Since other than cooperation as well as a high

Since contact between the Aboriginal
people of Canada and the European colonizers there has been a clear divide due
to differences in culture. At the root of these differences is the approach the
two cultures take to property and land. When it comes to property Europeans
generally operate on an individual basis while aboriginals traditionally take a
communal approach. It is because of these differences that assimilation or
integration of aboriginal culture has never been successful. History has shown
that anything other than cooperation as well as a high degree of
self-governance for Aboriginals stalls the development of the their communities.

There are several contrasting views on
how the relationship between the Aboriginal communities and the Canadian
Federal Government should take shape. This paper does not argue that the
Aboriginal people should have complete autonomy and operate as a separate
society. With that being said, how the Aboriginal people management their land
is an integral part of their culture and it is in this area that a high degree
of autonomy needs to be allotted.

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            It is the contrasting views on
property and land that have kept European and Aboriginal culture so clearly
separated for all this time. In her paper Circles
of Disadvantage (2001), Joan Kendall says that “A communal approach to
living-that is, collective ownership and sharing of resources, as opposed to
the idea of individual property rights that characterize Western culture – is
often assumed to be a major stumbling block to aboriginal development”. I would
correct Kendall in saying that the communal approach to living has been a
stumbling block of Aboriginal development in the greater Canadian population
but not of the Aboriginal communities themselves. The communal approach to
living is so deeply rooted in aboriginal culture that it is not something that
will change very quickly if ever, and it shouldn’t have to. There is a strong
argument that can be made that says a communal approach to property is more
sustainable over the long term in regards to the development of a community (Kendall).

In contrast to Aboriginal communities, the European perspective on property is
much more individual. Europeans generally focus on their individual success,
which is centered on personal development and wealth.

            Where the cultural gap on the concept
of property is the widest is certainly in regards to land. Land is something
that the two cultures have almost completely different views on. Where as an
aboriginal person may say, “this is my house” or “these are my clothes”, saying
“this is my land” is a foreign phrase. In Aboriginal culture, land is not
something to be owned privately. Bob Randall (2009), a
Yankunytjatjara elder can be quoted as saying “my people see land ownership as
completely different from the English way of ownership, ours used to be ‘the
land owns us’ and it still is that”. Bob Randall is an Australian Aboriginal
man however the phrase “the land owns us” echoes the views of North American Aboriginal
people. The best way to summarize the two worldviews is this. Generally,
Europeans see the world and its land a pyramid. 
The earth and its minerals at the bottom, followed by the land and the
animals and at the very top are humans. Everything has a value and everything
earth has to offer is used to contribute to the development of humans.

Aboriginals view the world and its land as ball. The earth and its minerals,
the land and the animals along with humans are all mixed together and all play
an equal part in an interconnected whole (. These two worldviews are at the
root of successes and failures of the attempts to propel the development of
aboriginal communities. Two specific acts of legislation in North American
history can be analyzed to confirm this.

            Since
colonization began in the eighteenth century there has been continuous conflict
between colonizers and aboriginals. In the United States of America, this
conflict was at an all time high during the mid nineteenth century due to
colonizers moving further west into native tribal lands. The natives resisted resulting
in what are now known as the Indian Wars. In the long term, the native tribes
could not with stand the wave of settlers and were allotted reservation lands
by the government. Although the reservation system was created, conflict
continued and there was still a wide spread belief that the white Europeans
could never coexist with the Aboriginal peoples. Americans believed that
assimilation of the Aboriginal culture was the answer. In 1877, the Congress of
the United States of America passed the Dawes Act. This act, also know as the
General Allotment Act allowed the President to break up reservation land and
assign it to individual natives. Natives who accepted this land were allowed to
become US citizens and the rest of the land was sold to white settlers. In
1877, the US government truly believed that assimilation of aboriginal culture
and integrating aboriginals into white culture was what was best for the
aboriginal people. Looking back we can now see that this was an ignorant
thought. Documents from the National Archives of the United States outline that
the land allotted to the natives included desert or near-desert lands
unsuitable for farming. In addition, the techniques of self-sufficient farming
were much different from their tribal way of life. Many natives did not want to
take up agriculture, and those who did want to farm could not afford the tools,
animals, seed, and other supplies necessary to get started. The United States Government
made the same mistake as John Locke did in the conception of his Lockean basis
of land ownership. Locke always assumed that land would be appropriated and
owned by individuals (Bishop, 1999), which ignores Aboriginal culture. Under
the Lockean basis of land ownership, appropriation involves improving land in
some way to make it more productive. What Locke did not realize at the time is
that Native Americans had been “appropriating” land for centuries before European
settlement. It was in a way that was foreign to Europeans. For example, by
socially recognized assignment, regulating and conserving hunting grounds and hunting’s
contribution to the survival of the community John Bishop argues that
Aboriginals had been appropriating hunting grounds for centuries.

While
John Locke was ignorant to Aboriginal culture the Dawes Act forced the Natives
to abandon their culture and more specifically their communal approach to
property and land. This is the equivalent of taking a fish out of water. Aboriginal
culture has survived the Dawes Act but its affects are still evident today. Due
to their inherent communal approach to property and land, Aboriginals have
struggled to establish themselves within the greater non-aboriginal community. This
doesn’t mean that Aboriginal communities cannot flourish in European society
but it does mean that European culture cannot be forced upon Aboriginals as
history has continuously shown. More recently, the Canadian government has
taken a different approach to assisting Aboriginal communities.

The
Aboriginal movement toward self-governance has greatly progressed since the
time of the Dawes Act. In 1991, a group of First Nations leaders came together
to make a proposal that would grant Frist Nations autonomy over the management
of reservation lands and be freed from several aspects of the Indian Act. In
1996, First Nations leadership and the federal government negotiated to create
a framework that was passed in 1999. The Framework Agreement that was created
is now know as the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA). All First Nation
communities are eligible to join the FNLM regime by simply engaging in the
formality of applying. After approval from the federal government the First
Nation’s leadership is responsible for drafting land codes and negotiates an
individual agreement concerning funding with Canada, both
of which must be ratified by the First Nation’s membership.

            This
is the process of joining the FNLMA regime and it is important to emphasize
that for First Nations this is completely voluntary. As of January 2016, 95 of
615 recognized first nation groups have entered the FNLM regime and are either
developing or operating under their own land codes (Government of Canada, 2016).

The FNLM significantly improves the efficiency and level of economic
development opportunities for the signatory First Nations (Boutilier, 2016). In
2009, the KPMG consultancy firm did a study on the affects of the FNLMA. One of
the affects found was that the Framework Agreement has contributed to
operational First Nations increasing the number of businesses on reserve, with
most new businesses being First Nation member-owned. The most important finding
of all was that none of the operational First Nations whom were surveyed
reported that they had any desire to return to Indian Act land management (if
that were a possibility).

For
First Nations the FNLMA means regaining independence and getting back to their
cultural roots. Another feature of the FNLMA is that it allows groups of First
Nations to enter the FNLMA jointly and to share land management capacity as the
Skowkale, Aichelitz and Yakweakwioose First Nations did in 2014 (Boulitier).

This ability represents is a major step towards First Nations regaining
strength as a community.

            It is a common point of view for
Canadian taxpayers to question the financial assistance provided to First
Nations by the Federal Government. Many Canadians believe that the greater
Canadian population has paid enough in remittance for the mistakes of our
ancestors. The truth is that it is not just about paying for the past.

Assisting First Nations communities should be seen as moving towards a better
future. The vast majority of the Aboriginal population does not want to be
supported by the crutches of the Federal Government. Gord Bluesky of the
Brokenhead Ojibiway Nation in Manitoba says that he sees the FNLMA as the
opportunity to regain and revive the tradition of management within their
communities. He looks at their reserves as a land of opportunity for communities
to become successful and to become self-sustaining as they once were.

            In
summary, the opposing views of Aboriginals and Europeans in regard to property
and land have had significant implications on Aboriginal and European relations
in the past and will continue to in the future. The Aboriginal people’s
communal approach to property and land has prevented the assimilation or even
integration of North American Aboriginals into European culture. The First
Nations Land Management Act has proven that the best method to move forward
together is through cooperation. A high degree of autonomy in regards to land
management will allow First Nations to be strong and prosper as they did for
centuries before contact.

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