reaping the benefits of their deception and without governments, businesses and organizations checking the validity and proof of their connections to claiming Indigenous heritage. It is infuriating. 

How are my people ever going to heal if this kind of situation continues. I see now that there is a movement across the planet where more right-wing and even fascist types of government are taking over and that scares me. We see signs of this creeping far right-wing fascism across this country, and I can’t imagine how things are going to get better for any of us with these nasty, racist, homophobic power brokers in place. What we need soon is an Indigenous prime minister and members of Parliament representing fair-minded and generous parties. Let’s get behind that idea. 

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.