Surviving as Indians: The Challenge of Self-Government


384 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-2939-6
DDC 971'.00497





Reviewed by Jean Manore

Jean Manore is a policy assistant at the Department of Native Affairs.


Menno Boldt, a sociologist, examines the past and present relationship
between First Nations and the governments, courts, and non-Native people
of Canada. Boldt argues that this relationship has not been supportive
of Native cultures, and calls for the creation of a new
Native/non-Native relationship that would allow Natives to adhere to
their historical cultural traditions rather than pursue non-Native
assimilationist goals. Blame for the current living conditions of many
Natives is laid squarely on the governments and courts, although Boldt
also criticizes Native leaders who have adopted non-Native values and
tactics to resolve disputes.

In this often polemical work, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is
characterized as “villainous,” while those reserve residents who are
not part of the current leadership “elite” are described as a
“mass of alienated and apathetic lower-class Indians.” References
abound to court decisions adverse to the aboriginal cause, but no
mention is made of favorable decisions (e.g., the Guerin case).

Despite the above criticisms, Boldt raises some interesting points,
arguing, for example, that aboriginal sovereignty, if defined by Canada,
will always be subject to parliamentary paramountcy, and that Native
leaders should therefore ally themselves with international indigenous
peoples who are campaigning for indigenous rights under the aegis of the
United Nations.

For all its polemics, this book raises some significant issues that
characterize the Native/non-Native relationship.


Boldt, Menno., “Surviving as Indians: The Challenge of Self-Government,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,