Saturday, April 30, 2011

Issues & News From STSSA Friends & Family

Issues & News From STSSA Friends & Family

Posted By: Tjay Henhawk
To: Members in First Nations & Aboriginal Rights
Why so few aboriginal people vote
The federal election campaign is dominating the news as politicians, analysts, volunteers and many others actively work at swaying Canadian voters. For many First Nations people, however, elections are another tiresome and irrelevant Canadian institution, particularly as it appears that dropping the writ is quickly becoming too common a pastime. In 2008, the number of onreserve votes barely reached 10% of the reserves' voting populations. The rising number of those under 25 years of age means that aboriginal votes could, increasingly, influence election outcomes if voter turnout was high.
A quick look at history helps explain the overall non-involvement of aboriginal people in exercising their voting rights. Under Sir John A. Macdonald, Indian men were allowed to vote, a right included in the country's first elections legislation. In 1898, though, Sir Wilfrid Laurier revoked that entitlement on the grounds that Indians, as wards of the Crown under the Indian Act, could not have a say in elections. Some historians have argued that the real reason for the reversal was that the predictably large number of Indian votes favouring Macdonald's Conservative party was a threat to the continuation of Laurier's Liberal leadership.
After the Second World War, a new social consciousness emerged in Canada that included a growing awareness of the plight of aboriginal people in the country. One outcome of active lobbying was a removal, in 1960, of the discriminatory part of the Canada Elections Act, to include those registered under the Indian Act. Registered Indians, both women and men, were thus free to vote close to 50 years ago in the 1962 federal election. Because of how recently these changes were made, today's middle-aged native people do not have memories of their parents and grandparents discussing how they voted, and what happened to them in some of the past, more memorable Canadian elections. Voting traditions, as with all traditions, are not established overnight, so generational voting traditions are only now being established among some native people.
While the number of eligible native voters continues to climb, the number of actual voters remains low. Studies have identified two compelling factors that influence how actively certain populations participate in elections:
A sense of civic duty. This is the be-? ? lief in the value and importance of voting, and an awareness and conviction of having the political clout to make relevant changes.
Association with the political com-? ? munity. The closer this association is, the more likely people are to vote. For example, strong ties to the federal political system often parallels strong incentives and social pressure to participate in the voting processes.
These two factors as they relate to the First Nations are too significant to ignore. Historical exclusion from Canada's democratic institutions has made it virtually impossible for native people to feel a sense of their own significance within those structures and whatever sense of civic duty that had been fostered in the Macdonald days has long since faded. As well, a look at the long-standing history of aboriginal-federal government conflict makes it easy to understand the sense of futility that many aboriginal people feel toward federal institutions, such as the electoral system. Governments' patterns of inadequate responses to the voices of native concerns, including denials of treaty agreement obligations, initiate a general apathy and mistrust which translates into reluctance by native people to participate in government undertakings. People tend to participate only in those activities in which they feel they are meaningfully contributing, and perceived as a valuable part of the group. The Third World standard of living is only one indication of the governments' influence on First Nations people. Perhaps the reluctance of the federal government in working toward effective solutions is directly proportional to the voting reluctance among reserve populations.
We can also consider First Nations' unwillingness to participate in provincial politics. Understandably, there is more day-to-day conflict between First Nations and provincial governments than there is with the federal government. The distribution and use of land and resources such as hunting, fishing, and mining, fall under provincial jurisdiction and are important in the daily lives of First Nations people. As well, many First Nations are adamant about not being "provincial citizens." They are nations who signed historic treaties with another nation and do not think well of Canada's attempt to relegate them into mere provincial status. Making matters worse, the provinces, seeing reserves as federal authority, view Indians as "federal citizens." These dichotomies and conflicting views end up with First Nations populations in "lose-lose" situations that are difficult to resolve.
Considering the historical context and status quo of the First Nations, it is not surprising that the choice of many is non-participation in the government institution of voting -one which most Canadians cherish as the heart of democracy.
Anita Olsen Harper recently received a PhD in education with an emphasis on history, from the University of Ottawa.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
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Washington, D.C. - Shirley Sherrod, civil rights leader and cooperative developer, will be among five outstanding cooperative leaders receiving the cooperative community's highest honor on Wednesday, May 4rd, 2011, when they are inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame. In addition to Sherrod, the 2011 inductees include: agri-business leader, Noel Estenson; international cooperative developers, Gloria and Stanley Kuehn; and former Member of Congress and credit union leader, Daniel A. Mica. The dinner and induction ceremony will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Sherrod, a native of Baker County, Georgia, is a veteran of the civil rights movement who found a way to achieve economic justice and rural land ownership for small and lower-income farmers through collective farming and cooperative development. As co-founder of a 6,000 acre black-owned cooperative and land trust that was forced into foreclosure, she was a party to the recently- successful class action law suit against US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for discriminatory lending practices. After the foreclosure, she joined the Georgia field staff of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF, where she spent the next three decades helping small farmers, developing rural cooperatives and building economically viable rural communities. In July 2009, she was appointed as the USDA Rural Development Georgia State Director by the Obama Administration, a position from which she was forced to resign a year later.

"The roster of the Cooperative Hall of Fame tells the story of the US cooperative community through the lives and accomplishments of extraordinary individuals. Induction to the Cooperative Hall of Fame is reserved for those who have made genuinely heroic contributions to the cooperative community," said Gasper Kovach, Jr., Board Chair of the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) which administers the Hall of Fame. Kovach pointed out that only 147 individuals have been inducted since the Hall of Fame was established in 1974. The complete roster and the life stories of its members are available at
The Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) is a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization with a rich history in the U.S. cooperative community and a mission to raise public awareness and stimulate the development of sustainable cooperatives that can contribute to all sectors of the U.S. economy. For more information on CDF:
For Cooperative Hall of Fame dinner or sponsorship information, contact CDF at 703-302-8097 (
# # # # # #

Cooperative Development Foundation
2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22202

(Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund)

"When crazy people call you crazy, you know you're sane.
When evil people call you evil, you know that you are a good person.
When lairs call you a liar, you know that you are truthful.
Know who you are and don't let others tell you who you are." - Dave Kitchen

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