Review: Dances with Dependency


Author Calvin Helin brings to light in this book the reasons behind why indigenous people are falling into the same mind set as Americans resulting in losing their independent drive to create a financial environment and atmosphere free of government and family dependency and bail outs.

Focusing on the fact that many indigenous people and American baby boomers will be retiring quite soon, and elaborating on how this will drain the American finances in the health care system, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and pension.

Dances with Dependency Author-Calvin-HelinThe author relates the history of his family, his people and how it all came to this point that indigenous people have received unequal treatment and endured hardships that are resulting in losing their original mindset of independence and self-reliance and going towards the main culture present in America: enlisting in the welfare system, using government resources and hopefully able to receive money for their basic needs.

Beginning with a description of the Demographic Tsunami the author relates through historical references why the concurrent situations and political constraints. The plight of indigenous people has been difficult as author Calvin Helin takes the reader on a canoe ride back in time recreating the events the led up to the issues, causes, lives traditions of a people caught between two major forces: The government as the primary source of wealth and enforced economic isolation.

The author discusses in detail how the federal government has all the wealth in the form of transfer payments or to individuals in the form of Welfare. Let’s understand this novel in several parts. We are talking about indigenous people and how they’ve become isolated, dependent on the government and the many bureaucratic handouts to survive losing their ability to be self-reliant. Next, I will discuss the numerous problems faced by these people and finally the numerous solutions offered in order to impart to the reader the author’s vital and important messages.

The primary purpose is to discuss the problems faced by indigenous people, the author’s heritage being part of the Tsimshian Nation, their rich culture, spirituality and artistic traditions that help this nation together for so many years. Yet, this nation pales in comparison to the past and has forgotten the traditions of their ancestors that so greatly need to be remembered and revered. Pursuing welfare and government transfer payments rather than living independently on reservations, caring for their own needs, being self-reliant seems to be a way of the past but not the present. Discrimination was prevalent even during his grandmother’s reign as Chieftain as they were treated as second-class citizens.

Part of the problem stated by the author is the population growth of indigenous people adds to the societal trends and drain on the economy. Many are going to retire and unless the government of Canada pushes the age to past 65, the system would be heavily drained and many the national debts increased. Pension concerns, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and many other programs provide a safety net for those retiring and the elderly. How dies this affect indigenous people?

As a result of pushing the age of retirement past 65 the work force would not be as depleted, more people would work and less would count on the government to pay their way. He continued by sending a clear message to the reader that the government is making it too easy for these people to use the system as a crutch rather than increasing the amount of jobs, allowing them to own their own businesses and restoring their self worth and dignity. He continues by discussing four distinct waves.

The first wave describes and deals with how these people were more attuned in the past to honor their environment, live off the land and not be dependent. He refers to it as the “Golden Era,” where the people were self sufficient, self-reliant and more disciplined. Imagine being able to sustain a society and people without welfare, unemployment insurance and no government transfers, bailouts or payments? Just think about that!

Next, the author discusses the second wave of development. He states that this is the undoing of these people by the Europeans as a result of the canoe heading right into a huge storm head on. All to often other cultures and people impose their values, customs and mores on others unable to fight back creating a society that fits into the systems, status and financial structure although foreign to many, easily created and implemented in others. As a result the old traditions, way of life were set aside and the nation became devoid of is own past and learned to live by those imposed in the present. Remembering that indigenous people did help the settlers become self sufficient, protected them and gave them sustenance, it seems wrong that their land, people and lives were ravaged, depleted and forced to change their way of life. Passive behaviors became the norm as result of the aggressiveness of the Europeans. Wrong, but nonetheless true.

The third wave adds to the continuation of the colonial storm and sends that canoe even further inside from one hundred years ago until the present. Solutions sought by the Europeans focused on starting a series of legal and political developments targeted at taking down the traditional societies. Like a house of cards each one coming down and being dismantled along with the ideas and doctrines associated with indigenous people only to be indoctrinated with the European ways, culture and customs. Once again the indigenous people were caught in a spider’s web with no release where their own culture and practices were forbidden.

The final stage of this third wave deals with something most prevalent today: The Welfare Trap. The author is concerned with the end result for the indigenous people which was economic isolation and still caught in the same tangles many Americans face: using Welfare as their escape instead of working and becoming self sufficient. Allowing the government to take control of the way you live by paying your way is not what anyone should want as their only way to sustain themselves. The culture and ways of life and beliefs of these people should not have been set aside or disregarded for the self -preservation of others and their financial gain. As a result these people became economically dependent on the welfare system losing their self- reliance and independence.

The solution would be to acknowledge the reality of the situation and how this has isolated these people and created a system not relying on transfer payments, welfare and understand what detrimental factors are caused leading them to a life that was anything but like their ancestors which was described in the first wave. The solutions are still coming. Creating necessary programs and reforms. The money should not be handed over to a Chief just because it is demanded. The solutions are summarized and stated on pages 260-264 for the reader. Explaining why change is necessary and how the author elaborates nicely the many programs that the Canadian government needs to create and implement to reinstate these people’s independence.

Finally, the fourth wave deals and explores other solutions that may undo this economic crisis. As the author summarizes his findings he creates viable solutions in the last chapter that will not only life? What was necessary and needed is for the indigenous people to be able to take ownership of their own business, economy and become more self-reliant people.

Well written and definitely thought provoking and mind stimulating once again author Calvin Helin gives the reader a lot to think about, understand and learn about indigenous people, his culture and the reason why we need to find better solutions that become ensnared in the Welfare Trap and Economic Dependency.  Once again as in The Economy Dependency Trap the author has written an outstanding book that allows the reader to really understand the plight of these people and why the Canadian Government and the American Government need to open their eyes and create better solutions to for people to be more self reliant, independent and programs that will not drain our economy and enlarge the National Debt.

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