The Importance of Building Capacity within Aboriginal Communities

The life of Aboriginal people worldwide is steeped in culture, traditions and spiritual beliefs. However, most Aboriginal people were forced to give up their way of living and adopt new traditions when Europeans “annexed” new lands and assumed rule.

The story of Canadian Aboriginal people is also similar. Their way of life was either changed because of European influence or they were forced to follow the ways of the new settlers. Either way, it was a loss to the Aboriginal community in Canada – a loss whose repercussions are felt to this day.

Fortunately the government and the public are now somewhat more aware of the cultures, rights and the suffering of Aboriginal people. However, to improve the situation for Aboriginal people along their path to self-determination, it is first important to understand why there is a need for capacity-building within the Aboriginal community.

Empowerment is the key

Aboriginal communities in Canada have historically been composed of self-reliant and self-determined people. The time in history where they were forced to leave their homes and be confined to areas known as ‘reservations’ is just one example of how Aboriginal people were treated by the European settlers, who perceived themselves as the superior race. It led not only in the loss of their way of living, but also loss of income, and of traditional economies.

Confined to reservations with no facilities, many lost their livelihood. Aboriginal people were denied their rightful place in the new economies, and viewed as a barrier to economic progress. This economic deprivation led to widespread destruction of traditionally prosperous communities, which further led to other negative social impacts such youth having to discontinue all forms of education to support their families through menial and low paying jobs.

These factors (and many others) led to a generation that was not properly educated and lacked basic skills to find and successfully manage jobs. This disconnect led to Aboriginal people facing financial downturn across generations. Today, it is important that the Aboriginal community be empowered to become self-reliant and financially secure through education, livelihood skills and job opportunities.

Freedom in every way

For too long, Aboriginal people have lived in poverty. It has directly led to more problems such as poor health, lack of education and increased multi-generational anti-social and laterally violent behaviours.

This flagrant oppression of Aboriginal people, the resulting impacts on their communities and the subsequent changes to their balanced and healthy holistic existence, has continued long enough for the situation to not easily be transformed by new government policies. It does not mean that government help is not needed or is unimportant; however, the priority is to not just enact policies (believed to be for the betterment of Aboriginal people, but to support self-determination as the natural pathway to break away from the destructive cycles that have been created around them.

Today, leaders such as Cliff Atleo of the Ahousaht First Nation and First Nations Health Council are urging the overthrow of colonial terms such as “reservation”, suggesting instead the use of “at home” when discussion opportunities for change in community. In this way, Aboriginal communities across the country are deciding for themselves to improve their lives and not just depend on government measures. They are working towards capacity-building, self-sufficiency and self-determination for future generations.

GMG Consulting is a relationship-based company committed to building strength from within by partnering with aboriginal communities and organizations, as well as governments and resource-based industries, towards positive outcomes for aboriginal people through Economic Development, Health and Social Wellness and Training. Contact us to find out more about our services and resources.