Blog: Indian Act Reserve Systems Removes Us From our Homelands, To Exploit Our Precious Resources?

Guest blog by Charles Hookimaw,
Member of Attawapiskat First Nation

The recently unmasked mass-grave of 215 Indigenous students in Kamloops BC Indian Residential School, were children who were removed from their Homelands, their Father, their Mother, and Family. Still to this day, this is what’s happening in our communities. Federal ruled reserve systems, under the Indian Act control how we live, with limited services to sustain our way of Life in the Indian Reserve System.

Under the Federal Reserve System, we cannot expand our community beyond existing “borders”; we have to apply “addition-to-reserve” (ATR). An ATR is a parcel of land that is added to the existing reserve land of a First Nation or that creates a new reserve. Land can be added adjacent to the existing reserve land (contiguous) or separated from the existing reserve land (non-contiguous). The making of reserves is not a historical event, but one which continues as we need permission to expand our “reserve” from Canada and Ontario.

I was born and raised in Attawapiskat First Nation, Canada. I have a first had account of-what is going on with proposed resource developments, like the Ring of Fire, and the corporate players from Noront, to Wyloo and DeBeers – who benefit through acquiring claim stakes, assets, and company takeovers within Attawapiskat’s Traditional Territory. These corporate actors are using the colonial laws, enacted and upheld by our current government, to exploit, extract, and be enriched from our resources.

Colonial laws were also put in place to remove us from our Homelands and confine us in a reserve system set by the governments. This is where we are situated now. Now, we are removed from our homelands, while the mining industry has easy access, no obstacles, and a right to profit. The colonial laws which removed the “Indian” from the land and put us in a reserve, now use colonial laws to allow industry to exploit OUR HOMELANDS. The passage of time has not changed the continued disregard with which Canada, Ontario, and corporate actors like the mining industry, treat First People’s.

There must be full inclusion for First Nations before anything is put on paper if there is to be any so-called “reconciliation”. How will this happen when we are fighting with Canada and Ontario in courts? Is this what the “reconciliation” they talk about, looks like? We need a new beginning and where colonial laws aren’t the almighty.