Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be a Native leader in Canada? Do you ever think beyond those demeaning and unjust stereotypical representations of the “corrupt, ruthless, and self-centred Native leaders?” Personally, I think that being a Native leader must be a pretty thankless job and I sure wouldn’t want it!

Really, just think about it for a while. When was the last time you heard anyone say: “That was a real good job you did and we’re proud of you” to one of our leaders? Now, compare that to the number of vicious rumours that too often circulate in our communities, or within our provincial and national organizations, about the women and men who serve our peoples. I’ll just bet that those unkind and vicious rumours far outweigh the positive or supportive comments.

At this point in history as Native peoples—particularly with self-government looming just beyond the horizon—we really ought to think long and hard about the state of our communities and nation. And, we really ought to have confidence and respect for the women and men we elect to represent us.

While I’m certainly no big fan of any particular leader, I have become much more empathetic with them. I understand that theirs is not an easy job; they face criticism from both Native and non-Native peoples, they have no private lives and they are expected to work around the clock for next to nothing. Even worse, too few people understand the complex legal and political world they inherit when elected to office.

As Native peoples aspiring towards self-government, don’t you think we ought to respect the political processes and organizations that are our own? And shouldn’t we give our leaders (who are elected through a duly constituted system) a vote of confidence by standing behind them? Lastly, as citizens of Aboriginal nations in Canada, shouldn’t we continually educate ourselves so that we can be productive and contributing members within our families, communities and nations?

Personally, as a Native person who grew up imprisoned in a White system, governed by White laws, oppressed by White rulers and brainwashed by White institutions, I wholeheartedly support the leadership in our move towards self-government.

This opinion piece was reprinted with permission from Windspeaker, where Janice Acoose writes a regular column.