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Something big is happening.  A cultural renaissance has begun.  The aboriginal nations of Canada are slowly regaining the respect they deserve, and we’re seeing growth in the idea that being aboriginal is something to be proud of.

The nice thing about the rebirth of a culture is that it can create hope.  It can remove barriers to solving problems, and can bring real change in the lives of its people.  But there is still a serious deficit of hope in many aboriginal communities today.  We are not seeing reductions in suicide, crime, abuse or addiction, and we are not seeing infrastructure improvements that are essentials for aboriginal communities.

As was written in the Winnipeg Free Press, there is an entrenched sense of hopelessness among many aboriginal youth.  It’s pretty easy to imagine how such hopelessness could have taken root, considering the immense social problems that are faced by youth who have grown up in a culture that has been under attack for centuries.  After war, land theft, forced assimilation, and disenfranchisement, we are now seeing across North America an unconscious government policy of death by neglect.  The epidemics of violence, addiction, poverty and suicide have continued at a level of destruction unimaginable to most of us.

So what is the solution?  How do we bring hope to aboriginal youth and improvements to their communities?

Obviously, more federal initiatives for infrastructure improvements would help, as would more provincial support.  And it’s important to support cultural programs for aboriginal communities.  These are all good things in my opinion.

But what will really make a difference for the aboriginal nations of Canada is a national movement to demand better from the government, from non-aboriginal Canadians, but also from aboriginal youths themselves.

What I think would work well is the warrior society.  The Cree, Anishinaabe, Assiniboine and Dakota nations (among many others) have long and proud histories of warrior societies, which are responsible for protecting the nation in times of crisis.  These societies generally adhere to strong codes of conduct, following such teachings as those from the Seven Grandfathers (Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility and Truth).  While there are probably a good number of warrior societies in existence, I’m not sure that there is one that has gained momentum among multiple communities and aboriginal nations.

A modern multi-nation warrior society could include the following elements:

1.    Warfare: a warrior is expected to be active in sport, such as hockey and soccer, but with an additional emphasis on aboriginal sport such as Lacrosse or Okichitaw martial arts.

2.    Survival: a warrior is expected to know how to survive, and should be well-versed in traditional and modern survival skills and equipment.

3.    Protection: a warrior is expected to protect the people and the community, which would be demonstrated through volunteer work and adherence to the code of conduct.

The warrior society would not need to be limited to aboriginal members, but it’s important to have the guidance and involvement of elders.  An important part of the society could be outreach to non-aboriginal communities.  An example of this would be members of the society helping with flood protection every spring wherever they are needed.

In addition, the warrior society could serve as the voice of aboriginal youth when discussing government policies towards aboriginal communities and rights.  A strong multi-nation society would send a much louder message than individual nations or bands.  The warrior society would also prepare youth for the responsibilities of citizenship, including voting and speaking out against injustice.

As a Canadian of European origin (German, English and Scottish), I do not presume to be an expert on aboriginal culture, and I am only a new student to aboriginal history.  However, I have some experience with youth who are struggling to find hope and identity, and I’ve seen some things that work and some things that don’t.  I believe that the ideas of the warrior society can bring real solutions, and these ideas need support from all of us.   That makes good sense, because all Canadians benefit from the continued rebirth of our aboriginal nations.

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