Friday, January 12, 2007

So it’s well into the New Year and I am finally getting round to posting. I guess that resolution concerning procrastination is all shot to heck! Oh well, I do have all sorts of things to get off my chest now that we’ve survived half the winter in a house that cost me less than $2000 (Canadian dollars) to build. The first thing I have to say is that I have a new respect for my ancestors, who had far less technology than I and still survived, even prospered, in this harsh climate (if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this blog!). It sure is hard work to heat with wood! Don’t get me wrong! I’m not complaining, even though it’s not as easy as just turning up the thermostat when it gets cold, I am really grateful for the lack of monthly bills that accompany that convenience.
As for the fact that we’ve started small (c’mon it is only a 400 sq. ft. house, what do you expect for less than two grand?) it was probably the best thing we could’ve done. Although our little house on the prairie is a mite cramped, it is enough for us to live and it is bigger than what our folks had. We can make our mistakes and it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg. An added benefit to cramped quarters is that you either get to be better friends or you kill each other, no in-betweens. Seeing as how I’m writing this blog, and the kids are all at school, and my wife still kisses me in the morning, we must all be getting to be better friends! I actually think that we’ll all be a little lonely once we get the big house finished, everyone will have their own room!
Sure we’ve had our naysayers and sceptics, heck I’ve even recently been accused of thinking that I am better than everyone else because I don’t have any monthly bills to contend with. It still makes me laugh because I know that we are certainly much better off than we used to be, I wonder if that’s what she meant? Seriously though, I can see where it might be thought that I am superhuman, (which by the way, is VERY good for my ego!) but really I’m just your average guy with my share of serious character flaws! I am blessed to have some good friends, a strong back, capable hands and the will to do something for my family. Really though, all you need is to have two out of the four; a couple of good friends and most importantly, the WILL to do it.
Speaking of friends, I would be remiss if I didn’t say thanks to those people at every opportunity and in every forum, including this one. So a big tip of the hat to Patrick Eagle Tail Feathers and Leonard Weaslefat for all the help with construction. Of course there were others who helped by lending us things like balers (Boots Trucking and Barclay Fox), a tractor (Alfred Standing Alone), a trailer (Chester Wells) and donating windows (Nail and Hammer) and bales (Shane Little Bear). If I’ve forgotten anyone please drop by and I’ll buy you a beverage!
Also there is one other friend I must mention who probably did the most to spur this little adventure along when he dared me to get out of my comfortable little routine and actually do what I had been talking about for years. So thanks Kirk Lester for the kick in the pants way back when.
So I think that’s all I wanted to say, I know there’s probably lot’s more that needs to be said about this whole situation but I’ll save it for other posts! Right now I have to go stoke up the fire and get some more wood from outside, yet it still beats paying gas bills!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thanks for the comments folks! I am still in awe of this medium (even though a couple of years ago, I got over fifty thousand hits on a website I had in a period of a couple of weeks), and the fact that you can reach so many people from all over with the stroke of a key! Powerful stuff.

After rereading my last post, I realized that some clarification may be needed for a couple of the assertions on my list. Firstly, I pay no income tax to the feds because I am a Treaty Indian living on a reserve in canada. I do however, have to pay the goods and services tax on anything I buy off reserve. So I am trying to limit what I have to purchase off reserve (unless I have it delivered to the rez, whereupon I do not have to pay the hated tax!). I still have to pay income tax when I work off the rez, so... no work off the rez! Feds don't need my money! I have paid income tax in the past but if I don't have to ..... well why should I? I still do not have a representative at any level of government.

Which brings me to my second clarification. That I have no elected representative is a fact, I live on a reserve that is not my own and as such I am not allowed to vote in the local elections. An example of this occured when I asked for help from my reserve after being slandered by a federal peace officer (another good story that will have to wait for another post!). They politely ignored me and hoped I would go away, saying that "because I don't live in Saddle Lake, there's nothing they could do for me". When I approached the local member of parliament, I was again told that because I live on reserve to go to the local Chief and Council, who then told me that because I'm not a band member, I would have to see my own Band council in Saddle Lake. Seems like the ol' runaround to me... see also the letter I received from the minister of indian affairs that disavows any responsibility for reserve life in an earlier post. So once again I assert that I have no elected representative at any level of government. C'mon Jim Prentice, prove me wrong (Mr. Prentice is the current minister of indian affairs).

As to not having a job, that's not entirely true. I do work at the odd contract job on the reserve and I've been filling in at a gas station here on the rez part time, plus I sell the odd drum and log doghouse to those who appreciate hand made items. So with chopping wood and building my home and hunting and fishing, I am kept pretty busy and I make a little cash that the government can't touch. However I can claim to not have a job in the traditional sense, I haven't had a steady paycheck in probably ten years... yet I'm still here!

So I hope that clears up some of the confusion that my last post may have created. Although you may not enjoy some of the legal status that is mine through birthright, you will by default not have to deal with the attendant problems that all Native People have to deal with here on Turtle Island.

That doesn't mean that you cannot be as free I am, the first thing that you can do is stop buying into that false assumption that unfettered consumerism is the key to happiness. Once I realized that judging myself by others standards and trying to "keep up with the Joneses' "is a terrible way to live, it became easier to let go of some of those other misconceptions that I held dear. For instance, I no longer believe that I need to get ahead. Ahead of what? Why can't I just live and watch my children grow? Teach them all I know and then watch them do the same. Isn't that the whole point of being here? I believe that it is. I mean I still want a quad, and I'll probably get one sooner or later (but used not new, a private deal, no tax!) 'cause hauling moose out of the bush is a helluva lot easier with a quad, let me tell you! Until then I'll do it the old fashioned way, carry it out on my back (or on a sled, depending on the snow!).

So now that I've gotten that off my chest, I seem to be woefully unprepared for winter. I don't have nearly the amount of firewood I need chopped, my house is still kinda tiny for five of us (I need to get an addition built pronto!) and the compost pile needs to be built so I can get my floor heated! Sheesh, I guess freedom entails a little hard work. So I better get at it. More from a voice in the wilderness .....when I get some chores done!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Now that I've got the internet connection and a little free power (from the sun!) I really should take this blog thingy seriously. People make money on their blogs right? Then why can't I? Nothing stopping me except fear and common sense, and that has never stopped me before! Do I have anything to say? Any pearls of wisdom to impart to the world? I don't know about wisdom but I am doing something that very few people seem able or willing to do. What is it? What's so special about one simple indian in the middle of the prairie? Maybe a list would help:
I pay no rent or mortgage;
I pay no utilities;
I don't pay taxes;
I don't have an elected representitive at any level of government;
I look after myself and my family with no job or visible signs of income;
I have reduced my ecological footprint tremendously;
and most imortantly
I am as free as one can be in this police state.
Now I know that some of you out there are going to be a little taken aback by what I'm saying but that 's the way the cookie crumbles. I learned a long time ago that not everyone is going to agree with me or understand my position...but then popularity has never been a driving force in my life.
So to get back on topic... my little blog will be a place where I can tell you, dear reader, about ways that you too can become free in this increasingly dangerous and crazy world. I know that there are some mitigating factors that allow me the sort of freedom others can only hope for but that doesn't mean that the freedom I have cannot be gained without those factors. The greatest impediment to my freedom was the idea that was ingrained in me that I must follow the crowd. What a lot of garbage. As soon as I got rid of that programming I have been able to do many things that I previously thought were impossible ( like building a home for my family).
It is my intention that through my example and this blog, I will be able to help others find the same sort of freedom that I have. I sure hope someone reads this though. Until I think of something else, I remain....a voice in the wilderness.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thanks again Ed, hopefully that will get rid of the spam. Who knows maybe someday, someone other than a robot (or a Robot Guy) will read this blog!
Wow it's still here, and so am I! I'm back from my self imposed hiatus and ready to start commenting on the happenings here in Indian Country. Hopefully I'll be able to continue what I've started. I know from my past performance this may seem like wishful thinking but what the heck, most of my life has been wishful thinking so why stop now? A big hello to my buddy Ed the Robot Guy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

So the Gomery report is out. Woo hoo. Big Deal, so what, the feds are a bunch of crooks, when will someone tell me something I DON'T know? As a treaty Indian living on reserve will this affect me? I sure as hell hope not, things are tough enough around here. Probably what will happen though, is that we'll get new overlords in the form of conservative, racist, warmongering homophobes. Then we'll really be screwed. Better to go with the devil you know.
How bout separation? How about actually honouring the existing treaties? Sorry got drawn away into dreamland there for a moment, I know THAT will never happen.
So what to make of all this....well the main problem with KKKanadian politics is apathy....but then who really cares?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Here it is, I thought perhaps someone would want to see what all the hoopla is about. This is Casa McGinnis or as I like to call it my "grass hut". It is now in a more advanced stage of construction but unfortunately there are no pics just yet. I will post more as I make them. Promise. BTW, all construction was completed without power tools, just manually operated tools (hammer&chisel, bowsaw, shovel etc.) Over twelve yards of concrete so far all mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow.

This is the start of the floor with the radiant floor heating pipes and rebar showing. OK so it's not the best way to do this but I had no money so....
400 square feet of concrete mixed and poured by hand took just under four days to complete. I will never do that again!
Well I guess I've already broken the cardinal rule of Blogging, the one that states you must keep writing! Thanks for pointing that out Ed. It really was my full intention to keep writing from my little home on the prairies but alas, my poverty keeps getting in the way. And yes I know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So now that I no longer have an internet connection at home, my blogging will probably be a little more sporadic than most. I apologize in advance.
I know someone somewhere may be curious as to how this little adventure of mine all came about. OK, so maybe no one is that curious. I will however now post copies of correspondance I traded with both the Governor General of Canada and with the (honourable? I think not!) minister of indian affairs, Mr. Andy Scott, that I believe quite nicely sums up the reason I've done what I've done. Prepare to be bored:

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.Governor General of Canada
Your Excellency,
On the eve of your induction into the Kainai Chieftanship I would like to offer my congratulations and also to make you aware of a project I have undertaken to help this and other communities cope with the current housing crisis. I have been building a straw bale home on the reserve to house my family, I had hoped to be able to help others using this building method but I have been stymied in my efforts by all levels of government. I am including in the body of this email a note I received from the Minister of Indian Affairs that sums up this situation quite well. I hope you find this information interesting and once again congratulations on your appointment to the Chieftanship.
Sincerely Yours,
Daniel Neil McGinnis EET
Aboriginal Homeowners Association

follows:----- Original Message ----- From: "INAC Minister"
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2004 8:29 AMSubject: Your article in the Lethbridge Herald on August 15, 2004>
Oct 6 2004
Mr. Daniel McGinnis> Aboriginal Home Owners Association
>>> Dear Mr. McGinnis:
Thank you for your correspondence of August 17, 2004, concerning your article in the Lethbridge Herald on August 15, 2004.
Housing on the Blood Tribe Reserve is the responsibility of the Chief and Council through the Blood Tribe Housing Authority. All housing activity on Blood Tribe land must have Chief and Council approval and be implemented within the guidelines of the Band's operating procedures. Building design and construction must be done in accordance with approved building practices and meet the requirements of the National and Alberta Building Codes.
The Government of Canada is always interested in innovative, cost-effective housing for First Nations. Straw bale housing is just one of the processes that has been examined. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has information pertaining to straw bale construction on its website at The CMHC is continuing to research this and other innovative housing methods.
Departmental officials have contacted Mr. Arnold Gerry, Director, Blood Tribe Housing, and relayed your concerns. Mr. Gerry advised that he will contact you in the near future to provide assistance and information. In the meantime, if you wish to reach Mr. Gerry, he may be contacted at (403) 737-3745.
Yours sincerely, Original signed by The Honourable Andy Scott, PC, MP

Oct. 21, 2004

Dear Mr.Scott,
Thank you for your reply to my inquiry, it is not very often that anyone responds to my emails. I have read your note carefully and unfortunately I must admit that I am dismayed by your response. Your first assertion that all housing activity on the reserve must follow the Bands' guidelines is very disheartening. It is the Bands' guidelines that have forced me to take the actions we are taking.
As I am sure you are aware, Native People need a Minister's Guarantee in order to obtain financing on reserve, and you happen to be that Minister. In my mind, that makes you ultimately responsible for all housing on reserve. Otherwise, I would not need your approval and I would be able to secure the financing I need to house my family. As to obtaining approval for the construction of my home, that was done over three years ago when we first submitted a proposal to the Housing Authority. However due to the apparent ineptness of all those concerned, three years later my family and I are still homeless.
Regarding the building design and construction, as I am unable to secure any sort of financing I am therefore unable to pay for engineers or designers and so I must trust to my own skills in designing a home for my children. As my children will have to sleep there (as well as myself) I will ensure that the building will not fall down around us. As no one is allowing me to properly finance this construction, I feel that no one has the right to interfere with my plans or to tell me what to do. Had I been able to secure financing or even a grant, it would be a different scenario. I recall an old adage that states "you don't bite the hand that feeds you", unfortunately, as no one is feeding me except me, I do not feel compelled to follow anyone's dictates save my own. You will have to trust my word that I will build a home for my family that will not fall down or be unsafe in anyway, but there will be no inspections by anyone but myself.
It is unfortunate that this is the direction I am forced to take, but without any support from either your office or the local administration it seems to be the only way to proceed. We (my wife and I) have tried to work with the Housing Authority but have gotten nowhere, we have contacted CMHC with much the same result (although they were at least polite, unlike the last housing director we met with who did her nails while we were talking with her). It has now been almost two months since we tried to contact Mr. Gerry without a reply, this seems to be an inordinate amount of time to return a phone call. It would seem that he is also not very interested in this project or has been directed to not assist us at all.
Should I receive support from any level of government of course my stance will soften, however in the absence of any support I will continue to do what I must in order to provide for my family. I am sure you can understand my need to provide for my children and to ensure their long term survival which can only be accomplished when we have a home to call our own.
I have repeatedly expressed my desire to help this and other communities to become places where we all can safely raise our children to become productive, valued members of society and it is with heavy heart that I find I am seemingly alone in my desire. All the research in the world will not help these communities prosper, only direct action will accomplish this goal.
I will continue in my efforts to provide this action with or without support as I feel it is my duty to help my fellow man. I am constantly reminded of another old adage that another simple man spoke many years ago (forgive my paraphrasing) "whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me" good words that many people seem to forget. I cannot forget these words as I am surrounded by the effects of too many people disregarding these words everyday.
As I sit in my father in-law's house to write this email and listen to the other eleven people that inhabit this three bedroom house, I find I can no longer just sit and pontificate. I can take rocks and grass and wood and inexpensively construct a home for my family and help others to do it as well. Although I may not have a job, or money, or even a vehicle, I do have my own two hands and the determination to provide for my family and to keep my word. It is my hope that you will understand my position and utilize your influence to assist me in furthering the goal of homeownership for all.Thank you again for your time and I look forward to your reply,
Daniel McGinnis EET
President, Aboriginal Homeowners Association

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Blogging, hmm. Never really thought about it before, but now here I am. Will anyone actually read this? Well I know maybe one person will and I guess that will be good enough for me. It will certainly be an improvement over my current situation, absolutely noone listens to me now!
Do I actually have something to say? Perhaps I should weigh in on the weighty issues of the world? Perhaps I should review books and movies? Indulge in investigative journalism? Tell jokes? Or just wax eloquent on the subjects of dogs, cats and kids. I'm probably only qualified to do the latter (as I daily feed dogs, cats and kids). Fortunately for you dear reader, I will try not to do any of these although, (unfortunately for you dear reader) it may be inevitable that my opinions on all these subjects may creep into my writings.
What I can do is to document (however poorly) my daily struggle for survival in one of the richest countries in the world. A country that prides itself on it's supposed human rights record, democracy and compassion. Bullshit I say. More on that later. Right now I have to go and fix my old beater so that I can find some wood to heat my hovel tonight so I don't freeze to death. Compassion my ass.