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Jonathan Taggart | Split Like a Crutch

PRIVATE 48, p. 20-21 (20-23)

PRIVATE 48, p. 20-21 (20-23)

Jonathan Taggart, Split Like a Crutch, from PRIVATE 48 – Economic inequalities, pp. 20-23

The reserves of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation are scattered along both sides of British Columbia’s Lillooet River between the towns of Pemberton and Harrison Lake. Like many of Canada’s indigenous communities, the settlements of the In-SHUCK-ch exist in isolation, the nearest town an hour’s drive away along the flood-prone logging road that follows the river. Poverty is rampant and infrastructure lacking. Health and education are limited. The communities of the Lillooet River Valley appear to epitomize the “Indian Problem”, surviving largely on subsidies.

Conditions at home have lead 80% of the Nation’s 1000 members to seek their livelihoods in distant urban centres, mostly in transient and impoverished circumstances. Canada’s Residential School system has also taken its toll on the In-SHUCK-ch. The policy, abandoned in the 1990’s, aimed to westernize Native children by separating them from their parents, and this practice of ‘ethnocide through education’ now means that few Elders are able to pass on the knowledge of their heritage to younger generations. The compounded result is a cultural drain that threatens hundreds of years of Lillooet traditions, most importantly the language of Ucwalmícwts, now spoken by only a handful of Elders and their aging children. There are ongoing treaty negotiations with the provincial government which promises to improve infrastructure and accessibility to reserves while offering employment and the right to land the In-SHUCK-ch have occupied for centuries. Not everyone embraces the treaty, however. While improved living standards and economic accountability are a convincing argument for aboriginal self-government, there are concerns over how traditional ways of life are to be recognized and accommodated under a modern system, and many are worried that this treaty will be the final nail in the cultural coffin that began with residential schooling in the 1800’s.

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