Assembly of First Nations Chiefs make their way to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada Dec 4, 2012
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
And some of it is true.
Many do live in such squalor, but it's their choice to live in inhospitable northern reserves.
They're hardly Canada's version of gulags.
The time is now, however, to take notice of something entirely different when it comes to First Nation grievances.
A few days ago, for example, a group of native chiefs had a push-and-shove match with security guards outside the House of Commons to protest their bands' treatment regarding tribal resources.
Someone had best start listening to them.
When it comes to push-and-shove in our various courtrooms, First Nations have been on the docket almost 200 times when it comes to natural resources on their lands and, last time we looked, they have yet to lose a major battle.
In fact, they're damn near batting 1.000.
Now, if Canada is ever going to get a good bang for its buck when it comes to the oilsands, it must get all that Alberta crude piped to the west coast so that it can be shipped to Asia for premium prices instead of being stuck with the bargain-basement deal it has with the U.S. due to lack of other customers.
The difference in revenues if and when the Northern Gateway ever manages to emerge on the British Columbia coast has been estimated at upwards of $25 billion a year.
While shortsighted politicians like B.C. Premier Christy Clark and her small but loud collective of eco-activists like to take credit for throwing a wrench in the Northern Gateway, it's been the legal landmines planted by First Nations that have been the most obstructive.
None of these chiefs were born yesterday, meaning oil execs had best not treat First Nations as if a few trinkets could still buy Manhattan.
Sure, there was big money promised -- albeit spread out over generations -- but First Nations will be looking for partnerships where profit is proportionately shared.
That little scuffle on Parliament Hill?
It's just the beginning.