Tag Archives: Poverty

Half of Indigenous children on reserve and off, live in poverty, study says

Indigenous children play in water-filled ditches in a northern Ontario First Nations reserve on April 19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA — Indigenous children face the highest rates of poverty in the country, with almost one in every two living in households with low incomes, says a new study that shows little improvement in the situation over the last decade.

The study published by the Upstream Institute, written by researchers at the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, finds that 47 per cent of First Nations children on- and off-reserve live in poverty.

That figure rises to 53 per cent when looking at First Nations children living on reserves — the highest rate of child poverty anywhere in Canada.

The on-reserve child-poverty rate is roughly three times the national rate of 17.6 per cent reported in the 2016 census.

Taking a deeper dive into a decade of census data, the researchers found that poverty rates barely budged downward for most Indigenous communities between census counts in 2006 and 2016. At the same time, the number of children on reserves stayed stagnant over that time at about 120,000, so it’s not a matter of growing populations outstripping social programs and economic growth. The researchers say that “points to a failure to undertake effective solutions.”

There were, however, some exceptions.

On-reserve child poverty rates in Quebec were lower in 2016 than they were in any other province, largely as a result of agreements with First Nations governments to share revenues from natural resources.

Metis child-poverty rates dropped to 22 per cent from 27 per cent, but did so at the same time that the number of people identifying as Metis rocketed upward. The researchers suggest that the decline in poverty rates might be because of more better-off people describing themselves as Metis on census forms.

Inuit child-poverty rates declined to 25 per cent from 27 per cent between 2006 and 2016, but about half the Inuit population is excluded from poverty figures because they live in the territories and Statistics Canada does not believe its low-income measures work there.

Official poverty statistics don’t examine the situations on reserve except during census counts, which the researchers say must change to better track anti-poverty efforts. Not tracking these figures, the study says, may muddle the statistics nationwide.

Earlier this year, the national statistics office reported that in 2017, the most recent year available, about 622,000 children in all lived below the newly adopted official poverty line, a decline of 278,000 since 2015.

“It is time to officially acknowledge that poverty exists on reserves and in the territories,” the study says. “The causes of poverty among Indigenous Peoples are varied. Solutions must address this complexity. A necessary first step requires a clear set of goals with transparent criteria.”

The Canadian Press


More Than Half Of The First Nations Kids On Reserves Live In Poverty

Photo: First Nations child caring society

Photo: First Nations child caring society

The Canadian Press – May 17, 2016

76% of Manitoba First Nations children on reserve live in poverty: study

Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-aboriginal kids, according to new findings released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The study, which delves into poverty rates on reserves and in the territories as measured by income, documents the dire conditions being experienced by status First Nations children, including 60 per cent of those who live on reserves.

Poverty rates are highest for First Nations kids on reserves in Manitoba at 76 per cent and Saskatchewan at 69 per cent, the study found.

The rates of poverty on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010, the researchers found, citing long-standing barriers such as underfunded schools and child welfare services that stand in the way of kids achieving their full potential.

Senior economist David Macdonald, who co-authored the report, said the figures clearly show deplorable rates of child poverty on reserves in Canada.

“One of the interesting things is that despite the fact that we have seen strong economic growth in the 2000s in Alberta in particular, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, we are just not seeing that filter down to the on-reserve level,” he said.

“We are to some degree seeing it trickle down to the off-reserve population … but we are just not seeing the benefits on reserve.”

In order to come up with its figures, the institute updated its findings from a previous report examining child poverty rates based on the 2006 census, using data collected during the 2011 National Household Survey.

“It is important to point out that Statistics Canada reports on poverty rates do not include people who live on a reserve or people living in the territories where roughly half of all Inuit people are located,” the report said.

“Because this data is excluded, official poverty rates in Canada are lower than they would be if these populations were counted. Poverty rates for indigenous people, especially status First Nations and Inuit, are reported to be much lower than a full count would indicate is truly the case.”

Study co-author Daniel Wilson said he is hopeful measuring and reporting on the problem will help to end “policy-making in a void of information.”

The study also contains immediate suggestions for a poverty reduction plan for reserves including calls to improve direct income support and bolster employment prospects.

“These first steps will not eliminate the enormous gap in circumstance between children in Canada but they may slow or reserve a worsening trend of increasing poverty among First Nations children on reserve,” the report said.

“If we are to restore some hope to communities suffering from a pandemic of adolescent suicide, it is one place to start.”

The Liberal budget tabled in March made substantial investments on housing, clean water and education for First Nations, the study noted, but the bulk of that money is not scheduled to be spent for a few years yet.

“It will take some time to tell whether these initiatives sufficiently combat chronic overcrowding in houses, boil water advisories and substandard schooling,” the report said.

“However, the investment signals a welcome change in approach to indigenous issues.”


5 Ways The Government Keeps Native Americans In Poverty

Indian Reservation

Native American Reservation

By Shawn Regan | Forbes

Imagine if the government were responsible for looking after your best interests. All of your assets must be managed by bureaucrats on your behalf. A special bureau is even set up to oversee your affairs. Every important decision you make requires approval, and every approval comes with a mountain of regulations.

How well would this work? Just ask Native Americans.

The federal government is responsible for managing Indian affairs for the benefit of all Indians. But by all accounts the government has failed to live up to this responsibility. As a result, Native American reservations are among the poorest communities in the United States. Here’s how the government keeps Native Americans in poverty.

Indian lands are owned and managed by the federal government.


Chief Justice John Marshall set Native Americans on the path to poverty in 1831 when he characterized the relationship between Indians and the government as “resembling that of a ward to his guardian.” With these words, Marshall established the federal trust doctrine, which assigns the government as the trustee of Indian affairs. That trusteeship continues today, but it has not served Indians well.

Underlying this doctrine is the notion that tribes are not capable of owning or managing their lands. The government is the legal owner of all land and assets in Indian Country and is required to manage them for the benefit of Indians.

But because Indians do not generally own their land or homes on reservations, they cannot mortgage their assets for loans like other Americans. This makes it incredibly difficult to start a business in Indian Country. Even tribes with valuable natural resources remain locked in poverty. Their resources amount to “dead capital”—unable to generate growth for tribal communities.

Nearly every aspect of economic development is controlled by federal agencies.

All development projects on Indian land must be reviewed and authorized by the government, a process that is notoriously slow and burdensome. On Indian lands, companies must go through at least four federal agencies and 49 steps to acquire a permit for energy development. Off reservation, it takes only four steps. This bureaucracy prevents tribes from capitalizing on their resources.

It’s not uncommon for years to pass before the necessary approvals are acquired to begin energy development on Indian lands—a process that takes only a few months on private lands. At any time, an agency may demand more information or shut down development. Simply completing a title search can cause delays. Indians have waited six years to receive title search reports that other Americans can get in just a few days.

The result is that many investors avoid Indian lands altogether. When development does occur, federal agencies are involved in every detail, even collecting payments on behalf of tribes. The royalties are then distributed back to Indians—that is, if the government doesn’t lose the money in the process.

Reservations have a complex legal framework that hinders economic growth.


Thanks to the legacy of federal control, reservations have complicated legal and property systems that are detrimental to economic growth. Jurisdiction and land ownership can vary widely on reservations as a result of the government’s allotment policies of the nineteenth century. Navigating this complex system makes development and growth difficult on Indian lands.

One such difficulty isfractionated land ownership. Federal inheritance laws required many Indian lands to be passed in equal shares to multiple heirs. After several generations, these lands have become sofractionated that there are often hundreds of owners per parcel. Managing thesefractionated lands is nearly impossible, and much of the land remains idle.Energy regulations make it difficult for tribes to develop their resources.Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow Tribe in Montana, puts it plainly: “The war on coal is a war on our families and our children.” Coal provides the greatest economic opportunity for the impoverished tribe, but regulations are making it hard for the tribe to capitalize on their natural resources. Some are even trying to prevent the tribe from exporting coal to Asia.The federal government has repeatedly mismanaged Indian assets.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-13-at-3.03.58-AMTribes historically had little or no control over their energy resources. Royalties were set by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the agency consistently undervalued Indian resources. A federal commission concluded in 1977 that leases negotiated on behalf of Indians were “among the poorest agreements ever made.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten much better. A recent class action suit alleged that the government mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian assets. The case settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion—far less than what was lost by the feds.

Reservations contain valuable natural resources worth nearly $1.5 trillion, according to a recent estimate. But the vast majority of these resources remain undeveloped because the federal government gets in the way. Ron Crossguns of the Blackfeet Tribe recently put it this way: “It’s our right. We say yes or no. I don’t think the outside world should come out here and dictate to us what we should do with our properties.”

As long as tribes are denied the right to control their own resources, they will remain locked in poverty and dependence. But if tribes are given the dignity they deserve, they will have the opportunity to unleash the tremendous wealth of Indian nations.

Originally curated by Forbes 3/13/2014

Manitoba Is One Of The Worst Places For First Nations To live In Canada

A home on the Wasagamack First Nation, about 600 km north of Winnipeg in northern Manitoba. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

A home on the Wasagamack First Nation, about 600 km north of Winnipeg in northern Manitoba. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

WINNIPEG — Federal government documents show Manitoba is one of the worst places for First Nations people to live in Canada.

Internal reports from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development show Manitoba natives are more likely to grow up in poverty, drop out of school, live off social assistance in dilapidated housing and suffer family violence.

Their life expectancy is also eight years shorter than that of other Manitobans.

The 10 regional updates spanning 2012 to 2014 lay out the poor living conditions on Manitoba reserves, but offer little concrete action on the part of the government.

They were obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information legislation.

“Based on the UN Human Development Index, quality of life on Manitoba First Nations ranks the lowest in Canada,” said an update dated July 2014.

Another update dated from September 2013 notes that 25 per cent of First Nations children live in poverty across Canada. In Manitoba, it said, 62 per cent of aboriginal children live below the poverty line.

The 2014 report also noted that, at 28 per cent, the province has the lowest high-school graduation rate for First Nations in the country.

Manitoba First Nations also have the highest social assistance rates in Canada, the documents show. In some communities, 80 per cent of the population is on welfare. Just under two per cent of the population has come off social assistance and moved on to education or employment.

“High levels of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence and family dysfunction are prominent adverse social conditions faced by many members of First Nations, particularly those living in remote or isolated communities,” reads the September 2013 update.

“Significant gaps between the on-reserve population and the Canadian population in general continue to exist.”

The 2014 report said there is less money for reserve infrastructure, because the federal government has shifted resources to education and social programs. Almost one-third of Manitoba First Nations live in reserve homes “in need of major repair” — the second-highest percentage in the country.

“The housing backlog, overcrowding issues, mould and inadequate condition of many of the on-reserve housing units remains a significant First Nation concern,” the update said. “Key challenges continue to include affordability, low income and high social assistance rates.”

The health of Manitoba First Nations is also suffering, the documents suggest. Residents have a “higher mortality, higher incidence and prevalence of chronic diabetes,” notes the 2013 update. First Nations also experience higher family violence and suicide rates, as well as higher rates of alcohol, drug and solvent abuse, it said.

“First Nations in Manitoba live eight years less than other Manitobans (the second-lowest life expectancy amongst provinces),” the update said. “First Nations in the Prairies continue to have the lowest community well-being scores, as well as the largest gaps relative to non-aboriginal communities.”

None of this comes as a surprise to Chief David McDougall from the remote St. Theresa Point First Nation in northern Manitoba.

McDougall listens in amazement to radio ads appealing for help for African children who are living in dilapidated homes with no running water. He shakes his head reading Canadian studies on the psychological effect of the lack of adequate housing on refugee children in the Middle East.

“How come they don’t come and study the situation as is in First Nations? I know the answer to that,” he said. “They’re turning a blind eye.”

The government’s regional updates estimate McDougall’s community needed 379 new homes in 2010 and project that will grow to 949 by 2020. It’s not uncommon to have up to 18 people sharing a three-bedroom bungalow on the reserve, McDougall said.

The government response, flagged as “behind plan” in several updates, was to direct a steering committee to create a “sub-committee to address housing backlog.” In the meantime, McDougall said, his community and three other area reserves with a combined need for just over 1,000 homes got 12 new houses this year.

“I wouldn’t even call it a drop in the bucket.”

Despair grows among young aboriginals on the fly-in reserve as they see luxuries on satellite television they can only dream of, McDougall said. No one is expecting a blank cheque, he added, just some sign of interest on the part of Ottawa to work with reserves to improve the situation.

“We’re trying to contribute to our own well-being. We’re not just sitting here twiddling our thumbs. They’re not really working with us.”

A spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said he was unavailable to discuss the updates or what the federal government is doing to improve living conditions for Manitoba’s reserve aboriginals. Emily Hillstrom sent an emailed statement that didn’t address the poor living conditions.

“Our government believes that aboriginal peoples should have the same quality of life, the same opportunities and the same choices as all other Canadians,” she wrote before outlining legislation the government has passed such as a law that requires reserves to post their financial statements online.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have set the clock back 30 years on aboriginal relations. The government refuses to work with First Nations to address chronic lack of safe drinking water, proper housing and basic infrastructure, he said.

There are solutions out there, but First Nations can’t even get federal authorities to the table, Nepinak said.

“We’ve seen indifference. We’ve seen omission. We’ve seen wilful blindness to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls from our communities,” he said. “We’re really looking for a new government to help address some of these very significant outstanding issues.”

Grand Chief David Harper, head of the organization that represents northern Manitoba First Nations, said the internal reports echo what his people have been saying for years. It feels like they are either being punished or wilfully neglected by the Conservative government, he said.

“We need drastic measures. We need a plan of action of when and how we’re going to get out of this situation we’re in.

“We haven’t heard that at all. Period.”

Source: The Canadian Press

Suicides Spread Through a Brazilian Tribe

Guarani family from Brazil sit next to a coffin

Guarani family from Brazil sit next to a coffin


FRIENDS and family gathered around the limp body of a 15-year-old boy laid out on a bed in a thatched hut near the Brazilian town of Iguatemi, close to the border with Paraguay. A shaman shook a small wooden rattle while chanting and dancing — final rites for yet another victim of a suicide epidemic that has plagued the Guaraní Indians of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

The boy, Dedson Garcete, had hanged himself — one of 36 suicides among tribe members in 2014 through September, and one of about 500 among the tribe of 45,000 since 2004, according to Zelik Trajber, a pediatrician with the special secretariat for indigenous health within the Ministry of Health in Mato Grosso do Sul.

Indigenous peoples suffer the greatest suicide risk among cultural or ethnic groups worldwide. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men ages 25 to 29 have a suicide rate four times higher than the general population in that same age group in Australia, according to the country’s Department of Health.

In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death, behind accidents, for American Indian and Alaska Native men ages 15 to 34, and is two and a half times higher than the national average for that age group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Among the indigenous in Brazil, the suicide rate was six times higher than the national average in 2013, according to a study released in October by Brazil’s Ministry of Health. That translates into 30 suicides per 100,000 people. Among members of the Guaraní tribe, Brazil’s largest, the rate is estimated at more than twice as high as the indigenous rate over all, the study said.

In fact it may be even higher. The Indigenous Missionary Council says there were over 70 suicides in 2013, substantially more than the figure of 49 provided by Dr. Trajber.

The Guaraní have long made their home in the fertile land of Brazil’s southwest, where swaths of vast forests and savannas have been transformed into farms and ranches. In the process, the tribe has been dispossessed and uprooted from its traditional way of life. Many in the tribe face extreme discrimination and live in abject poverty close to the farmers and ranchers who occupy land that was once theirs.

“Living in this nonplace, they commit suicide,” said Maria de Lourdes Beldi de Alcantara, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo who for years has studied adolescent suicides among the Guaraní.

Nearly 100 years ago, the Guaraní, who today live primarily in Brazil and Paraguay, were forced off their ancestral land when the Brazilian government granted farmers and ranchers the legal title to that land. Tribe members were placed in crowded reservations, and often separated from family members.

Then, in 1988, the Brazilian government created a new Constitution that established rights for indigenous people. Among them: giving Guaraní and other indigenous families the right to repossess their ancestral land, a process that has been slow and frustrating for both Indians and farmers and that has put them even more at odds.

In many cases, farmers, too, have lived in Mato Grosso do Sul for generations. They raised their families there, and worked and profited from the land, first from maté (a kind of tea), and later from sugar cane and soybeans. Like the Guaraní, they are rooted in the land, making the conflict between landowners and the Guaraní both cultural and material. Where the indigenous see repossession of their ancestral land as integral to revitalizing their cultural traditions and regaining their sense of well-being, ranchers and farmers view it as a hindrance to Brazilian progress and development.

James Anaya, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples from 2008 to last May, said suicides among indigenous youth, across the globe, are common in situations where tribe members have seen the upheaval of their culture, which produces in the indigenous a lack of self-confidence and grounding about who they are.

In the southwest of Brazil, he said, distress, poverty and violence against tribal leaders have led to despair among Guaraní teenagers, who feel they don’t have a future. “They see taking their own lives as unfortunately and sadly an option,” he said.

Professor Alcantara said that over the past 10 years tribe members have come to live between two cultures — the culture of nearby cities, where they are discriminated against, and the culture of their own tribe. Young tribe members, in particular, feel that they don’t belong either to the city or to the tribe, she said.

Tonico Benites, a Guaraní and anthropologist, said that during Brazil’s dictatorship of the 1970s and ’80s, conditions on Guaraní reservations deteriorated: There was overcrowding and families were split apart. Today, the situation has grown even worse, he said, and many Guaraní feel lonely and isolated.

“At some point, many people I knew, friends, had lost their autonomy, their way of supporting themselves,” he said. “So they end up thinking about death.”

Off the reservation, Guaraní have suffered extreme prejudice, threats and worse, Dr. Benites said. “It happened to me three times, when I was waiting on the side of the road and a truck came at high speeds toward me,” he recalled. “I had to jump, otherwise it would have hit and killed me … and later they’d say it’s an accident, but it isn’t.”

He said pistoleros hired by farmers have burned Guaraní huts, tortured his friends and killed tribal leaders.

Mr. Anaya, a law professor at the University of Arizona, said he believes that improving educational systems for the Guaraní and other indigenous groups can help. “We need education that doesn’t try to take out of indigenous children their identity but rather helps to reinforce it with all the modern tools that are appropriate to modern life,” he said.

Both sides want a peaceful solution, but in small Guaraní villages across Mato Grosso do Sul, Guaraní boys like Dedson continue to despair.

“Our biggest hope, for which we struggle every day,” Dr. Benites said, “is that our children may be happier in the future. That one day they can live another kind of life, a better one.”