What are some resources (books, etc..) that you recommend to people who want to educate themselves about First Nations people?
Any book that is written about the residential school system is a beginning point. One like “Indian School Days” by Basil Johnston is very informative.
“Dances with Dependency” by a First Nations lawyer from British Columbia, Calvin Helin, is a must to understand the complexity of the current situations.
To serve people with dignity we would recommend “Serving with Eyes Wide Open” by David Livermore and “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkart & Steve Corbett
“One Church Many Tribes’ is written by a Christ following Aboriginal, Richard Twiss
The book of the 2003 Massey Lectures, entitled “The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative” by Thomas King, who is himself First Nation.
What are some things people assume they should do that may not actually be a good idea?
Any time we arrive into a culture or a community with complex issues and believe we have the answers or that there are simple solutions, we are bound to cause damage or further hurt to people. We also have to realize that although they have significant needs, they live in Canada just like you and I. So giving them our leftovers doesn’t send a positive message. Donating clothing or items that we ourselves would not use or wear is not appropriate. Everything we do needs to be done in a way that brings dignity and so that the recipient feels valued.
From your experience what are the biggest challenges faced by people living on reserves?
The lack of purpose for their lives, valuable jobs and opportunities to work, access to affordable healthy food, and clean water. But in many ways, it is all condensed in … a lack of hope for their futures.
Why do you think that most people know so little about the situation on First Nations reserves?
Largely there is no interest. We are far more interested in “disasters” – things we can all respond to, that can be “fixed” in a short amount of time. The reason the situation exists on reserves is a shameful part of our history, and Canada – our schools, news agencies, people in general, aren’t interested in bringing up a horrible past. I think in our fast-paced, problem solving culture, when we can’t easily fix something, like the problems facing people on reserves, we move on. Many people see this as a “government problem” and often the attitude is “we already give them billions of dollars, why should we do any more.” We had one friend say, “I’d rather give my money to the starving people in Africa who want to live than to people who are committing suicide because they don’t want to live”.