A startling look at the health issues faced by Canadian Aboriginals
“The gap between mainstream Canadians and Aboriginal people in Canada with regards to economics, politics, and health is probably the biggest impediment to us being able to move forward as a society” says James Daschuk, a University of Regina Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport Professor.
The health distinction between the mainstream population and Aboriginal peoples of Canada is what Daschuk focuses on in his book, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life.
“What I have tried to do is, again speaking from a health perspective, I have tried to write a history of the relationship between First Nations people and the Europeans who arrived over the last few centuries. Another thing was the loss of Aboriginal health. How First Nations, prior to the treaties, during the buffalo hunting days, were the tallest people on the planet. Within twenty years of Canadians arriving and acquiring the territory, almost all of them were sick with tuberculosis”.
Professor Daschuk put well over 20 years of research and dedication into writing this book. He wanted to better understand and analyze why and where this health gap between the more mainstream population and Aboriginal people came from. Professor Daschuk provides his readers with the well annotated and disturbing truths of Canadian history.
Readers come to realize that Saskatchewan was no more aligned with the myth of being the “bread-basket “of the world.
“That may be true” says Professor Daschuk, “but the entire society that fed the world was grounded on a famine that was created, in one sense, on purpose. The control of food was to get the First Nations off that prime real estate”.
He also mentions that “it was not an accident, this was a policy imposed by the federal government under the supervision of John A. Macdonald, who was also the administrator of Indian Affairs”.
Today, Aboriginal people are under-represented in universities, and over-represented in hospitals and prisons. There is an obvious lack of social and economical advancement within the Aboriginal community when compared to the mainstream population.
“We have this idea that Canadians are the nicest people; we are not the most glorious people – that’s reserved for the United States – but we have this idea that we are essentially decent people. Well, if you talk to a First Nations person, you’re probably going to get a different perspective. I hope that’s a contribution the book makes, that our state did some pretty reprehensible things to establish our society”.
Professor James Daschuk has been widely recognized for his remarkable work of going back to Canadian history and examining what it did to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. The success and recognition that Professor Daschuk received for his book has only just started. His book will be translated into French in November by the University of Laval press. This is extremely exciting news for the U of R scholar.
Professor Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains makes one uncomfortable about Canadian history, and it leads one to further question our supposed moral authority. This very state of uneasiness is what makes Clearing the Plains a must read book.