There’s a story I recently read. It goes something like this:

The company I worked for had an employee-suggestion competition; the entire staff was to submit entries that would save money for the firm.

The winner was a man in my department who suggested we post corporate memos on bulletin boards, instead of printing 200 individual copies for distribution. He got a helium balloon with the company logo and one share of stock.

A memo announcing the prize went out to 200 people.

The employee suggestion box is an old idea, but more and more companies are using the employee suggestion scheme as an important part of the company. It is turning out to be a very useful tool, in many ways profiting the Fortune 500 companies enormously.

But, in the old-school style of Aristotelian thought, with rigid hierarchical chains of command, and where workers were supposed to work within specific constraints, the suggestion box was an afterthought as seen in the above example.

Within most negotiated Agreements (the new improved government approved modern day name for a treaty) there was always a smug and retrospectively facile repudiation of ethnocentrism in the creation of old-school style holding companies to manage Cree money, complete with the chains of command and the addition of non-Native board members to make sure Crees were doing it right. The creation of these holding companies showed a distinct lack of cross-cultural sensitivity, despite claims to the contrary.

In all, we have to look the cultural implications of the symptomatic placement of these bureaucracies within the Cree ethos. In other words what effect will they have on us?

I was almost, but not quite, amused and bemused to hear one Cree talleyman complain about a consultation process. He said that they didn’t come in to hear what people thought but rather to present the plan, tell them they would probably get little or no compensation, and then left.

Thus, at first look it would seem that the bureaucracies or bureaucrats are in competition with the Cree cultural ethos, or way of life, and are merely a part of the Westernization and hence assimilation of Crees. When these systems were first set up it was done with little knowledge or input by the Crees. Without an appropriate educational background how can one hope to argue in a logical and coherent manner (that the non-Native negotiators would understand) about the alternatives or why something was bad for the Cree ethos? Basically, it was left to the non-Native lawyers and consultants to explain things to Crees.

The questions of integration and perhaps subjugation of these Cree companies into a form more in keeping with Cree ethos and ways of life should have been and should be a priority. Perhaps this is something that could be looked at during the GCCEI/CRA Board Annual General Assembly this year, because if we cannot take control and mold our bureaucracies to Cree patterns, instead of the Aristotelian or Western models, then what hope do we really have for a Cree form of self-government? Now the question is “is anybody listening?”