I recently completed reading Dances with Dependency: Indigenous Success through Self-Reliance, by Calvin Helin. Helin observes that Canada is headed for the perfect storm as two large systems converge and make greater demands on the economic systemof Canada: the retiring baby boomers and the growing aboriginal population. He believes aboriginal communities are being decimated today by reliance on welfare. He argues that there must be systematic, intentional and urgent effort exerted by all Canadians to avoid the welfare trap and the ensuing destruction of families, communities, and souls. Dances with Dependency is an impassioned and well thought out plea for leaders of all tribes in Canada to promote the value of self-reliance.
Helin’s call to self-reliance should not misinterpreted as extreme individualism. Rather it should be set fully into a community paradigm that values interdependence as a mature way of being between the poles of dependency and Independence. Self-reliance as a community value saturates Helin’s work and reflects both his study and his roots. I deeply appreciated how he moved from an autobiographical story line into the historical and economic research that added strength to his anectodal observations. As well it is fitting to say that this is a beautiful book; I never felt distant from the land and communities of which he writes because of the art work by Bill Helin that is featured.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone working in urban, rural, or reserve communities. Not only was I inspired and encouaged by Helin’s writings, I was given a thoughtful historical perspective on the Canadian experience for aboriginal peoples; injustice gets wrapped up in systems that seem to take on a life of their own regardless of racial and ethnic heritage. This book is a call to action. Anyone who wants to deal with reality will appreciate Helin’s call for future-looking decision making. I also found the transcript of Kevin Liben’s interview at The National Post in January 2008 helpful for encouraging me to read the book. In case you are wondering if you should take up this book here is Calvin Helin speaking for himself:
If lasting solutions are to be found, the real Aboriginal solcial and political problems must be discussed openly and frankly. Aboriniginal people need to declare an Abloriginal “glosnot” similar to that in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. The removal of government censorship allowed the problems of the Soviet Union to be discussed and addressed in an environment of openness. Aboriginal citizens must also squarely face the Industry of Non-Aboringinal Hucksters, and “consultants”, and those Aboriginal politicians who are openly profiting from this sea of despair and poverty. In spite of what they say, this “Indian Industry” has no real interest in changing a a system from which they are profiting. Without such resolve it will be difficult, if not impossible, to deal with the myriad of problems that must be tackled.
If manners and common civilities stand int he way of finding solutions, then these must be set aside. It is also time to put questions of self-interest and political correctness aside while real solutions are explored in the name of a higher purpose. The tears and broken hearts of thousands of mothers and grandmothers should be enough to convince anyone that we must take action now. How long are we prepared to leave the plight of Aboriginial children and youth in the unkind hands of the welfare trap? How many more families need to fall as casualties of a fatal “welfare syndrome”–one that is literally stealing the lives and hopes of our future generations? We must shake off the apathy of what has become an all too comfortable “cloak of welfare” and act to fix the problems now. 38-39