The strongest platforms for indigenous people are the ones we create ourselves. Since the beginning of November, Siksika Nation’s spiritual leaders have created a blockade in order to bring attention to inconsistencies within the community’s Chief and Council.
“We need to let the truth come out. We are hiding behind lies, but the people deserve the truth,” states Ben Crow Chief, initiator and voice of the blockade. In search of the truth, Crow Chief decided to inquire to Siksika’s governance in order to gain and share information about the 44 home development projects the Alberta Government has granted the reserve. Unfortunately, he and many others have received no clear information. Chief and Council have remained almost unanimously silent about the topic, thickening the communication barrier between the people and their supposed leadership.
“Enough is enough,” voices Ben Crow Chief. And so, up went the blockade.
It isn’t your normal blockade, either. When First Nation’s Drum arrived, there was no sign of a set-up resorting to mindless protest, spectacle, or violence. Instead, what they had set up was a large white tipi bearing the flag of Siksika at its top. The shades of an overcast sunset edged towards the dark of night, and there was nothing but mindfulness exuding out of the people that were there. There was no anger. No radical attitudes. Not one sign of violence.
We were greeted by elder Wayne Leather. “We need the media to let everyone know what is really going on here,” he insisted, inviting us to warm ourselves inside the tipi.
We enter, finding a fire burning at its heart. A handful of community members are sitting inside in full respect to a story being told by Brian Little Chief. And so we sat, watching the fire, listening.
Instead of politics or overbearing opinions, truths of existence and ignitions towards purpose filled the storyline. Within traditional tales, Little Chief would repeat the importance of the connection we have with our culture. We are all here to regain what the western-inclined world that surrounds us has taken from us.
“We have to go back to the way we think,” Little Chief stresses. “A lot of these non-Natives, they don’t know—they don’t see—the patterns and the themes that we live in. And so, even our Chief and Council, they forget about the people.”
This is why the community is at odds with their leadership. They are not getting the solutions they need from their Chief, Council has not been taking matters seriously, and all the while, flood victims are still without a place to call home.
“You know, they listen to [western-minded] people who say ‘if you go this way, it is much cheaper’,” informs Little Chief. The $93 million settlement for flood repair is going towards housing developments for those without homes. Instead of asking for the input of the people, though, corners have been cut to satisfy capitalistic interest.
“You can’t just be building communities here. There’s elders that know; you should go to them and ask, ‘is it’s okay to build here?’ They’ll say ‘no, there’s burial grounds from way back.’ They don’t do any consulting, these people.” Absolutely no consultation. The reserve’s Chief and Council decided to make the decisions themselves. Now the building plans are nothing but a single blueprint for a single spot of land. In order to cut costs, there will be no variation, and forty-four of the exact same blueprint will be developed on a piece of land convenient to finances.
“In the past, our families lived close together. But because of the influence of non-Natives to our leadership on Chief and Council, and some of our Chief and Council not being raised in this traditional way, they get influenced,” continues Little Chief. “It may work out in mainstream society, but for us people we have a culture, we have our spiritual ways, and the reason families live apart is because it keeps everything calm and respectful.”
First Nations Drum tried contacting Chief & Council for comment (the secretary to tribal manager, Romeo Crow Chief), but with no luck for comment by press time.
The blockade will persist as long as the line of communication remains nonexistent between Siksika’s community and their leaders. Ben Crow Chief and many others will continue to urge their chief to be honest and open with the people of Siksika. Until then, animosity hangs in the air.
“To them, they think money is what is going to make Siksika thrive,”Ben Crow Chief shakes his head. “It’s the people that’s going to make Siksika thrive. It’s the community that’s going to make Siksika thrive. But all they see is dollar signs, ‘how much is Siksika gonna make?’” he pauses. “It’s the people that makes Siksika rich.”