Published in New Breed magazine, January 1972
Should the Indians and Halfbreeds become involved in elections? Generally, we have not been active in elections and voting. The main reason is that after our nation was destroyed by Ottawa a hundred years ago, our people were pushed too far down, thus kept out of politics.
Through the years, parliamentary government has done very little to improve our way of living. We have always been forced to live in poverty without decent jobs, and without political rights. The political parties of Liberals, Conservatives and NDP have made no difference in bringing about any social and economic changes for the Native people. The NDP is very much like the other two capitalist parties, except they bring about small reforms in things like health, welfare, insurance, etc. It is part of the capitalist system, and therefore unable to make any real and basic changes in the society. All political governments have discriminated against the Native people and have denied them their rights as full citizens.
Parliament is an instrument of the white ruling class, and its main purpose is to support and protect the rich businessmen. Real changes and improvements for our people can not be obtained through parliament. It is a mistake and misleading to think that the white man’s government will ever bring any real freedom and equality to us. It is nonsense to think that white business rulers can be voted out of power. The ballot box is a fraud that tricks us into thinking that the next election can bring us our rights, and freedom from oppression. This kind of foolish thinking prevents the development of revolutionary ideas and actions.
All the departments and laws are under control of the white ruling class government. It is easy for these rulers and their government to change or quash rules to suit their own interests at the time. This was shown in October, 1970, when Ottawa forced the War Measures Act on the people of Quebec. Ottawa did the same thing against the Native people of Saskatchewan in 1885 when these rulers wanted to crush our ancestors and put them on reserves, and take their valuable lands. Ottawa can do the same thing again whenever they want to act against us. We have no guarantee that the federal government will not send soldiers and guns out to kill and jail the Native people again.
However, now that Indians and Halfbreeds across Canada are waking up to their condition of poverty and oppression, the white ruling class wants to get us involved in mainstream society, and in party politics. Should we participate in elections and in voting? In 1996, a committee of Native people in Saskatchewan ran a candidate in the Meadow Lake constituency in the federal election. Our candidate received over 600 votes. At that time, we felt such activity in party politics helped to awaken Native people about understanding their situation, politically. However, today we are not sure that taking part in elections is really helping our people. Maybe it does more to trap them into thinking that voting, elections and parliament is the only way or the ‘proper way’ to bring about change for our people. It is true that elections can be used as an effective means of getting people involved and concerned about the politics of our terrible conditions. Since the attention of people is focused on elections and candidates, it is a good time to point out the faults of the capitalist system, and the way it discriminates against and oppressed our people. It is a good time to show that white businessmen rule us with their racist government. But is it worth it, if we are to victimize our people into believing and accepting an election trick that controls us as children?
As Indians and Halfbreeds we are a conquered people, and colonized. The Ottawa soldiers invaded our prairie country in 1885 and won the war against our ancestors. As the new rulers, they seized our land, and for all purposes made the Native people prisoners in our own land. White men destroyed as much of our culture and local government as they possibly could. By keeping us in small Halfbreed communities and on reserves, Ottawa and its government was able to control us. As prisoners, we were inferiorized, that is, made to believe that we were inferior and lower than the white man. We were told that we were not able to run our own affairs, that we needed protection. But it was the white man’s government that we needed protection from.
Our leaders, such as Louis Riel were murdered so that our ancestors could not organize, and remain powerful as a Native nation. Our nationalism — the feeling of being proud as a Native and the spirit of concern for our brothers and sisters — all this was crushed. Where it was necessary, Ottawa stamped nationalism out with the use of the gun. However, today we must start rebuilding our Native nationalism and our culture. It is important that we develop a sense of unity and a sense of brotherhood. Our petty differences and quarrels must be put aside, and we have to concern ourselves with all the Native people, and not just our self. Above all, we have to stop trying to be white, and trying to be accepted by white society. A strong nation can not be built on Native people who are ashamed of their Indianness, and by people who are lying to themselves, and by Natives who are ‘sucking-up’ to the so-called important white people. We must have pride in ourselves and in our nation. Native (Red) nationalism is an important part of our revolutionary struggle against our masters and oppressors, the white business man’s government.
Native nationalism has to be carefully guided, so that it helps to bring a strong national feeling in each Native person. Just to restore old Indian and Halfbreed customs and rituals is not necessarily rebuilding Native nationalism. The white rulers know that a spirit of nationalism is rising among Native people, so they are working to direct and control it in their own interests, that is, they get Native people all tied-up in traditional Native culture that is not linked to revolutionary politics. As a result, this kind of Native nationalism becomes more oppressive, and serves to control these Native people much more easily.
Racism is one of the most serious problems that faces us. Since it is part of the capitalist system, we will always be discriminated against as long as this kind of society is in power. It is impossible in every way to be integrated into the white mainstream society of Canada. A racist society can not integrate Native people into the mainstream, even if the white people want integration. As far as Canadian society is concerned, Halfbreeds are Indians. We are only kidding ourselves by thinking because we are half white that we are half way into white mainstream society. As Halfbreeds, we are discriminated against, and shut out from the white society just as seriously as any Indian.
As a result of these conditions, it is quite impossible for Native people to obtain any real success in the white man’s capitalistic society, that is, in terms of getting control of our reserves and communities, of being free from discrimination and racism, of getting full employment or a decent standard of living, or of being free and equal people. Therefore, our struggle is to change the capitalist system, and thereby get rid of the conditions that control and oppress us. But this big change can not be made through elections and through the ballot box. Our struggle is against the whole system of capitalism. We can never be free and equal people as long as the white man uses government instruments, such as jails, courts and police to keep the Indian and Halfbreed in ‘his place’ by charging us with petty offences. Jailing us, and using police brutality is the white man’s scheme for terrorizing us, and for reminding us that he is in complete control of us. It is his way of showing his power and authority.
Our struggle is against those things of the business man’s government — capitalism — that keeps the Native people down. Therefore, we have to struggle against the courts, the ballot box, the school system, and all the other things that dominate us. Our struggle is a revolutionary one, and we can not settle for anything less than complete freedom.
– Howard Adams (Métis)