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The Issue of Land Claims

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Ashoka the Great

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In Canada, the question of Native land claims is one that continues to vex politicians and activists alike.

On the one side are the Natives themselves, who want to maintain their culture while breaking free of paternalistic governments that treat them as unfit to govern themselves. At the extreme one may find those who want to abolish the Indian Act, make Natives into 'full' citizens (who have to pay taxes just like the rest of us) and grant them control/ownership of lands while cutting them off from most of the government handouts they currently receive.

This 'extreme' position is not merely held by 'so-called angry White men, but by many Natives themselves.

So what are we going to do about this?

I say....who cares? I'm here to discuss my land claims, dammit.

Those who have spoken with me about my family are aware that my ancestors, although they come from many places, have been in North America for a very long time. It's been so long, in fact, that I'm not entirely sure when the first of them arrived here. What I do know is that the last of them to come to Canada did so in 1867, the same year we became a mostly-sovereign country.

For example, my great-great-great-grandfather was a man by the name of Robert Wagstaff. (Lest you should think I'm grasping at some tenuous relationship with the past, I should point out that 'Wagstaff' was my mother's maiden name.) He was born in Cambridge, England in 1794. In 1815, as a British soldier, he took part in the Battle of New Orleans. In that battle, which the British lost incidentally, he was severely wounded in the neck.

I can only imagine what it would have been like to take a musket ball to the neck. Perhaps the only thing worse than that would be living to talk about it later.

Anyway, Robert Wagstaff, who was not even 21 at the time of this battle, must have eventually become an officer or a very high-ranking NCO. I say this because more than twenty years after returning home to England, he was back in North America to fight on behalf of the Crown. This time, however, he was taking part in quelling the (Canadian) Rebellions of 1837, which in fact stretched into 1838.

The Rebellion quashed and many of its leaders hanged, Robert decided to settle down in 'muddy York', the town that had recently been renamed 'Toronto'. He had good reason to stay here, since the Crown had promised free land to British soldiers who fought in her defense.

Alas, Robert was not to see this free land. He died in August 1843, with the cause of death listed as 'wounds sustained in battle'. It was that nearly thirty-year-old injury that ultimately killed him, although the gory details are, perhaps thankfully, unavailable.

The following December, his widow (my great-great-great-grandmother) wrote to the Crown's representative in Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, Governor-General. She asked that the Crown make good on its promise. Actually, she begged the Crown to keep its word, if not for her then for the sake of her five children.

The Governor-General informed her that the rules had changed, there was no more free land being given out and, if there were, the Governor-General would be the wrong person to ask for help anyway.

Sounds like the government, doesn't it?

My great-great-great grandmother married another man, mostly likely to avoid living in penury for the rest of her life. This is what government inaction did to a soldier's widow, forcing her to practically enslave herself to a man in order to feed her children.

For shame!

Well, I say enough is enough. My ancestors were promised land and they were deceived. Now, nearly two centuries later, it is time to right that wrong and make good on the Crown's promise.

I want my land, dammit.

If my ancestors were promised even as little as five or ten acres -- an amount that seems ridiculously small for the time -- then surely some kind of inflation must be taken into account when redressing this gross injustice. To show I am a reasonable person, I am willing to take possession of approximately 570 acres of land that is, for the most part, uninhabited.

To those who inhabit the lands I claim in the name of my ancestors and for the benefit of my descendants, I promise to be a fair and just ruler. As a City-State (more of a Hamlet-State, actually) within Canada they shall enjoy all the rights accorded by law and the Constitution.

It is time to settle all land claims, but ME FIRST.

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For a point of reference, one of the reasons that Native Americans make their land claims is based upon their religion. For Christianity, a religion most people here are familiar with, the important parts of the religion in a nutshell are the ceremony, the scripture, and living by the moral guidelines set forth within the religion (each of these are more or less important given the denomination). Native religion, on the other hand, is very site-based, and there are many sacred sites that were taken away from them way back when when the governments here signed treaties with them, based on a lack of understanding of the importance of actual physical sites to their religion.

I'm not going to try to argue one way or the other on this one, as far as what is right to do now, but I did want to provide some context to why Native Americans press so hard for land sometimes.

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I always say I'll support the land claims of your distant and long dead ancestors if you'll support mine. I want England, most of France and some parts of Germany claimed for the Celtic homeland.

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I always say I'll support the land claims of your distant and long dead ancestors if you'll support mine. I want England, most of France and some parts of Germany claimed for the Celtic homeland.

Seems fair to me.

I should mention that this came up when I was doing a bit of family-tree research yesterday. I found the text of the letter that had been addressed to the Governor-General, as well as the G-G's "not my department" response.

Don't get me wrong. Despite being left penniless, my great-great-great-grandfather's sons did quite well for themselves, founding a brickworks that for many years was situated on a small street named after the family. (The street is still there, although the brickworks is long gone.) Since they really were left destitute by their father's death, I expect they got their start-up capital from their step-father.

That's immaterial, however. A promise was made, and the government reneged. My great-great-great-grandfather has eleven living descendants: my mother and her sister, myself and my two siblings, and our six (biological) children. My children and I comprise 5/11ths of these living descendants, therefore I believe our claim should be addressed first.

I'm not unreasonable. I really am willing to compromise. If instead of land the government wants to name something large and permanent after me -- say, a mountain or Yonge Street or Parliament -- I'm willing to accept half the land I'm owed. Perhaps less if they're willing to name many, many, many things after me.

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I'm not Native American, I am Middle Eastern. And when you hi-jack our lands, do not !@#$%* and moan when we hi-jack your planes.

At least we give you guys weeks of notice and a live broadcast of our hi-jacking.

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I'm not Native American, I am Middle Eastern. And when you hi-jack our lands, do not !@#$%* and moan when we hi-jack your planes.

You stole our lands,get out of Morocco,Algeria,Tunisia and Mauritania please.

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I'm Egyptian, not Berber.

That would be like Ashoka replying to you by saying "I'm canadian, not american."

The fact remains that your people stole their land from someone, just like someone else stole your land. Crying about it in the way you do only makes you racist, "Its all right when I do it but not you."

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Excuse me? Egyptians didn't take the Maghreb he's assuming I'm Arab. And if you take our land and we fight back how are you surprised? Of course you will all jump to his defense since, duh, you share similar backgrounds and views but ask the world how they feel and I can assure you it's not Egyptians that robbed them of their lands. :rolleyes:

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That would be like Ashoka replying to you by saying "I'm canadian, not american."

The fact remains that your people stole their land from someone, just like someone else stole your land. Crying about it in the way you do only makes you racist, "Its all right when I do it but not you."

It's ok, China is just going to assimilate the middle-east in the future after massive economic growth.

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Excuse me? Egyptians didn't take the Maghreb he's assuming I'm Arab. And if you take our land and we fight back how are you surprised? Of course you will all jump to his defense since, duh, you share similar backgrounds and views but ask the world how they feel and I can assure you it's not Egyptians that robbed them of their lands. :rolleyes:

What does this have to do with the Canada :ph34r:

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No, we're not. And how are you surprised that we fight back when someone calls for our genocide?

I'm calling for your genocide? Excuse me? Where in the hell did I ever state such a thing?

I said when you take others lands do not be surprised when they act hostile towards you. That's it. Now tell me where I even hinted at genocide.

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No, we're not. And how are you surprised that we fight back when someone calls for our genocide?

You do not know what genocide means then.

Also, everyone, everywhere, has at one point in time taken over somebody else's land. There's no "legitimacy" to it. It will always be right to the victor and wrong to the loser. If someone were to come around to take over America, in three hundred years, would we not claim that the occupation is "wrong"? But here's what it is: the person with the biggest gun wins. Justifying it with some sort of ethical absolution does not make your government vindicated.

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A musket ball to the back of the neck? Dayumm! Of course since your forefather lived for a while after the injury, most probably the ball had lost quiet a bit of its momentum and did not go fatal damage. Going by the geographical area he was operating in, and the generally horrid level of healthcare during the era mentioned, it is quiet possible that the demise was due to post-injury complications. Could not have been a pleasant silent slide into oblivion for that soldier.

Also, even though the governments these days are generally less-stupid about war-widow and veteran affairs, that !@#$ still does happen sometimes.

As for your land-claim, get in line.

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That would be like Ashoka replying to you by saying "I'm canadian, not american."

The fact remains that your people stole their land from someone, just like someone else stole your land. Crying about it in the way you do only makes you racist, "Its all right when I do it but not you."

Everybody got their land from somebody else, nobody has controlled a particular piece of land since the inception of the universe.

Whining to the government to get land back is pointless. Men would take what they want by force, those with the force has the power, and those who are weaker are welcome to fight back until they decide not to. (But the minute you give up the fight, you've got zero right to complain.

That is how our world was shaped, and it didn't do a bad job. Certainly more efficient then filing a request with the government or whining to the government and waiting for years while your forms had long since been disposed of.

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