Picking up from Land Back, the first Red Paper by Yellowhead about the project of land reclamation, Cash Back looks at how the dispossession of Indigenous lands created a dependency on the state due to the loss of economic livelihood. Cash Back is about restitution from the perspective of stolen wealth.
From Canada’s perspective, the value of Indigenous lands rests on what can be extracted and commodified. The economy has been built on the transformation of Indigenous lands and waterways into corporate profit and national power. In place of their riches in territory, Canada set up for First Nations a weak, impoverished fiscal system — a cradle-to-grave bureaucracy — to control life through a stranglehold on each and every need.
What is at stake here in Cash Back is the restitution of Indigenous economies. Canada’s dysfunctional fiscal system for First Nations is not an Indigenous economy.
An Indigenous economy would be built upon the jurisdiction of Indigenous nations over our territories, not the 0.2 percent economies of reserves and the federal transfer system.1 Therefore, this report is explicitly about reparations and not about adjustments to the status quo. Cash Back is not a charity project; it is part of a decolonization process.
Shiri Pasternak et al, "Cash Back: A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper" (Yellowhead Institute, 2021).