THE CROOKED PATH
Colonization to Decolonization
Brian Hawker, author
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For 145 years, the Indian Act has laid out the rules of engagement between Indigenous people in Canada and the non-native majority. Although this document has no relevance to the average Canadian, it governs every important aspect of life in Indian Country and every statistic in every study and survey confirms that it doesn’t govern well.
The Indian Act is the tip of a legislative iceberg that includes 300 years of attempts to manage, not fix, the outcome of a dark chapter in Canadian history.
Why do the majority of Indigenous children still live in poverty and without opportunities to develop and thrive?
Why do Indigenous educational, health care and legal systems continue to require the services of non-native professionals at all levels?
Why do Indigenous suicide and incarceration rates far exceed the national average?
Why do the majority of mainstream Canadians respond to this situation with either quiet indifference or with allegations of financial mismanagement?
The living conditions and prospects for this population would be very different today if past solutions had any substance.
After working for twenty years in many remote fly-in reserves in Northwestern Ontario, Brian Hawker, teacher and educational consultant, concluded that vested interests support the chronic pessimism that things will never be able to change and that the status quo causes needless suffering for Indigenous children.
He makes the case that change will happen only when the key players enact a new relationship uncontaminated by the false hope that only money and politics, the failed remedies of the past, will fix everything.
Hawker believes that Indigenous children have been forgotten and that those on both sides of this legislative wall, those with the power and opportunity to influence, will need to learn to give in order to get. This includes removing the barriers that separate specialized, but un-coordinated, forms of assistance, listening to and empowering those whose voices have not been acknowledged, and revitalizing the languages that are essential to restoring the mental health and dignity of those subjected to unjust legislation. They will learn to grasp that it will take an interdisciplinary approach to break the gridlock that has created thousands of jobs for people who have not changed the statistics. These changes would restore the broken connections in our history of treaty making and create a shared vision allowing Indigenous children to find the best versions of themselves.
About the Author
Brian Hawker has experience in teaching, curriculum design, needs assessment and program evaluation at the secondary, college, and university levels. He has worked as a university ombudsman, as a consultant in First Nations human resource development, and as a teaching administrator in Tanzania.
Some of his projects have included the preparation of two aboriginal adult basic level literacy workbooks, the design of an accredited, community-based traditional Native Arts program, the development of a Teacher’s Manual for teachers of Cree syllabics, and active involvement in a needs assessment as part of the development of an aboriginal BEd in Adult Education.
His most recent work has produced the successful accreditation of a “Two Worlds” Bachelor of Education program to deliver culturally appropriate teacher training to the members of Sioux Lookout District communities in northern Ontario.
Mr. Hawker speaks three languages. His academic and professional qualifications include a Diploma in Education, TESL certification, an M.A. in Educational Technology and membership in the Ontario College of Teachers.
He and his wife live in Guelph, Ontario. He has retired three times and is currently working on the design of a land-based high school program for First Nations youth living on reserves north of Sioux Lookout.