In this article, I want to share with you some of the colonial labels we have acquired since the arrival of newcomers to KCN territory and the signing of the Indian Treaties in Canada.
Research shows that colonialism is the takeover of a foreign country, go and live there, and take control of it. In our case, as soon as the colonizers arrived on our island (Cumberland House) they changed the name of our community from Kaministikominahiko-skak to Cumberland House. They named it after a Duke of England who was called Cumberland.
In addition, they declared Rupertsland as their own using the “Doctrine of Discovery” which included the lands and resources of the KCN people and they sold it to the Canadian government for a very good profit. This land was not theirs to sell.
To add insult to injury they started calling us Indians and Savages and refused to acknowledge our Cree rights to our lands and our government. It was confusing to our ancestors because they were already living on the island and no body consulted them on the name change or the selling of our lands.
At the beginning, the Creator gave us a life (pimatosiwin) as Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation (KCN) people. He also gave us our Sovereignty which enabled us to sign Treaty with the Crown and to continue our way of life.
In other words, we never acquired our rights from the Queen, the Crown, the Canadian Government or from the Pine Bluff people. We were born with our Sovereignty which includes our Inherent and Treaty rights.
Since the arrival of the newcomers and the signing of Indian Treaties in Canada we have acquired several colonial labels which I find offensive, and racist. We believe these labels were designed to downplay the rights of the KCN people, and to take over our rich lands and resources.
My purpose of this article is not to offend anyone but to show how the Canadian government used these labels to divide us culturally, legally, and politically.
Indians – we acquired this label from Christopher Columbus who called our people Indians because he was lost and he didn’t know which continent he was at. He must have been stoned on good old fashioned Turtle Island marijuana.
Treaty Indians - these are the Indian Nations who signed Indian Treaties with the Crown. They are status Indians who are recognized by Indian Affairs under the Indian Act and some of them live on reserves. In some cases, they are called First Nations, Territorial Indians, Indian Bands, Tribes and Indian Act Indians.
Bill C31 Indians – these are Indians who lost their Indian status because of discriminatory clauses in the Indian Act. As a result, since 1985, many of them have received their Indian status back but many of them are treated as second class citizens on their own reserves.
Savages – this offensive term was used at the time of contact and it was used to portray our ancestors as being animal like, not human, incapable of owning land, and governing themselves. It was also used to justify the takeover of our rich lands and resources.
Our women were called squaws, and were labelled as childlike. This portrayal was shown over and over again in the old John Wayne western movies that promoted a negative stereotype of all First Nations women on Turtle Island which has led to violence.
Non-Status Indians - are Indians who are not recognized by Indian Affairs. These people are not allowed to live on reserves and the Canadian government will not recognize their Treaty and Inherent Rights. However, lately the courts have started to recognize their rights (the Daniels Case) and some of them have received their Indian status. I have personally heard that these people are being referred to as Indian Act Half breeds.
Metis - research shows that these are people of mixed ancestry. In our Cree language, we refer to them as Aphitowkosanak.
Over the years, we have been called Aboriginals, Indigenous and Native peoples. We don’t like these terms because they are generic and they don’t acknowledge our nationhood.
Finally, the point we want to make is that the KCN people will never accept any of the colonial labels outlined above, and we will never teach them to our children and grandchildren.
Instead, we will teach them that we were a Sovereign Cree Nation before treaty, at the time of treaty, we were signatory to Treaty #5, and continue to be a Sovereign Nation and to be proud of it. As well we will teach them that we were never Indians, and will never be. We born Cree people, and we will die Cree.