It's been almost five months since Stephen Harper's famous letter to the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres wishing them a happy India Republic Day, geography and history evidently not being among his stronger suits. Now, with National Aboriginal Day only a few days away on June 21, I can't help wondering if Harper's office is going to take the opportunity to send India's ambassador a card of congratulations. What's a powwow without a few tabla drums?
In the event that Harper astounds his detractors and actually becomes PM, I would like to offer some advice if I may, cuisine-wise. If you want good curry, visit an Oneida community. Iroquoian curries are to die for. And if you want dal, talk to the Salish. Their dal is daling.
Maybe he can expect some sage advice from his new senior adviser and national campaign co-chair, Tom Flanagan, controversial author of the book First Nations? Second Thoughts. A man who has called the Metis an "economically marginal, incohesive assortment of heterogeneous groups," and says, "Perhaps the damage to Canada would be tolerable if it meant that aboriginal peoples would escape from the social pathologies in which they are mired to become prosperous self-supporting citizens," must have something worthwhile to say about National Aboriginal Day.
When I was growing up, it was safe to say that most native people I knew voted Progressive Conservative. I remember the lawns of my community being awash in PC signs. This was not because most First Nations citizens were freewheeling capitalists and believed in cutting income taxes (we didn't have any to cut), but a homage to the fact that it was John Diefenbaker's Conservatives that gave aboriginal people the vote back in 1960.
It sure wasn't the Liberals. The New Democratic Party was just a glimmer in the CCF's eye. Who knows what state the Marijuana party was in? Probably still having their policy meetings in jazz clubs.
How ironic, though, that a population collectively known as Canada's First Nations were the last to get the vote and the last to become legal citizens. And people wonder why native voter turnout is low. Or could it be that my neighbours just can't find the polling booths in crowded Calcutta?
Taking my own completely non-scientific, totally subjective poll, I find times have changed. Most aboriginal communities have a decidedly NDP slant these days. Still, should Mr. Harper be granted a mandate, I hope Phil Fontaine, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, headquartered in the Taj Mahal, remembers to send a letter of congratulations to the Liberal Party of Canada offices. Not that it matters - they all look alike anyway.