Disclaimer: The owner of this website does not support, endorse, or condone the opinions expressed in this letter. It is provided purely for the purposes of documenting John Elliott's own point of view.
From The Red Deer Advocate, December 2, 1974
Letters to the Editor
Native self-help?Sir: It is with considerable concern I read and hear quite often of Indians demonstrating and claiming injustice at the hands of the government. I am also quite sure there are many people who think "the poor Indian!" he is unjustly done by! I am afraid they don't know all the facts.
I personally mentally question many of the reports I hear because of my personal knowledge and experience with the Stoney Indians of Bighorn and Morley who are now claiming a large tract of land in the vicinity of Abraham Lake on the Kootenay Plains, where they claim they are being deprived of land use and hay producing land.
I quote from personal experience. From October, 1958, to December, 1965, I was a Forest Officer, resident in the disputed area, which area was divided into trapping areas held by various Indians and I was not able to get them to work their traplines and harvest the fur even when I threatened to have the traplines taken from them for non-operation as provided under the Game Act.
There was not and are not any haylands in the area: indeed, after the department of lands and forests constructed an airstrip I was able after considerable expense, to fertilize and obtaining special Crested Wheat Grass seed, to grow some hay there on the airstrip. Certainly the Indians did not harvest any hay.
In my years on the Kootenay Plains the only use the Indians made of the area was an occasional hunting trip; some years, a Sundance and for a number, a wild horse hunt, each occasion of short duration. When I first moved to the area, Indians did run a number of their horses there contrary to the Forest Reserve Act; I had to be instrumental in having them keep their horses on the Indian Reserve.
The Indians used to come to me wanting gas and oil and thinking to get out of the situation I used to tell them it was government gas and oil. To no avail - they thought it was coming to them, so I changed my tactics and told them I only had my own gas and oil. In this way they would return my gas and oil but not the government's.
During my stay in the area I tried to befriend the Indians; I extended the hospitality of my home to them; I gave them vegetables from my garden; I even loaned two of them money on hearing a sad story - one of them has not repaid me yet and that was many years ago. All the thanks I got for trying to help the Indians was when they made untrue, and derogatory remarks about me when they were trying to embarrass the department of lands and forests after I left the area.
The Indian is pretty smart; the more he gets the more he wants and does not want to avail himself of opportunities offered to better himself, and to offer him money for work is of no importance, not, if he can get sufficient for his needs from the government.
I know Indian culture is not the White man's and I would be one of the last to see his culture lost but by the same token the White man offers the Indian all his modern technology and opportunity for the Indian to better himself and I believe that is the crux of the whole trouble. The Indian as a whole must better himself, not have someone do it for him by handouts.
There are many Indians across Canada who are very successful men and women, who have gained eminence and I am quite sure by their own efforts. After all, we are all citizens of Canada - white, black or red and opportunities are available to all but ambition and self-industry are required.
I do not think the present day Indian would appreciate chasing the buffalo over the plains on horseback like his ancestors; I rather think he would want a car, truck or Ski-doo.
Get the Indian past the handout stage and to think in terms of self-reliance to achieve what he wants.
A CONCERNED CITIZEN