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Dances with Dependency: Out of Poverty through Self-Reliance [Hardcover]

Calvin Helin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a book that offers solutions! May 13 2008
Don't be fooled by the reviewers who claim this book is too business-oriented or unrepresentative of aboriginal opinion. Certainly none of the reviewers here can claim to speak for the entire aboriginal population (myself included), but it's worth reading this book because, whether you end up agreeing with it or not, it's thought-provoking.

Helin doesn't argue that we need to forget the injustices of the past, but the focus of the book is on the future. How do we make the future better for our aboriginal population? This is a truly important question, because the average standard of living for aboriginals, especially on-reserve, is simply terrible. We cannot accept this as a fact of life going forward; we must work to change it. How we might go about creating that change is the true subject of the book.

Obviously, given the present state of affairs, our current efforts to improve life for aboriginal people are not working. Yet Hanlin notes the government spends in the neighbourhood of 18 billion dollars each year on services for aboriginals and transfers to the reserves. He makes the reasonable argument that if money alone were capable of fixing the problem, we would have seen some success by now. Throwing more money at this issue will not make it go away.

Contrary to the content of some of the reviews here, Helin in fact praises aboriginal ingenuity and ability. He rightly says that long before the Europeans arrived, aboriginals had a thriving economy and culture, and they were able to achieve those civic successes through hard work and ingenuity: qualities he believes aboriginals still possess.

However, a person can be as hardworking as they want, but without opportunities they still may not get very far.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By J. Tupone TOP 500 REVIEWER
This book has established a proverbial beachhead by opening up a debate that is not taking place in First Nations communities. In my own experience as a FN person/member who has worked with dozens of communities, there is a status quo amongst FN people that isn't being challenged and debated within. Calvin Helin's book does that - it starts a debate and it is pro-business, it is pro-private ownership, it is pro a lot of things. The author doesn't make any false claims about the ideas and concepts he is discussing and about how he expects strategies such as increased private ownership to improve the standard of living of FN people.

The book makes a lot of sound arguments and gives a lot of practical advice. And in my own experience, most of the advice and ideas work in practice; FN communities that have largely been able to participate in resource development by way of increased employment, for instance, tend to have better standards of living. Individuals who are able to integrate into the economy are less dependent on government transfers and on the decisions made by an elite (small and close-knit) group of people that govern many FN communities.

I would expect a lot of people to vehemently disagree with what Helin writes and with his ideas. That doesn't mean the book isn't well-written and it doesn't mean the debate shouldn't be started. This book is very well-written, it has a First Nations perspective and as an instrument of increased debate in FN communities it is successful. There is more than one world-view in FN communities, despite what many of say, there are many opinions, there is a lot of diversity and this book introduces people to some of it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dances With Dependency March 31 2008
This excellent, readable teatise about the status of our Aboriginal peoples provides powerful accounts of the development of their current economic and social situation. It contains realistic scenarios for change and shows us how they will allow the Aboriginal peoples to become the source of their own success and powerful contributors to our nation.
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10 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dances with Milton Friedman and Self-Hatred April 29 2008
By J. Bird
Calvin Helin's book is a scathing endictment upon the Indigenous "welfare trap" throughout Aboriginal communities (rural and urban)in Canada but it also leans heavily toward Friedmanite economics and Indigenous self-hatred. Helin surmizes that federal transfer payments are the economic backbone of present First Nations leadership and that basic welfare payments are the backbone of the people, which is a reiteration of mainstream stereotypical thinking in Canada. For Helin, First Nations bands and governments must conform and support present mainstream neoliberal economics in order to get out of this 'welfare trap', because this is how the rest of the "world" runs an efficient economy. Calvin Helin is a follower of the Milton Friedman school of economics (read Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine to learn more). Helin specifically mentions Friedman (or Freedman) twice throughout the book and he definitely supports the theories of Friedman and the Chicago School. Helin discusses the 'privitization' of all Aboriginal and First Nations lands as a great first step toward economic success, because in general people care more for something that is privately theirs to own rather than communally owned, but this is mere speculation and non-factual. Helin then goes on to rally against communism and compares First Nations bands to running under "communist regimes." Helin then attributes the power of business and the free market economy as being the economic saviour of First Nations people in the rural and urban settings.

Helin openly suggests that First Nations bands should better accommodate private business investment and "entrepeneurship" upon reserve lands. This includes the exploitation of natural resources, primarily oil and gas.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas & interesting read April 10 2008
By M. Serbe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is exactly what I had hoped it would be. It provides solid historical facts, straightforward information about the present, and feasible ideas to apply towards the future. It is very insightful about Native American/Canadian Aboriginal circumstances, but the concepts could be applied to many disenfranchised groups around the world.
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