Canada’s Indians

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After a century of spiritual and physical isolation, during which time they were commonly considered a dying race, the Canadian Indians have recently begun to emerge from the shadows and claim attention for their chronic problems of poverty, neglect and cultural and social alienation. In the last few years a great deal has been written, in the form of government surveys, articles and serious books, examining the ‘Indian problem’ from various points of view: but the more the subject is investigated the more apparent it becomes that the situation is an extremely complex and difficult one, defying both simple analysis and easy solution. Despite growing publicity and concern, and the expenditure of increasing amounts of money on programmes designed to help the Indian, the harsh facts of a poor and demoralized existence remain stubbornly unchanged for the majority of Canada’s native people. One reason why observations on the situation, and attempts to improve it, have proved so ineffective, is that they have been made mainly by non-Indian people with an inadequate understanding of native society and of what it is to be an Indian. Since I, as an outsider, inevitably have the same limitations, I feel some trepidation in producing another report about the Canadian Indians, and I want to make it clear that in this short survey I do not pretend to give a full picture or offer any new solutions. What I shall try to do is to describe some of the long-term social and historical causes of the problem, to show how they have combined to create the present situation, and to outline some of the Canadian Indians’ current aspirations for the future.

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