Not since the days of Louis Riel have the aboriginal people of this land had such a profound impact on Canadian society.

In past years, aboriginal peoples have been rebelling more than ever against the colonial paternalist attitudes that permeate the dominant society of this country. As a people, even today we see roots of this outdated system still attempting to retain its tenacious hold upon us. Though the government of Quebec has promised to reject paternalism as a method of dealing with native peoples, we still see it.

When this newspaper is told that “white people” are not ready for native people to have the right of self-determination by a politician, it is indicative of the prevalent attitudes that exist today [see News, page 8].

But in the same breath, he also said aboriginal peoples have the right of self-determination. Did this statement mean aboriginal peoples have the freedom of self-determination as long as it’s what “white people” let us do?

Don’t blame only Quebec politicians. Native people everywhere know about the Great White Father… excuse me, the Canadian government, which recognizes our inherent right to self-government but sets an indeterminate date for its implementation. The Canadian government also wants to rewrite the dictionary. In the United Nations they’ve said that “peoples” means one thing in an international context and another internally in the reference to aboriginal peoples.

What does this mean, this self-determination, and what are the ties between self-determination and sovereignty for the Cree people and indeed other aboriginal peoples throughout the land?

We must look into this question. Lucien Bouchard’s party, the Bloc Quebecois, as part of its platform, is looking at two years as a possible timeframe for a sovereign Quebec. The francophone community of Quebec has been looking at this possibility for many decades. Most francophone people know what self-determination and sovereignty mean to them.

We, as a people, must start looking at our needs and desires in a realistic manner to define what we think of self-determination for ourselves. Otherwise we will become “cattle to be transferred from one master to another” (quote from Grand Chief Coon Come). We should be wary of this happening as it will just be a continuation of the myths of a “superior civilization” helping the heathen savages.

We have a unique opportunity to redefine our relationships with Canada and Quebec. But we must be prepared. I do not promote any of the available options but I do say that we have the right to choose the option best suited to the needs of our people. It is time to begin researching, planning, evaluating and debating the options and eventually to make our decision as a people. No longer can we accept the restructuring of the lives of our peoples by bureaucrats without consultation. We are no longer Canada’s “red children,” who must be led into the future. We are capable of determining that future ourselves.