I wanted to write an article about an issue that I constantly hear about. A question that is constantly being brought up is: Do First Nations benefit from white-dominated social systems? European practices and institutions are of questionable use and effectiveness for Aboriginal people. How can we as Aboriginal people take back the responsibility for solving social problems and deal with the well-being of our communities? When will that day come when we as First Nations reinforce our cultural values as a means of strengthening our communities?

We need to strengthen our pride as First Nations people. I personally feel Social Services would be stronger and would make a difference if the services reflected cultural values. I don’t mean to say that social-services workers are incompetent. They are our people. But I feel we have too many non-Native intervention programs and the Native intervention programs we do have – are they being implemented in the work area? That is questionable.

I feel our social services are too political, and there are policies and procedures that continually have to be followed. But where does this leave the grassroots people? Often in the same situation. Our people often depend on social services to guide them through their healing. But in many cases, time is of the essence. Their healing is put on hold and people start to give up. Whereas in our traditional values, time is put aside and the focus is on the individual. There were no barriers, no walls for people who needed help. There were no policies or procedures, no white man telling them you can’t do this because in our law it is not allowed. We weren’t judged, we weren’t labeled as having all these disorders. The grief and pain we were already carrying was enough for someone to handle. Not like today, when more is added to our pain by being labeled.

I ask this question one more time: Can we honestly say that our people benefit from the white-dominated social system? There needs to be change. The realization and existence of our values, traditions and beliefs must be recognized and must be a part of our healing system. We’ve been invaded for too long. For too long, we’ve been told we were incompetent Indians and that we should be ashamed of who we are. In fact, being told we couldn’t do anything right was instilled in us. We have to change that and rid ourselves of that belief of being incompetent.

We are not incompetent. We are caregivers and caretakers, and we have to start helping one another. We need to stand as a nation. There is a need for healing and it can’t be done unless it is done our way.
“Let’s quit surviving and start living again,” as it says in the book Respecting our Human Dignity: Justice in Aboriginal Communities, Beyond Violence, by the Quebec Native Women’s Association.

For me, I have chosen the Native way. I feel more comfortable speaking to my own people because I feel they are more at a position to understand what it is our people are suffering from. I speak to Elders when I need help. They don’t judge me.

Whereas the white system gives me hypothetical answers. I am labeled as an alcoholic, a drug addict or having some kind of disorder. They give you pills to keep your depression or anxiety attacks under control, and our people, our Elders, give us the compassion they have to offer and help us deal with whatever we have to deal with.

They listen and speak from the heart, and the white system speaks from the mind. For the white system it is their job to help us and for our people it is our way.

We need to start dealing with our past. We need to start dealing with the core of our burdens and pain. We need to start reeducating ourselves about who we are and where we came from. Nobody can begin to understand what our people suffer from, but our own people.

Any comments or ideas are welcomed. Please write in. Anonymous letters are welcomed (as long as you identify yourself to The Nation in the letter). A change will not happen unless we start to voice ourselves.