Native Studies contributes to an understanding of the important connections between the human and the non-human and the connection of these relationships and responsibilities to social justice. Recently, the first shot was fired in the unfolding jurisdiction battle between province of Manitoba and Indians regarding cannabis. Premier Brian Pallister has said that he is going to introduce a levy for indigenous communities to sell Marijuana. (Long Plain Chief Dennis) Meeches said, “If this is allowed to go unchallenged, what else may come down the pike?” (1) Chief Meeches is correct to be concerned. Political process is important because public opinion controls the government. Pallister is trying to mislead the public by implying, “Every Manitoban has a social responsibility,” (2) as if Indians are nothing but beasts of burden for the tax paying public. Just a few months back, the government said that it would honor the protection the Indian Act provides for taxation. (3)
This claw back tactic from the province is nothing new. For years leading up to the legalization of cannabis, former Assembly of Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak advised First Nations to approach marijuana collectively—as one represented in the treaty area. He already knew First Nations have well established cannabis economies in our communities. It is not completely the fault of the communities to partner with these businesses. Start-up costs a lot of money and these reserves are among the larger ones in Manitoba, ideally located to compete with provincial cannabis stores as well. But there is no way the province is going to let the business partners of these communities reap all the protections of the draconian Indian Act. Section 88 of the Indian Act lets the province do whatever they want to reserve’s, including keeping us locked in poverty. One should refer to Lost Harvests by Sarah Carter for a history of early farmer practices in Manitoba. Many argue this province is invested in the continuing poverty of First Nations.
A developing Treaty Two position, in regard to the lands north of Highway Number One, is a “seed to sale” vision which includes building a receiving facility for the product that is grown outdoors by knowledgeable individuals in our communities. This is important because First Nations are limited to three ways to make money, those are tobacco sales, video lottery terminals, and gasoline. Years back, the three communities of Keeseekoowenin, Waywayseecappo, and Rolling River wanted to put a casino on the lands. The city of Brandon was furious, and as a result, blinded by anger, everyone missed an opportunity. Urban reserves provide a lot of opportunities for all citizens – Indigenous and Canadians. Local journalists are failing to lead the public with facts important to continue the process of education about the legalization of Cannabis, in addition to the success of urban reserves in Saskatchewan. This will likely wind up in court with lawyers demanding Indians prove that cannabis was used before Treaties.
In Manitoba’s legislative building, the design around the floor is the continuous Grecian key, symbolic for the eternal quest for knowledge. (4) Right now, we have a lot to learn from the plant world. Stories from 1850 in The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation by Ojibway Missionary George Copway were the earliest writing of hemp that predate confederation. Copway wrote, “[A] snare formed of a rope of wild hemp, and so placed that when the deer’s neck was caught, the more stir he made the more he could not stir. At every movement the cord would wind about the neck tighter and tighter, until he was choked; for at one end of the rope would be fixed a small rail, which the large end slips off, and in falling it presses upon the deer, who in a short time dies. (5) Additionally, Ron Indian-Mandamin, an Ojibway school teacher and MideOgimaa (Midewiwin Chief) in Shoal Lake, Ontario, said the word for hemp in Anishinaabemowin is “Apaago’esigan.” Pipes and cannabis textiles have been unearthed dating from 400 BC in the Hopewell Mound Builders’ funerary mounds in modern day Ohio. (6)
Lastly, I would advise Chief Dennis Meeches to respond coming from a position based on inherent Treaty rights, “As Chief, I want to collect that suit of clothing, with reprimands for years not collected. Not just this year and for me, but every three years for each Chief and 4 headmen throughout Treaty 1 and 2. And, I want my buggy (except for Yellow Quill and the Portage Band). Also, have a bull sent to each reserve and a cow to each Chief. Additionally, a boar for each Reserve and a sow for each Chief and a male and female of each kind of animal raised by farmers; and lastly, a plow and harrow for each farmer.” (7) His son, Southern Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, has told the province the way to reconciliation is through the treaties, not policies.
Jason Bone is a member of Keeseekoowenin First Nation, a signatory to Treaty Number Two, and currently a PhD student at the University of Manitoba in Native Studies.
References https://globalnews.ca/news/4780204/manitoba-cannabis-retailer-fee-indigenous/  Ibid  https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/first-nations-tax-exempt-cannabis-1.4481386  https://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/visiting/docs/indoorselfguidedtour.pdf  Copway, George, and Shelley M. Hulan. Traditional history and characteristic sketches of the Ojibway Nation. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014, p. 27.  [Chris Conrad, Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, The Unexpected Answer for Our Environmental and Economic Recovery. (Los Angeles, CA: Creative Xpressions, 1995), 5  Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Briefing Notes, Treaties 1-11.
Last modified: March 4, 2019