Re: Band members ‘disheartened’ by pay, Aug. 19.
It’s not easy for Semiahmoo band members to criticize their chief and council.
They run the risk of being BCR’d – band council resolution – such as being put last on the list for aid, or even expelled from the reserve.
Yet for band members to ignore internal inequalities risks perpetuating injustices such as poor health, lack of proper sanitation and potable water and the suffering of women, elders and the disabled.
Non-aboriginals may ask how did it happen that some Semiahmoo people are living in sub-standard conditions? Due to yearly audits, Ottawa knows exactly how much money the Semiahmoo have.
But on the ground, band leadership has a significant impact.
In his book, Bad Medicine, John Reilly examined the Stoney Indian Reserve of Alberta and its dysfunctions.
Reilly concluded that the lack of effective social programs was due to the tribal elite that “took all the money for themselves and didn’t give a damn about the people.”
Band members could try to appeal to the Department of Indian Affairs, but the fact is federal strategy is to discourage development on reserves. Indeed, Ottawa indirectly encourages chiefs and councils to indulge in corruption and nepotism, which has the further effect of moving the spotlight away from governmental underfunding of reserve infrastructure.
Part of the challenge for the Semiahmoo people is to ensure their leadership is imbued with principles such as ‘pashtamowin’, which mandates everyone in the group is treated with respect, kindness, and consideration.
Bob Burgel, Surrey