Canadian awareness of the plight of Native peoples was not widespread before a public investigation was undertaken into the lives of the nation's Aboriginals. In 1963, anthropologist Harry B. Hawthorn was appointed to head the commission, which tabled its report three years later. The results of Hawthorn's comprehensive examination of the economic and social conditions under which Natives lived revealed some shocking statistics. For example, he noted that Native communities experienced high school dropout rates as high as 94 per cent. Among the recommendations that Hawthorn made to address this specific problem was that Aboriginal peoples be taught in their own languages. The most significant point that Hawthorn made, however, focused on the empowerment of local band government. In most regions, the Indian Department still held veto power over band council decisions, and many bands did not control a significant proportion of the revenues generated from the lease of reserve property and resources. This lack of autonomy led many Native people to withdraw from the official structures dictated by Ottawa and to emphasize more personal kinship and friendship ties within the community. The consequence was the frequent absence of effective local government on reserves. Native groups across Canada applauded the findings of the Hawthorn Report and its recommendations that the Indian Act be changed to encourage more autonomous local government. The report also focused public attention on the unacceptable social conditions in which many Natives lived and, in so doing, forced Canadians to address a situation out of keeping with how they generally viewed themselves and their country. The Hawthorn Report introduced a new description of Aboriginal rights in Canada, arguing that Indians deserved better treatment from their government than did most Canadians since their Aboriginal title and treaty rights made them "citizens plus."

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