By Xavier Kataquapit
As an Indigenous person raised in a remote First Nation and on the land I am very familiar with my cultural and traditional roots. It was a steep learning curve for me to adapt, adjust and fit into the non-Indigenous world when I first left Attawapiskat to further my education in the south.
Part of my learning experience had to do with figuring out what federal, provincial and municipal elections were all about. I also had little knowledge of federal, provincial, regional and First Nation community political systems and how they operated. Once I started to write, my work demanded a lot of research on all kinds of topics and, of course, political systems and issues were of interest to me.
Through the years I have learned a lot about Indigenous and non-Indigenous political systems in terms of how they are set up, how they operate and what drives them. One of the things I have discovered has to do with the kind of people that run for political office.
I have to admit that I have grown to understand that most of these people are motivated by money, power and ego. Thankfully, there are also many in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous politics that actually become involved because they want to make life better for people in general.
It took me some time and a lot of research to really figure out what the political non-Indigenous parties were all about, who they represented, where they got their funding and what type of issues and beliefs they were aligned with.
I had to learn what it meant to be right wing, middle of the road and left leaning politically speaking. Here in Canada because we don’t have all that many political parties it was not all that difficult to look at these groups in terms of their history, actions and the people drawn to them.
Many people don’t really realize the differences in these political parties and they think they are pretty much the same when, in fact, all of them have historic traits that tell us who they really represent.
Generally, I have come to understand that right wing conservative parties and governments have been more aligned with the very wealthy, the corporations of our land while also holding on to status quo and outmoded ideals and beliefs.
I have learned that more middle or Liberal parties and governments represent a mix of serving the wealthy and corporate world while also providing support, assistance and development for average working people, minorities and the disadvantaged.
Over the years I have figured out that the more left parties still have some support for the wealthy and corporate world. This, of course, has to do with the fact that the very wealthy and corporate entities in the world actually control the economy and they have a lot of power. Even left wing parties and governments have to satisfy the power brokers. However, they are also heavily committed to assisting people and that includes minorities, the disadvantaged, the poor, women and Indigenous people.
At the same time, when you have a system that always bends to the wishes of powerful businesses, corporations and wealthy supporters and backers, it makes one wonder how much of a democratic system we actually live in. Democracy comes from the Greek language meaning ‘demos’ for ‘people’ and ‘kratos’ meaning ‘to rule’. When the influence of people to rule the land is weakened, it starts calling into question how much of a democracy we truly live in.
I have also noticed with the coming of social media that a new trend of hate seems to be taking place and being promoted during elections. Sadly, we see our political leaders slandered, demonized and hated and most of this trend seems to be coming from the right. All we have to do is look back on the last election in the United States to see how dangerous this thug-like move to the right has threatened democracy in that country.
When it comes to choosing which party to vote for during an election, I think as Indigenous people we have to recognize that those parties on the right, although they might talk about helping and working with us, in reality will not and their history proves that.
The most important thing that we can all do is vote no matter what party we believe in. At the same time we have to recognize that those leaders spouting hate don’t have a place in our democratic system here in Canada. They can’t fool that many of us with their hate, threats and thuggery.