Treaty versus Status
In the 50s' 60s' 70s' and 80's I was referred to as a "Treaty Indian" and was issued a treaty card by then Indian Affairs Department. At that time Indian Affairs maintained three lists, Treaty Indians, Registered Indians and Non Registered Indians. Treaty Indians were identified as such as they had Treaties with the Crown. Winnipeggers, Manitobans, and Canadians alike understood the treaty process and tolerated Indians.
Recently, the "Status Card" came into existence as part of INAC's strategic effort to diminish the relationship between Canadians and First Nations People - aka - Treaty Indians. Treaties have a financial cost and as such have the effect of lessening the good will between Canadians and Treaty Indians. This creates a political climate of legitimizing policy decisions aimed at clawing back Treaty benefits, thereby making it an easier task. Who amongst us hasn't heard the statement "Indians are a burden on the tax payer"?
In Canada no person wishes to be less than his/her fellow citizens, therefore, the soil for seeds of dissent is fertile. The 'STATUS' card accomplishes the division completely and results in fear of Treaty Indians getting more then others. Why do they have status? Why do they have this "freebie". Again, cementing assumptions into incorrect facts based on ignorance and misinformation.
Students and adults alike have to again be taught about the treaties, the end results of those treaties and the legacy of those treaties - Indians like me and my family. A recommendation - turn back the pages and reuse the "Treaty Card" rather then the "Status Card". I believe this small change may accomplish more insofar as fostering a greater understanding and holding a more balanced view of Indians and their place in today's Canadian society.
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