You may have read of an indigenous community in Northern Ontario, Canada, where a staggering 11 people attempted suicide in one weekend; the village has a population of 2000. Another dozen youths were overheard discussing plans to commit suicide and since September, 105, fully 5 per cent, have attempted suicide. As not many succeed, it has to be assumed this is a collective cry for help of a despairing people. Another story of indigenous people overrun by another, more dominant culture.
The same tragedy is taking place all over Australia in Aboriginal communities. I've visited only one near Derby and have to say it was an appalling sight of self-neglect, apathy, drunkenness, filth, pridelessness, ignorance, and surely not a literate person among them.
Drums for garbage were empty but surrounded by garbage, as if a symbol of rejection of the white man's ways. Beds had been dragged outside and that's where many slept, out in the open on mattresses infested with insects and god knows what bacteria and harmful microscopic life. Empty beer cans and bottles were strewn everywhere. The few humans we saw were no better than wary animals, sub-humans at best. It was thought we might be able to start our literacy programme here. I did not think so.
A mate and I were invited on a speaking tour across Canada and we visited two cities where problems with indigenous people are past the grave stage and into a sure decline, sad to say. Locals, virtually all women, told us horror stories of every form of abuse known to mankind inflicted on women and children by men bereft of pride, indeed a will to live.
The few humans we saw were no better than wary animals, sub-humans at best.
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We heard stories of billions of dollars given to leaders of the First Nation, as they call themselves. Billions that never trickle down past the pockets of the leaders. So of course the problems worsen while a tiny handful get rich.
Mothers told us of older brothers selling their sisters as young as 10 on street corners for "ten-dollar sex". Of drug abuse on a huge scale. Angrily, I told them no Maori male would ever do such a thing - his family members, his mates, would beat the hell out of him. Nor do New Zealand's indigenous people have a major problem with drugs. Too much weed for too many, yes. P becoming more prevalent, yes again. But at least little heroin or cocaine and a majority play sports.
After a visit to the worst area in Winnipeg, we were convinced that Maori have virtually no problems and therefore a brighter future than native Canadians. Certainly that is true in comparing Aboriginals to Maori.
Billions a year are paid out by the Canadian government to supposedly help fix First Nation problems. I understand most of the money does not reach where it ought. My experience with Aboriginals at bureaucratic level in Queensland and Canberra is the same: there's a mafia-like leadership in control of the funding and little gets to those in need.
Though Maori lead in most negative statistics such as unemployment, prison inmate numbers and violent crime (not least domestic violence), an opposite, growing number of Maori getting a tertiary education is trending sharply upwards while the negative stats have flat-lined.
Many will not like hearing this, but I think rugby and sport in general has been a significant factor in swinging the pendulum the right way. The early pioneer radicals started the momentum, though education was not their focus. The late academic Ranginui Walker expounded strongly consistent views on injustices against Maori and disparities. Yet he did not inspire others to be educated like he was. His message was eloquent anger, so his influence was limited.
It took unknowing athletes just doing their job on the field. Coupled with their South Pacific brothers and sisters and always their European teammates, they performed as a unit and that ethnic mix combined to give us team as well as individual greatness. Sports events united us as a nation in cheering for one team, one person, with one goal: to win.
For our nation to win. For it to be covered in glory by basking in these outstanding sportspeople's abilities and mental grit. Every one of those "boys and girls" is ours. In winning they lift us, inspire the young to emulate them. No other indigenous people has the same lucky historic, geographic and genetic circumstances as we do. We have to be grateful.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Canterbury Support Line: 0800 777 846
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.