Saturday, May 21, 2005

Poundmaker First Nation

Darcey from Dust my broom is covering the resistance of people to a criminal and unaccountable government at the Poundmaker First Nation near Battleford, Saskatchewan. The Canadian system of reservation governance has been broken and corrupt for years — but is continually propped up by those very native leaders in Canada who benefit from federal government funds without accountability. Consider this:

Chiefs and Councils and their senior administrative officers are immune from prosecution under the Criminal Code unlike any other elected regime in Canada.
Canadians oblige by failing to ask hard questions of federal and native leadership and by continuing to accept the typical portrayal of Native Canadians as neverending innocent victims of the white man…

I'd be interested to see if individuals, bloggers — assuming they're as relevant as we would like to think — and the media can support these people and give this story some legs. From Dust my broom
In the past, [Chief Ted Antoine] has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for untendered contracts while other councilors have received band contracts from him. Accounting records from 1998-2003 indicate more than $304,000 from provincial gaming revenues and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) flowed to councilors, some band members and Antoine — who used it for vehicle insurance and spending at a local store, rather than improving life on the reserve.

[] In 1998, some band members demanded an investigation into Poundmaker’s finances after it was revealed that for his chief’s duties, Antoine was paid more than $200,000 in salary, contracts and expense money in the 1997 fiscal year;
There was an investigation, but:
In 2001, the day before a number of files were to be turned over to federal officials conducting a band audit, the band office was burned down.
Two Poundmaker employees were acquitted of the arson. With all the corruption it is surprising that Big Chief Ted Antoine was re-elected. Not surprising that votes were possibly paid for. Somebody is doing something about it:
The problem-plagued Poundmaker Cree Nation is experiencing more tumult after dozens of band members took over the office of the chief and council on Tuesday, saying they plan to remain there until a new election is called.

Many band members allege the results of last year’s vote, which gave Chief Ted Antoine his fourth consecutive term, are erroneous.

“There’s no election regulations in place. There’s no order,” said Eric Tootoosis, spokesperson for the protesters, who call themselves the Poundmaker First Nation Working Group.
Why are they doing this? It is the only way to deal with this type of deep corruption. Nobody can help as it is legal to buy votes and bribe on a reserve:
Chiefs and Councils and their senior administrative officers are immune from prosecution under the Criminal Code unlike any other elected regime in Canada. Chiefs and Council proudly reference their “diplomatic immunity” to Indian band members.
It is not only the bought elections, the corruption is visibly blatant:
There are many questions around ‘Chief’ Antoine’s activities. His brother Dwayne, at this moment, is racing horses in Calgary. It costs $3000 a month to keep one horse; this guy has five! Where does a guy with a Grade Six education get $15,000 a month to keep horses? Why was there a purchase of $18,000 for feed in last year’s audit? Why are Dwayne Antoine’s kids, nephews, and nieces in Cut Knife? This guy is the education councilor! All the children have to attend school on the reserve, where no teacher wants to teach due to the substandard conditions. There are no text books! There is no proper instruction. The kids play in the gym all day!
This is not new or out of the ordinary. All the above takes place on reserves across Canada. It is sad that it never gets reported. From my own personal experiences: It is sad to see chiefs and council take a big piece of the government money for themselves and go to Vegas. It is sad to see chiefs and council go to the city on drug runs. It is sad to hear about band social workers covering up sexual abuse of children because it indicts one of their relatives, or the chief. It is sad to see 10 years olds sniffing gas. It is sad to see them kill themselves.

All we ever hear is the big chiefs crying out for more money to solve these problems but these problems never go away. In their quest for power and money they have stolen the voices of their own people.
Darcey closes with this:
Help spread the word. The media is quiet. The Poundmaker Working Group is asking for assistance and can be contacted here.
Lance from Catprint in the Mash has more information:
For further information please contact the organizer Diane Tootoosis at (306) 481-1007. That is a cell number to the exact site where this incident is taking place. Thank you.
Darcey has been in contact with Eric Tootoosis, and I look forward to further updates. Check out the comment sections on both of Darcey's entries — it is instructive to note the frustration of people. And I think it's valuable to consider what Lance has to say upon reflection:
Isn't it interesting that those people whom mainstream Canada would accuse of rampant corruption, are also those who are going to extraordinary lengths to do something about it.

These constituents take their freedom and their government seriously enough to risk more then a label. Unlike what Canadians risked when our Federal government took it upon itself to disregard political convention, when it actually operated for nine days in a state of non-confidence, when it bribed elected representatives with cabinet posts, senatorial seats, and ambassadorial posts.

Regardless of your views of the actions of The Poundmaker Working Group, these are people who care about their government, they care enough to risk everything. Canadians should learn from these people.
Well said.

HT: Blank Out Times, the first blog to the best of my knowledge to raise this story.

Updates: The Poundmaker First Nation is confronting their own government because of corruption, unaccountability and general malfeasance [above]. Darcey at Dust my broom is doing what you don't see very often on blogs — investigating and following up on a story, at the same time getting involved with the participants. He's even managed to round up a Poundmaker Blogger Alliance that includes:
Bumfonline, Gods of the Copybook Headings, Catprint in the Mash, Gen X at 40, Being American in T.O., Small Dead Animals, and Ianism.

Current entries on Dust my broom are:
Trouble in Poundmaker,
Trouble in Poundmaker II,
Poundmaker Working Group press release,
and Poundmaker Update.


Anonymous said...

I heard Phil Fontaine going on last night about the Residential schools. He said it was of the highest priority. Meanwhile Native children are being shortchanged and neglected by the sort of "abuse" and corruption you and others have highlighted. He should pay more attention to that and less about squeezing more money out of the Govt. for past "sins". It is time people spoke out, but they are afraid of being labelled "racist".

darcey said...

I agree with you. I'm "lucky" in one sense that I am Metis and therefore don't have to be afraid of those labels. I'm seeing it on my site right now where one person is directing traffic to make this situation known (it's what poundmaker needs) but are immediately being accused of racism. Incredible.

It is Fontaine's highest priority right as it is big cash - I assume he will have his hand in the cookie jar as well.

Anonymous said...

Darcey: Sure you do. Just see the funny pictures and comments Kate put up about me. I'm not "Indian enough". "She's not a real indian. Just plays one on TV". "Grey Owl Edition"

Just because you have aboriginal heritage doesn't make you immune to these kinds of attacks.

For instance on our reserve every few months one of the corrupt leader's nieces would write a letter to the editor about my columns which were exposing the crap on the reserve. The letters said things like "Why is this half-breed allowed to get away with saying these things about my aunty in the band office?" and this "Suc" (word for half in our language) has no right to say anything."

Oh.. and my favorite. When Mabel spoke up about how my mother had lost her status by marrying a white man... My late-mother's husband (who is full Cowichan) got pretty pissed off. As did his whole family.

No Darcey. You are never immune to attacks, just because you have aboriginal heritage. From either white people or from fellow aboriginals. See the Kate McMillan "MWW Unglued" poster for more details.

darcey said...

To be honest - the first time I met racism was from Souix indians in Brandon. I still can't close my jaw properly. I never said I was immune. I said I wasn't afraid. You need to move on and stop being angry. I'm a believer in forgiveness and moving on. If you can't do that then you are never going to move forward.

dave said...

They brought the mighty chief to town,
And showd him strange, unwonted sights.
Yet as he wandered up and down, he seemed to scorn their vain delights.
His face was grim, his eyes lacked fire,
As one who mourns a glory dead;And when they sought his heart's desire:
"Me like 'um tooth same gold," he said.
A dental place they quickly found.
He neither moaned nor moved his head.
They pulled his teeth so white and sound;
They put in teeth of gold instead.
Oh, never saw I man so gay!
His very being seemed to swell:
"Ha!ha!" he cried, "Now Injun say
Me heap big chief, me look like hell."
Ambition- Robert Service

Anonymous said...

Friday night in Ottawa, I am walking to the bus stop to get home. I see/hear this guy talking, and laughing, on his cell phone about so and so transferring money into this account or that.

I say to the guy,"Hey, are you Phil Fontaine ?"

He says "yes", and I say, "You sure do make a lot of money, don't you Phil ??"

He says "What ? "

I reply "All that money comes from taxpayers, or didn't you know ? "

He replies, "You are just visitors here, why don't you go back where you came from, white man ?"

I walk away in awe, holding up my key chain, pretending I have a portable recording device.

100 % true story...ain't Canada grand ?

Anonymous said...

I am from Oneida Nation of the Thames, and our Chief & Band Council let go of our Education Department in August for Mismanagement of Funds from our Children's Education. All the Employees were let go with a settlement package to walk away from the wrong they did. At a Council Meeting these same individuals came to meeting trying to get their jobs back. Council has approved that they would go back 12 years and do a forensic audit on O.K.T, Log School, & Standing Stone School. Also our Nation receives Rama Casino money that was to be distributed amongst the people & every one is to get a house. Our housing is a digrace. Can a vote of non Confidence be done on our Chief & Council. How do we get rid of these people?