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Prior to colonization indigenous people assimilated, adopted and even kidnapped people and children. We did not define identity and belonging in terms of blood and DNA. Marrying-out — or, better said, marrying members of other nations — was a proven method of good medicine in that genetic diversity was valued to keep the blood clean.

Through processes of colonization, many indigenous people embraced what they needed to in order to retain their land and land-related rights, such as the right to fish, farm, harvest and hunt. Many indigenous people took on a settler identity and culture as their way to thrive and live on. Some opted to marry settler people.


It is now clear that indigenous people were not entitled to the same free land grants that settler people were. It does not require rocket science to understand that intermarriage and moving who we were underground was a tool of survival, a tool to hang on to land. Sometimes this is what indigenous people do to survive: they hide. It is for these reasons that I do not like the Algonquin fraud arguments.

Through the Indian Act indigenous identity became first quantified and then defined patrilineally. What I mean by this is that Canada invented the one-quarter blood quantum requirement and then indigenous heritage was passed down the male line. Although much of this changed in 1985, indigenous women and their children became the targets of the need to get rid of the problem — when indigenous women married settler people they were no longer deemed Indian. This was the case even though valuing the medicine of genetic diversity was traditional.

Canada worked hard (and continues to work hard) to eliminate indigenous people and status Indians.

Within the context of the land claims process, some people focus on identity politics in their need to discredit it. Some people suggest that after several generations of not marrying-in to an indigenous community, it makes a person not entitled to participate in the process. Other people say not having indigenous blood is enough to discredit people from their involvement. I understand these lines of thinking, as in some cases there may be truth here. But I think this is not the best way for us to raise the issues inherent in the process.

The land claims industry remains a perpetuation of Canada’s colonial policy that seeks to clear title to the land. The language in the policy has shifted over time from blanket extinguishment, to land and resource extinguishment, to defining rights completely. Regardless of this shift in language, Russell Diabo’s work informs us the underlying goal remains the same: extinguishment of indigenous rights and the need to clear title to the land.

aerial parliament ottawa
Algonquin Anishinaabe chiefs have deemed the Algonquin land claim, which encompasses a large part of Ottawa and Parliament Hill, as fraudulent.

Within the goal of the need to extinguish indigenous land rights and the need to clear title to the land, Canada has to rely on a broader understanding of who is indigenous. And so while Canada worked hard (and continues to work hard) to eliminate indigenous people and status Indians, the contradiction now is Canada has to cast a wide net to capture us for the purpose of the cultural genocide inherent in the land claims process.

Canada does this not because Canada cares about and loves us; rather, Canada does this because Canada needs to make sure that a group of indigenous people do not come back at a later date arguing, “Hey, you forgot us and we want our land and our rights.”

Some have no idea the land claims process is an industry, a job creation process, rooted in cultural genocide.

It is my understanding that Algonquin people are involved in the land claims process for many reasons. Some Algonquin are sitting at the table because they have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed and they need the paycheques. Other Algonquin are there because their humanity has been harmed or destroyed and they need to feel worthy. Some need the paycheques to support their addictions. Some are struggling with identity issues where today Algonquin enrollment law is their only ritual of identity affirmation. Some need to protect the little land mass called a reserve from further theft. Some have no idea the land claims process is an industry, a job creation process, rooted in cultural genocide.

I refuse to engage in identity politics as a way to discredit the land claims process. Clearly Canada owns this mess.

I love Anishinaabeg.