Module 1: Being Indigenous

Here is an article that made me a little angry.  While it is from Mexico, the same mentality can be seen in Canada also.

The short of the long is that a group of indigenous Cucapa people had been denied their indigenous fishing rights on the Colorado River Delta in north west Mexico.  The government cited environmental devastation due to damming of the river upstream in the United States.  Despite clauses in the Mexican constitution about “indigenous rights”, the Cucapa continued to be denied fishing rights.  Finally, their lawyer suggested that it was their appearance that was causing them problems–they looked, sounded and behaved like Mexicans and not like the stereotypical Cucapas.

The article goes into the historical flip-flopping of expectations placed on the indigenous people of Mexico, and these expectations do parallel Canada and the United States.  An expectation of assimilation changed to a program of multiculturalism has indigenous people with one foot in the past and their traditional culture, and one foot in the present and mainstream culture.  This is a typical outcome for many minority groups in multicultural nations, but it’s particularly problematic for indigenous people because of the rights they have and the expectation mainstream society has on them.  Many people in mainstream society feel that if they receive special rights, they should look, behave and speak like their ancestors.  So once again, they are being dictated to by the mainstream.

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