Emperor, Czar, Pharaoh, Sultan, Kaiser, King, Queen, Maharajah, Pasha, Chief, Mikado, Rajah, and Mikado. The commonality of these titles is Sovereignty. Absolute power over land and people on the land. Absolute power over life, death, slave; in other words, quality of life or quickness of death.
Think then of history … pages of history written in blood, written in tears of suffering and bondage. Tens of thousands of pages chronicling humankind caught up in systems of societal control by a Sovereign with power over life and property. Societal systems that inevitably failed miserably as a consequence of the determination by the masses to be free of the sovereignty state and to replace that horror with freedom and democracy. This struggle has been ongoing for thousands and thousands of years.
Think of this land most of us refer to as Canada. Think of the thousands of years of struggle for you and me to be here today and the tragedy of suffering it took to now enjoy our democratic life styles — notwithstanding all the many short comings of governance and the gross indifference by many of us for democracy we take for granted. It doesn’t occur to most Canadians that democracy is not a right but the end result of struggle that is required to make democracy a reality.
The 200-year struggle of aboriginal peoples of this land is lamentable. The arrogance of the settlement people and the European style of colonization is equally lamentable. It is my fondest wish that a workable version of rights and title be returned to those peoples who occupied this land long before colonization occurred. Equally, it is my ardent hope that reconciliation be conducted in a manner that is not knee jerk by Canada and its provinces and that the process of reconciliation be with forward thinking, fairness and common sense.
I read Neil J. Sterrett’s book titled Mapping My Way Home – A Gitxsan History and I have, through his sharp memory, developed a far greater appreciation of the power and determination of the aboriginal peoples prior to and post colonization. It is an amazing read. The sovereign authority over the lands — subdivided into territories — was and continues to be the hereditary chiefs of those many territories. Their respective historic command and domination were formidable. Trespassers were not taken kindly to and often the consequence of trespassing came with the penalty of death. Swift and final sovereign consequence.
Having said the above, today I struggle to understand what future power the hereditary chiefs will wield. Obviously, control by aboriginal peoples pertaining to land-based resources is becoming, more and more, a reality. What is not clear to me and probably to many other Canadian citizens is to what extent will hereditary chief sovereignty go? I, for one, do not wish to return to any form of sovereignty control. Not now. Not ever. Nor, I suspect, will my sons and my grandsons.
There must be transparency and clarity in the reconciliation process. I see neither, and that seriously concerns me. An old adage, “be careful what you ask for, you may get it,” comes to mind. We are living in exciting times, truly.
J. Bruce McGonigal