Monday, 18 January 2010

First Nations and the VanOC

Co-habitation is always fraught with conflict, unresolved issues and, occasionally, opportunities to set aside disputes and differences.

The upcoming Olympic©™ Winter Games in BC are such an occasion. In spite of the sometimes violent, often acrimonious history between the people native to Canada and the various ethnic groups who immigrated here, there seems to exist a precarious agreement among some of their descendants to make the best of the situation. The BBC's take:

The Games, set to attract international attention, have a particular importance for Canada's aboriginal peoples, as many of the sporting events will take place on their ancestral land.

The peoples involved - the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations - who live on and share the land, have joined forces. Together with the Vancouver Olympic Committee (Vanoc), they will be hosting the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games in a partnership that is making Olympic history.

This is the first time that aboriginals have been official partners in the Olympics and have been involved in every aspect of the Games starting from the bidding process. [...] Tewanee Joseph, head of the umbrella group known as the Four Host First Nations, sees the Vancouver Winter Olympics as a great time for aboriginals to rebrand themselves in a positive way.

"What people will learn is that we're business people, we're entrepreneurs, we're visual artists and we're performing artists. You know our culture is really living and thriving today and it's been through challenges," says Mr Joseph. "We no longer want to be seen as just Dime Store Indians, just beads and feathers. I think for us those stereotypes are very important for us to break."

Despite all the potential positive attention on their culture, many of British Columbia's aboriginals still feel that the decision to hold the Olympics in Vancouver (and the resort town of Whistler) was wrong.

"A lot of First Nations considered the land to be stolen," says Josh Anderson from the Lil'wat Nation. [...] For aboriginals like Rose Henry, of Sliammon heritage, and Jayson Fleury, who is Saulteaux-Cree, the idea that Vanoc is spending [billions of dollars] on the Games is upsetting.

They both belong to the Olympic Resistance Network (ORN) whose motto is "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land." They believe that some of that money should be spent on issues like homelessness and addiction.

"If you go to Vancouver's downtown eastside, you will see that most of the homeless are First Nations people and they are from this area," says Mr Fleury. "So their rights, their livelihood are not being honoured in any fashion."

"It is costing us a lot more than just the dollars," adds Ms Henry. "Many of our community members are paying with their lives with the inadequate housing and healthcare and so the rippling effects go beyond the 17-day party that's going to be happening here that we can't afford."

From here. One wonders if the ReformaTory government will wait until after the Games to launch another legal appeal against Insite.

1 comment:

Beijing York said...

I don't know why, but the FN leaders who think they are successfully embracing the western entrepreneurial spirit tend to rub me the wrong way. There's this one BC Chief who basically called Aboriginals lazy and incompetent that really pissed me off. Of course the relationship between First Nations and the Crown is complex but there is an injustice in failure to honour treaties and historical treatment that makes these so-called "enlightened" leaders who want to forget the past seem more than disingenuous.

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