Buying land and other myths we tell ourselves

13 Aug

I’m trying to figure out how to take a cubic metre of air and sell it to someone.

How much should I sell it for? How should I transport it?

Don’t worry about how stupid a question this is, someone’s willing to buy, for some reason, and I’ll get some money out of it. I just need to package it up right.

* * *

There’s a river that’s running outside my back porch.

Someone approached me to purchase 10 cubic metres of it (so, where the river bends and where there are two rocks that break a path). He’s going to pay me $500 a month for two years, and promises to not walk through my house to get to the back yard.

* * *

Now, I’ve purchased a property up North. I’m going to buy some lumber and build a cottage. I’ll put a fence around it too, for some reason.

—-

Why are my first two scenarios really strange, but my last one is totally normal?

We’ve been conditioned to believe that we can buy land. We can control land. We can stick shit into it, pull shit out of it, cut down trees, plant new ones and control it. Forget about things you can’t control, those rare occurrences like earthquakes or storms, for nearly all the time we need to, we can control the land how we’d like.

Maybe this reality isn’t that weird because there are people with a lot of money who do believe they can control the land. Many of us are also used to our bodies being controlled too. But, we know that even though we may be used to it, it doesn’t make it right.

No one controls the land. We, in fact, owe our entire livelihoods to the land and it controls us. But, we’re so disconnected from the source of production for the items we consume, we forget this.

Land becomes something to parcel, sell, fence off and exploit, rather than that big thing that, you know, gives us food, shelter and the other things we really love. Just like water and air. 

One of the biggest fights of the past few decades is brewing over this issue in First Nations communities. Unlike many of us, First Nations communities have not bought into the idiotic notion that one can “purchase” land. (In the end, we’re going to figure this out the hard way, fellow settlers).

Now, this issue is complicated and I’m nearly certain that I will screw up in this post. It will be oversimplified, it will ignore something important that I didn’t know. I’ll likely need a few follow up posts. But I’m going to try.

No one can own land. This is a simple truth that once the scales fall from our Capitalist eyes, we will see one day. But, I’m going to say this in a different way. If you don’t live on reserve in Canada, you can own land. On reserve, the land is controlled and cannot be owned by any individual living there. The determinants of land ownership/transfer/procurement etc. can be read in the colonial and racist Indian Act.

So, the government of Canada (always too ready to play God/Crown/Father in their relationship with First Nations communities) has decided to act on an idea that’s been kicking around for a while now: they intend to change the Indian Act to allow for the private sale and purchase of reserve land. This, they hope, will kickstart economic activity, solve housing crises that exist in many communities and show everyone that though Capitalism all things are possible.

Why is this bad?

1. It’s not being called for by First Nations themselves. It’s a move that’s widely opposed by Indigenous leaders and imperfect representatives (like the Assembly of First Nations).

2. It’s exploiting a problem (or, many problems) that exist on many reserves, to likely end up benefiting corporations who would use every tactic imaginable to purchase lands that could be atop, oh let’s say, a bunch of diamonds, or uranium, or some other metal that will make some dude(s) rich.

3. It will most likely result in even more internal chaos as the struggle between honouring the land, economic development, resource extraction and money gets multiplied by the millions of dollars at stake.

4. Despite the many, many other problems with the colonial and racist Indian Act, it further seeks to change the relationship with the Crown and First Nations (that exists because Treaties were signed that were entered into as bi-national agreements) and erode the rights guaranteed to First Nations through these Treaties.

5. Basically everything that Stephen Harper supports is most definitely evil and will lead to the profit of a few at the expense of many.

6. This is left blank for you to imagine other reasons.

Could this be turned into something useful or scrapped entirely? Potentially. But it will take a massive, united movement from organized First Nations leaders and communities in all regions of Canada.

Harper intends to put this into action one year from September. So, while communities are contending with fighting for access to clean water, protecting traditional lands, promoting and teaching culture, educating their youth and everything else that occupies so many peoples’ time, people will also have to add this to their list to fight.

It will also take a mobilized, coordinated movement of organizations and people standing with First Nations communities in a campaign, taking their lead on the tactics, the message and the goals.

To start, First Nations sovereignty and self-determination should be at the centre of any social justice organizing that you’re involved with (*ahem* amazingly inspiring student movement in Québec, and every other awesome movement in Canada…)

I’m somewhat lost on what I can do personally. I’m totally disconnected from any community right now, let alone working in solidarity with First Nations people and organizations in Québec. So, I’ll try to keep writing, but I invite your ideas and examples of what you’re working on where you are.

Settlers (and settler descendents…I don’t care if your family’s been here since the first colonizers landed) are Treaty people too and, you know what? We’ve benefited way beyond what we were entitled to from those agreements.

We have a responsibility to tip the scales in the other direction by working in solidarity with and along side First Nations people wherever in Canada/Turtle Island we’re located.

My gut feeling is that it’s going to take every trick in our collective toolkits to fight back against this. If not, it will be “the issue” that causes even more havoc for First Nations communities in Canada for decades to come.

One Response to “Buying land and other myths we tell ourselves”

  1. minderbinder August 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Carbon trading is the commodification of air.

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