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Continued: North of 60 Interview: Jimmy Herman

Continued from above:


PW: What do you do in your spare time?

JH: I get into politics now. There's a lot of things happening in our community and a lot of other communities. To give you an idea, we've been approached by the chiefs and they wondered whether we were doing everything diplomatically enough rather than being radical, because when you get radical, it doesn't get anywhere. So we've done a lot of things to play the political game. We're trying to play their game.

PW: You're trying to be more diplomatic.

JH: More diplomatic. We heard a couple of weeks ago about Treaty 8...

PW: Oh, the tax ruling?

JH: Yeah. That kind of stuff's going on. I think we're at a critical situation right now because things are all changing, so we'd like to stay alive and hopefully try to repair something that's been done to our native people for so long. Like history repeating itself. Broken treaties and all that kind of stuff.

PW: The lady I'm staying with is under Treaty 8. What about the two of you?

LC: Treaty 8 as well.

JH: I'm Treaty 6.

PW: That particular ruling on the tax exemption was for people in Treaty 8, right?

JH: Yeah. But the government is appealing it right now.

PW: Yeah, I'm sure they don't want to lose the tax income!

LC: They don't want to owe us, and they owe a lot. My grandfather told me about that a long time ago, about the treaties and what it meant to them when they signed it. It said no taxes.

PW: So all this time, they shouldn't have been collecting taxes from the people covered by those treaties.

JH: Yeah, because you have to remember that tax was introduced for the war effort in the Second World War. It was voluntary and supposed to be temporary. The federal [government] came in and then the provincial [governments] took it up. I guess they fell in love with it.

PW: What are the big issues with Treaty 6 today?

JH: A lot of it has got to do with communication among my people. We're not communicating. Gone are the days when people could sit down and visit. Now with this technology we don't see each other. People are becoming further apart from each other.

PW: So the first thing is to get all the Treaty 6 people to sit down and agree so you can present a united front?

JH: I'm Chipewyan, but we're focusing on Dene people first because they have a lot of situations that are happening. And as a result, what we decided was, "Okay, let's focus on one group first, and then go on to Crees, Blackfoots, and try to spread out slow." We do a lot of research, and from that we learn as we go along and improve.

PW: So you do research to gather facts before you approach the government?

JH: Correct. You gotta know the facts. You can't just, "Oh, you broke my treaty." "Okay, where's the fact that says that?" We don't want to assume anything. We've gotta have facts.

When people talk about the conditions of the native people, it's there. What more do you need? The conditions in some communities, it's almost outrageous. You go to Saskatchewan to northern isolated communities and these people are 40-50 years behind. Some of them were taken off their land and put other places.

So we've got a voice for them now. Because when we present something about our problems, we go to provincial courts, we go to federal courts, then we go to the Supreme Court. And it doesn't go anywhere beyond that, unless you can go to a world court.

PW: Do you sometimes get interviewed in newspapers about issues like this because you're well known?

JH: That's one of the reasons I help. They know who I am. So I say, okay, if it's something good, then I'll go for it.