Frank Godon Speaks on the Indian Act
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Well let me tell you a little about who I am. How’s that? My name is Frank Godon. I’m from Boissevain, Manitoba. I grew up living in the Turtle Mountains. My grandparents were Metis. My grandmother was Ojibaway. She was from a reservation in the US and we grew up in the Turtle Mountains so alot of hunting, alot of fishing, alot of trapping.
I’m a very political guy and my main job is a professor. I worked at, and I still do, since 2004 I worked at the State University in Saint Peterberg, Russia. I taught in the journalism faculty. I’m a professor in the journalism faculty and I taught in the zoology faculty in the Canadian studies department Canadian Aboriginal culture and history. During teaching that Canadian Aboriginal culture and history, I never even knew about the Indian Act. That’s when I found out more about it.
Alot of people don’t know. Alot of aboriginal people don’t know what the Indian Act is about. When I came back to Canada in 2013 I got into politics. Well, I did come back in 2010. I tried running for the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation and I didn’t win so I went back to Russia. When I came back in 2013, I ran in a federal by-election in Brandon-Souris as a libertarian candidate and then in 2016 provincial election I ran for the Manitoba Party in Arthur-Virden. So I do have some experience in running and in doing a campaign.
But the one thing I want to talk about tonight is the Indian Act. Alot of aboriginal people, and I’ll read you something from a chief – we’re looking for a party that’s not going to pay lip service to abolishing the Indian Act. Trudeau made the promise last election to the Native People that he would abolish the Indian Act. He’s not doing anything. Same with the Conservative Party beforehand. They tend to – what’s the word I’m looking for – distract us with the shiny gold trinkets and whatever the government can give because they want to keep the Indian Act in place.
I want to start off with … Not many people know that non-aboriginal people are in the Indian Act too. So if you’re not an aboriginal person, you’re still in this Indian Act. The Indian Act sets out the legal definition of who is considered a person of aboriginal status under Canadian Law and therefore who is entitled to certain charter rights and freedoms. In addition to treaty rights, while aboriginal status means certain rights and freedoms, it also means being dictated to about a number of things that impact the structure of one’s day-to-day life and greater community through all the other stuff that’s in the Indian Act. The definition of a legal aboriginal status also means that by virtue of negation all non-aboriginal people are legally defined as well. So the Indian Act, the government tells us who is an Indian and who is not. And by telling us who an Indian is they are also telling you who you are.
The other thing I want to bring out about the Indian Act that also includes non-aboriginal people is Queen Elizabeth’s claim to own almost all of Canada and we’re just borrowing it. The Indian Act states right on the first page designated lands means “attractive land or any interest therein the legal title to which remains vested in Her Majesty and in which the band for whose use and benefit is set apart as a reserve”. Aboriginal people do not own their own land – those under the Indian Act. And is followed by surrendered lands, means a reserve or part of a reserve or any interest therein the legal title to which remains vested in Her Majesty that has been released or surrendered by the band whose use and benefit is set apart. While it means that contrary to the common understanding of Canadian Law, no one but Queen Elizabeth can legally own land in Canada. We’re all just borrowing it – all of us aboriginal and non-aboriginal. You can own your house but the land on which it is built is not yours. The vast majority of this country has been declared reserve lands upon which may be founded treaties and the Indian Act enacted into law, once that happened the aboriginal people were forced out of their homes and onto the reserves. Now if they can do that to aboriginal people, if she wants your land, she can do the same thing to anybody else.
I mentioned that there was a chief in 2010, with the title “Our Time”, the speech filled with passion aimed at gaining international support for aboriginal issues. The Indian Act is the old and nasty piece of legislation, in those words, clearly designed as an instrument of oppression, control, and assimilation and Canadians currently and historically First Nations governments operate on a treaty function.
In the Canadian Nationalist Party, number 16 is to “abolish the Indian Act”. Like I said, there are many Canadian aboriginal people looking for a party like this.
As I’ve been working with and within the Canadian Nationalist Party, I’ve noticed alot of hatchet jobs by the media claiming that this is a “white nationalist” party and trying to put it on the “far-right”. I am not a face of the far right and neither is my family. We’re not a face of “white supremacy” or “white nationalism”. We’re the face of Canadian nationalism. I guess I’m here to stand by that definition of what this party is and I’ll challenge any media to talk with me, an aboriginal person, what the Canadian Nationalist Party means to us. So with that, I end my speech. I’ll take any questions you have and thank you very much.
So with abolishing it, what kind of effect is it going to have? What are we going to see?
Well for one thing, we are going to see the “crown lands” that they own for us come back under our jurisdiction. The crown lands are just that – they’re crown lands that belong to the crown and all the natural resources under it have been stolen from the First Nations that signed the treaties to allow Europeans onto the land. Now, the Crown said they will keep these [lands] in trusts for you. See there is a misconception that Canadian taxes pay for aboriginal benefits. No. The minuscule amount of money made from natural resources on crown lands is what pays for all the aboriginal benefits. This is why you have all these court cases – and this is something I believe the Canadian Nationalist Party will address – is all these frivolous lawsuits (land claim lawsuits) that are only making lawyers rich. It is not doing anything for the Canadian people or the Aboriginal people or the First Nations. This is something we need to address and that is something that abolishing the Indian Act will do.
The second thing is it no longer defines who we are. Now, in Canada I can only define myself as a Metis person. “Mixed blood”. In the United States, I’m a member of the Turtle Mountain band Ojibawa Indians because my grandmother was part of that tribe. We are not animals to be given a blood quantum – “Oh, he’s half Indian. He’s a quarter Indian. He’s an eighth Indian. He’s 19% or whatever percent”. The First Nations have their own culture from society and within a Canadian framework we can all work together instead of what the government likes is an “us against them” mentality and the Americans have been pushed down (a similar narrative) with black people and hispanics in the United States and the Canadian government is doing the same thing. That’s the main thing: it’s a racist piece of paper. But apparently people don’t know it because wherever a chief or somebody in power wants to get rid of it, out come the shiny trinkets from the government. We need a party in government who is going to say “This is enough. We’ll let the First Nations decide how they want to end the Indian Act”.
Give it to them, they come back to us, it’s history.
Is there any other federal party that has expressed interest in abolishing the Indian Act?
Libertarian was the only one at the time. Both Conservatives and Liberals have made promises to look at it, to abolish it, but they don’t want to because then they would lose control. The First Nations people of Canada just don’t control their own reserves. They control their resources for all crown lands because of how the treaties were created at that time. Someone who really knows more about this is Craig Blacksmith from Portage. I met Craig last summer when he was running for chief. And he talked about abolishing the Indian Act. His understanding is unreal, trying to hit home, this man he can explain every little detail and why it needs to be abolished as alot of tribes out in BC don’t even recognize the Indian Act because BC was never treaty. The tribes never signed treaties with Canada. The Souix Nations, Souix Vallet, Birdtail, Chinukpuwakpa, they’re Souix, they never signed anything with the Canadian Government so they’re not even under the Indian Act. Alot of people don’t know that either.
Give them a chance though. Why can’t you build your own houses and be plumbers and contractors and electricians? Help their own people.
Abolishing the Indian Act would allow them to do that. Under the Indian Act, they cannot build their own houses. They cannot maintain their own houses. The government has to take care of them and that’s one thing people don’t know.
The Indian Act keeps them from maintaining their own houses. They have to go through the band office, they have to go through a whole bunch of red tape to get something done. They’re not going to do that. Most people aren’t going to do that. If you wanted a faucet fixed, you could not legally buy a new facet and put a facet on because the government controls them through the Indian Act. It is a paternalistic act and that is why alot of natives want to get rid of it – those that want to move ahead. Now, those that don’t care – yeah, government is taking care of me. They’re the lazy ones. They’ll kick back and take their monthly peanuts and live the way they’ve always been living and they don’t have to lift a finger to do anything. And why should they?
What that Senator – and I don’t believe she should have been kicked out – she was telling the truth. And in this day and age nobody wants to hear the truth. It seems like that. As soon as you say something about another race of people they slam you with being “racist” and that is definitely something we need to change in this country because, guess what, there is problems with all levels on people and if you call something out and its the truth, well think of ways to fix it.
That’s what alot of us as aboriginal people, we want to get out there and fix it.
My grandparents left the reservation system in the 1920s. They came with 3 small children, came into Canada and started farming because my grandfather did not want to live under the reservation system and he did not want the church stealing his children and taking them away to boarding schools which was another thing in Canada that the Indian Act set up – stealing children away.
He farmed when it wasn’t a good time for natives to be farming. But he farmed. He supplemented in the winter time with hunting and trapping and in the summer time he had the horses out there and he was plowing. He was doing whatever he needed to do. This was in the 20s and into the 30s when the depression had struck.
They had 7 children, 6 who survived, the 7th died in infancy. Three of them joined the military in the early 40s. Two in WWII and then the third one joined the Korean War. My father served in D-Day. He was in D-Day. He was one of the first men on the beach and he was a prisoner of war after that. They came back broken men, but they came back. Two of them became millionaires out of that family because of the work ethic that my grandfather handed down to them.
You don’t get anything for nothing.
Actually he was looked bad upon by both white men and natives in the area. The natives said “You don’t deserve that. You don’t belong up there”. My parents and my father and his brother and two sisters, they got it from both ends. The whites called them half breeds, the Indians called them apples (red on the outside white on the inside).
They never have lived under the Indian Act and they’ve never wanted to. They walked away from it. Alot of aboriginals have walked away from it and they’ve become successful people.