Here’s What Indigenous Nationhood Could Look Like in Canada—in the Year 2167
Forget European vacations, what about visiting all the countries within this country?
Close your eyes. You're at home. It's Canada Day in the year 2167.
Your robot dog is making you french toast. Your kids have teleported to Vancouver for the weekend with your parents. You're sitting in your solar powered bungalow sans pants and you've just finished doing the last prep for your party.
You have an hour or so before your friends fly over to your house for food, virtual fireworks, and the dozen or so holograms of famous Canadian entertainers you ordered for the evening. You question your choice in ordering the Celine Dion hologram, but you're stoked you decided on The Trailer Park Boys and not Red Green and you can't wait to hear those ol' classics from Russell Peters, "someone gonna get a hurt, real badddd."
You have a few other regrets.
The night is shaping up to be a classic except you are nervous about your friend Tom coming over. You're not nervous for the obvious reason—he always brags about having stainless steel balls on his teleportation device, but because of the way your plans are set for the end of the night—on the dance floor at the Casino in Cree-Nuck-A-Stan.
The last time you crossed the border into the little Indigenous country next door with him in the car, he kept screaming at the border guards that his "great grandpa Stephen Harper should have finished you people off" and that one day there will be a leader in his country that will "make Canada great again."
It'll be awkward, but, pass me a beer. It's time to fuckin' party.
By accepting reconciliation as a social movement, as a national project or as an effort for Indigenous communities to rebuild themselves after a few hundred years of colonial violence, we make space for conversations, art, music, thought and study on what the future of Canada might be like. In the words of the 6 God himself, "What a time / to be alive."
There is no handbook or manual to reconciliation, so this is where reconciliation gets weird. It's happening in real time, every day, through the decisions we make together as a society. When you ask every day Canadian's what reconciliation means, they can't tell ya.
Reconciliation is going mainstream at an accelerated pace without us even knowing what it means. We're dangerously close to seeing reconciliation featured on T-shirt catch phrases—I hear Tim Hortons may name a doughnut after it. Wanna know a secret? There's a rumour on the street that Trudeau may rename the city of Ottawa, "Reconciliation-Ville," population, you and me. And, yeah, I hear rumours on the street. I may be a fat dad, but I keep my ears low to the street.
2167 is 150 years from now. Under the calls for reconciliation in this country, we can imagine some of the changes we may see due to the 94 Calls to Action given to us by the TRC. But. Do the calls to action go far enough? They're clearly directed at various levels of government, institutions, corporations and systems that make this country what it is today.
But. What about the country, or countries, we aim to be?
If I could, given the proverbial magic wand, I'd use it to go back 150 years and start again. But, that'd likely mean, based on what I know now about this last 150 years, that I would not allow Confederation and dozens of broken treaties to happen in the first place, meaning, my Irish Grandpa wouldn't have fallen in love with Grandma and taken her off the rez, meaning she wouldn't have gotten pregnant, meaning my Dad wouldn't have been born, meaning, I wouldn't have been born, meaning I wouldn't be writing this article.
So. That can't happen.
For my money, if we are in the era of reconciliation and Canadians want to feel good as citizens and as a country, then first things first: Indigenous Nationhood.
Indigenous Nationhood is a hot topic. The work of (re)building self-determining, self-governed, Indigenous Nations scattered through the current borders of Canada is what many Indigenous leaders are calling for under the banner of reconciliation and the idea is starting to catch on...sorta.
Justin Trudeau campaigned on the idea that it is time to revisit and breath life into the Nation-to-Nation conversation in this country. In fact, every time he said it during the last election an eagle cried. Currently, Indigenous Nationhood is being bandied about in the NDP leadership race and it is sure to be a key talking point this spring. I have to imagine that Indigenous Nationhood is even on the minds of the Conservative party. I imagine every time a Conservative MP hears the words "Indigenous Nationhood" they wish they could point their pappy's hand-me-down rifle at it and blast it out of the fuckin' air.
Indigenous Nationhood is a fundamental question that needs to be asked and answered. It means Canada and Indigenous Nations alike have work to do, it's big work, with difficult questions and few answers.
So I wonder what the model will look like when we apply Indigenous Nationhood in Canada.
How about the European Union?
Yes, THAT European Union. I know it's not a perfect model, but it gives us a place to start the conversation.
Follow me here.
Generation after generation of young, middle class, mostly white Canadians dream to graduate high school and fill their backpack with their meagre belongings and travel across Europe with a couple of their chums. Every year, thousands of these young folks set out on a personal journey of discovering foreign foods, dirty hostels, and awkward one-night stands with people that have different accents than theirs.
What if young Canadians were offered that exact same thing here—a celebration of diversity, intrigue and personal growth in our own backyards? This could be perfect! We have foods for young people to discover, we can build dirty hostels on the rez and I'm sure we could hook up some good ol' fashioned NDN one-night stands!
Yes. I'm trying to sell you on different borders (yes, borders are colonial and problematic), laws (yes, plural, each Indigenous Nation has its own set of customary laws and practices, and jurisdiction is a major stumbling point here), and governments within the boundaries of Canada. There are dozens of Indigenous Nations currently inside of Canada that young people do not understand or have never been! Imagine they got hooked on the idea of the potential currently waiting for them in their own backyards!
Let's just focus on the food for a minute, because young Canadians like to eat! We love to eat too: we've borrowed century-old Ukrainian pierogi recipes and made them our own, my Dene brother makes a mean Moose Pho, and Coast Salish nations have been eating the best sushi on the planet since time immemorial.
If Canadians have no problem with the EU existing with different borders laws and governments then why can't we imagine the same thing here in Canada? I know the answer to this—racism—but other than that?
By the way, about half the work has already been done on this, it sorta already exists. Canada was founded on treaties, legally-binding and constitutionally upheld, Nation-to-Nation agreements.
Full disclosure. In case it's not obvious, I'm not a political scientist and I know I'm talking out of my ass a bit. I asked a few friends that ARE political scientists and they told me this idea was complicated and very difficult to imagine. However, not one of them said it was impossible.
You have 150 years to get it done, Canada. You can kick things off, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. You campaigned on it, let's dig into what Nation-to-Nation actually means and work towards 2167.
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