Pierre Poilievre meets with the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations
Association. Source: NACCA/Facebook

There’s a fifth column within the Indigenous movement. A layer of capitalist natives in alliance with the state are co-opting the struggle to divert it along a harmless path. 

While they speak about “reconciliation”, their interests run counter to the interests of most native people. Indigenous capitalism is no solution to the problems facing poor and oppressed Indigenous people. 

Economic reconciliation?

For over a century, the state has relied on a layer of band councillors and native government officials to keep the movement in check. These people have long acted as agents of the government within Indigenous communities. But the growing layer of proper native capitalists is a new development. 

The new turn began in 2021, after the discovery of mass graves at residential schools. Mass anger erupted into a brief but heated movement that scared the hell out of the ruling class and forced them to reconsider their tactics towards Indigenous people. 

Governments are now pouring massive investments into building a larger layer of native business owners—a move they call “economic reconciliation”. By making a few Indigenous people rich, they want to create the illusion that capitalism can save oppressed people.

Provinces like British Colombia, Alberta, and Ontario have set up First Nations loan programs worth billions of dollars. Bodies like the First Nations Financial Authority have been built up into big financial entities. First Nations entrepreneurs are creating startups at nine times the rate of the rest of the population. 

The class divide that already existed within Indigenous communities is now intensified. Popular demands that have come out of the Indigenous movement are increasingly being used to support capitalist interests. 

For example, the demand for “sovereignty” has long been used by movements against government encroachments on native land. But for the Indigenous capitalists, “sovereignty” means native-owned companies getting to do whatever they want. To these ends, they cleverly use Indigenous exemptions in things like the Indian Act and UNDRIP to get around red tape.  

The best example of this is Huron-Wendat entrepreneur Fred Di Blasio, creator of Longhouse Capital Partners. His company builds condos on Indigenous land in order to bypass provincial regulations. The federal government has hailed this endeavour as “reconciliation in action” and has promised a $1.4-billion loan. 

Stephen Buffalo, CEO of the Indian Resource Council, is another example. He uses cynical identity politics to argue that environmental protections are a form of colonialism. He’s described restrictions on the oil and gas industry as “soft communism”. 

If this sounds like a conservative agenda, that’s because it is. Conservative leader Poilievre’s “economic reconciliation” plan has been met with praise by a wide number of chiefs and councillors. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that Polievre has formed open alliances with residential school deniers. These so-called leaders are fine grovelling at the feet of a racist if it will make them some money. 

Indigenous capitalism no solution

Native capitalism is being presented as a win-win—native people get money, and the economy improves as a result. But in reality, the vast majority of Indigenous people don’t benefit at all. 

There’s no “Indigenizing” capitalism. Indigenous capitalists are subject to the same market forces as any white capitalists, meaning they ultimately want the same things. Both will fight for low wages, busted unions, and the plunder of tribal lands in order to make a profit. 

One incredibly damning example is a recent scandal surrounding the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the most prestigious Indigenous women’s organization in Canada. The association fired 78 workers—half of its workforce—for organizing a union drive. 

NWAC blames the layoffs on budget cuts by the federal government, but that’s just an excuse. As they wave workers goodbye, they’ve begun construction on a boutique hotel and convention hall, complete with a spa, lounge, and a fully-serviced restaurant. 

One ex-employee, Crystal Semaganis, complained about how “resources are being spent on something elite that people like me will never use”. That is precisely the problem with Indigenous capitalism.

NWAC is far from the first example of Indigenous-lead union busting. In the U.S., big casinos have long used Indian law as a loophole against union rights. The Great Blue Heron Casino in Ontario and the Northern Lights Casino in Saskatchewan have attempted the same thing. 

Another example is Project Reconciliation, an Indigenous business group that’s trying to buy ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The state forced this same pipeline through Secwepemc land with the help of snipers, assault rifles, and police dogs. How this will help Indigenous people as a whole is anyone’s guess. 

Capitalist investment is only going to create more Indigenous exploiters. Gross injustices by native bosses against native workers and poor will only become more common.

Indigenous liberation through communist revolution

Indigenous workers and poor are told to look up to these rich elites and work to be like them. But in reality, they are some of our worst enemies. “Economic reconciliation” is a sick trick designed to get Indigenous people to support the system that makes our lives miserable. 

There is no greater lie than the idea that capitalism can liberate Indigenous people. It’s capitalism that colonized the Americas and enacted genocide. It’s capitalism that keeps natives poor and reservations broken. Every issue that Indigenous people face can be traced to this source. 

We don’t need rulers of our own race. What we need is to beat this system to death. 

Before colonization, class exploitation was unknown to most parts of the Americas. The vast majority of Indigenous societies were based on equal, communal ownership of wealth. In other words, they were communists! 

Communism in many ways would resemble a return of this way of organizing society but on a higher level. Communal ownership would be paired with the enormous conquests of modern production. This would enable not just a few select individuals to liberate themselves through profiteering but to liberate everyone through a socialist plan of production, carried out for human need in harmony with the environment. We fight for nothing less.