Friday, July 15, 2011

Inheriting Chaos, Not Culture

Another tragedy, another child's life lost on an Indian Reserve. Of course children lose their lives through misadventure, neglect or simple bad luck anywhere. But on reserves the incidence of parents neglecting the welfare of their children appears to have become the norm. Societal and familial break-down on reserves presents as a fact of life. Values have become utterly distorted.

Respect is voiced for an historical way of life whose memory is treasured, but which reality likely would ascribe dreadful privation and health and longevity difficulties to. Little different in that respect to other societies at an earlier place in time in food scarcity, inadequate and dangerous employment, and medical and health unavailability for the masses.

None of these conditions need apply now, in a modern society that is capable of providing social services and universal medical care and education and job prospects in a wealthy, technologically advanced country. The choice to live in geographical isolation to maintain traditions and the sacred memory of an indigenous religion and culture has not resulted in a balanced society.

Unemployment is rampant, education and health services are inferior, adults become addicted to alcohol and drugs, and their children, neglected and left to their own devices, are right behind the adults. Suicides are rampant, and hopelessness reigns. Young men form gangs, and as though in emulation of tradition, they represent 'tribes' and tribal warfare results.

There is no band council or aggregation of adults capable of deflecting the influence of alcohol, drugs, gang violence and resulting danger. Children and infants are sacrificed by default to this dysfunctional tribal lifestyle where nothing has absolute value and everything is neglected, from parental responsibility, to pride in one's social condition.

A child sleeping in his bed is struck by a stray bullet when two rival gangs express their violently challenging conflict against one another. Another victim. The conscience of the community is stricken, briefly. There is talk of reform, of making an effort to ban drugs and alcohol and draw young people away from the gang culture.

It is sincere and ineffective.

This is a place where dysfunction expresses normalcy. A reserve doesn't even have to be one mired in poverty, it can be one that realizes wealth through the sale of natural resources. Without the intellectual means and inner discipline to manage that wealth that is meted out to each reserve member, it is meaningless and doesn't lift them out of the poverty of spirit they live with.

Band child-welfare agencies have their work cut out for them. The Department of Indian Affairs barely knows how to respond. The Government of Canada anxiously looks for meaningful ways to alter this miserable state of affairs - for the good and the future of the large contingent of First Nations children that represent a boon to the country.

All appears in vain. For the patient cannot seem to find it within itself to make the effort to seek and obtain a decent, safe, and self-respecting future.

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