Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tom Flanagan vs. Niitsitapi Debate (1)

Tom Flanagan, Professor Emeritus of the University of Calgary, debates the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) regarding land claims in Southern Alberta.  This debate was held two years ago. 

Flanagan, originally an American, asserts that "European civilization was several thousand years more advanced than the Aboriginal cultures of North America both in technology and social organization"  and uses this position to argue against the rights of Canadian First Nations. 

Recently, he's written in the Globe and Mail, that the newly elected Liberal Party government of Canada should not sign on to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  He argues this because signing would require that Canadian resource industries get permission from and coordinate with First Nations when extracting resources on native land or otherwise using native territory.

Yale Belanger of the University of Lethbridge describes Flanagan's tone as "distasteful", "militant", and "sensationalist." He claims he echoes "the assimilation rhetoric of 19th century policy makers and politicians" which perpetuate a stereotyped image of First Nations as "uncivilized".

This line of argumentation, that aboriginal Non-European people are unworthy of equal protection under the law, including the right of sovereignty in their traditional territories, because they are less "civilized" than people of European ancestry, goes unquestioned in most circles of academia, in journalism, in many areas of anthropology, often in evolutionary biology and in the courts, at all levels, in Canada and in the United States.

From the video:

Niitsitapi:  ". . . with individual laws, with individual values, with individual interests, to our own, to our own . . . what makes us Niitsitapi, in our language in Blackfoot, we call ourselves the Real People, that's the problem . . . we can talk about all these other things . . . until the Government [of Canada] recognizes us individually, and begins to deal with us nation to nation, then you will see that change.  You said it's not practical for the Government?  Well, it wasn't practical for our people to be put on little reserves like cattle and keep us there.  When we had all this land before Europeans came to our home.  That's the problem."

Flanagan: "What does it mean when you say you're going to deal nation to nation . . . like Canada deals nation to nation with the United States, or France, or Guatemala . . ."

Niitsitapi: "You think that we didn't have resources?  We have resources.  We have water on our reserves.  We have oil on our reserves.  We have people on our reserves that can contribute, that do contribute."

Flanagan: "Yeah, and if you're gonna have oil, you're got to have a legal framework to pump it out and sell it."

Niitsitapi:  "But that's your standard, not ours."

Flanagan:  "What are you going to do with the oil that you don't pump out?"

Niitsitapi:  "That's all coming from a European perspective.  You're not understanding us."

Flanagan:  "Well I guess I don't understand what you're going to do with oil two thousand feet below the surface unless you use a technical means to pump it out and sell it."


Niitsitapi:  "What about the rights of individual people to be able to enjoy the sacredness of our lands?  When it's extracted by oil companies, and their damaging our people's lives, like this lady is talking about, that's the problem.  You're not understanding us."

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