March 4, 2014 - No. 22
Canada Must Recognize First
Omushkegowuk Walkers' Historic
Journey Calls for New Arrangements
Omushkegowuk Walkers on Parliament Hill, February 25, 2014.
Parliament Hill for Loretta Saunders and to Demand a
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls
March 5 -- 12:00 noon
Nova Scotia Native Women's Association
• Omushkegowuk Walkers' Historic Journey Calls
for New Arrangements
No More Missing and
• March 5 Vigil on Parliament Hill for Loretta
Saunders and to Demand a National Inquiry
• Tyendinaga Mohawk Take Action to Demand
• February 14 Memorial Marches Held Across
Canada Must Recognize First Nations’
Omushkegowuk Walkers' Historic Journey
Calls for New Arrangements
After walking for nearly two months, 13 Cree walkers who
trekked more than 1,700 kilometres to take a stand for their
hereditary, treaty and constitutional rights arrived in Ottawa on
February 25. Danny Metatawabin of Fort Albany First Nation helped
organize and lead the group beginning with himself and
four walkers from Attawapiskat -- Paul Mattinas, Brian Okimaw and Remi
Nakogee. As they walked they were supported and joined by youth and
leaders from various First Nations determined to affirm their right to
be as peoples.
The page dedicated to the walk, called "Reclaiming Our
Steps Past, Present and Future" says, "This spiritual journey, echoed
by our ancestors is calling for all of First Nation Peoples to be
awakened and take action on matters that affect our existence -- past,
present and future. We cannot remain silent/or be silenced
no more. This is our time. Change is upon us and we are the change."
The walkers were met with an enthusiastic reception in
Ottawa, being warmly welcomed by Algonquin people from the area and
Canadians from all walks of life. After marching north on Elgin St. to
the Human Rights Monument where the walkers and their supporters
congregated, a militant and determined
march proceeded through the downtown streets to Parliament Hill.
Passers-by, construction workers and others stopping to view the march
were astonished to learn the feat and aims of the Omushkegowuk Walkers
and expressed utter admiration and support. Present at the
demonstration were the Chiefs of Attawapiskat
and Fort Albany First Nations, Theresa Spence and Rex Knapaysweet as
well as NDP Members of Parliament Romeo Saganash and Charlie Angus, and
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett.
Each participant in the journey had his or her
motivation and were put at the centre of attention by welcoming and
astounded crowd as they spoke at Parliament Hill.
An Algonquin elder began by welcoming the walkers to the
territory, pointing out that "the Walkers have shown us that there is
still a movement within our nation and people, and that we need our
Danny Metatawabin spoke
first in Mushkegowuk Cree, then
English, analyzing the political crossroads at which Canada stands, the
necessity that this brings to the fore, and the purpose of the journey.
"As sovereign nations of this land," said Metatawabin,
"we possess inherent rights to self-determination. Our right to
self-determination means we have jurisdiction -- the right, power, and
authority to administer and operate our own political, legal, economic,
social, and cultural systems. As sovereign nations
we have never surrendered our rights or title in right of the Crown or
the state of Canada, but have maintained and solidified our inherency
through the Treaty process. The recognition of our nationhood through
treaty-making is why the state of Canada must work with our First
Nations on the basis of a
government-to-government relationship. The spirit and intent of the
main treaties must be honoured, respected, and implemented, practiced
by all treaty people. Through treaty our nations agreed to share the
land, therefore our free, prior and informed consent is required before
any development or decisions are made
which may impact our inherent and treaty rights.
"Treaties outline responsibilities in areas such as
education and health. The spirit and intent of the treaties refers to
their original, oral agreements made between First Nations and the
British Crown -- agreements which were altered when written in English.
All Canadians and First Nations are party to the treaties.
We are, and always have been original nations that have never
relinquished our title, rights, language, culture, and governance by
way of treaty to the British crown or state of Canada. Treaties are
living international agreements, which remain valid today, and continue
to affirm our sovereign relationships. The United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is another
powerful international instrument, which creates the minimum standards
and principles for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous
peoples and their rights.
"On September 13, 2007, the United Nations formally
adopted and passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
On November 12, 2010 Canada announced that it had advised the President
of the United Nations General Assembly that it was endorsing the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the
viability, dignity, well-being and rights of the world's indigenous
peoples. By addressing individual and collective rights, by identifying
rights to education, health, employment
and language, by outlawing discrimination against indigenous peoples,
it ensures the rights of indigenous peoples to remain distinct, and to
pursue their own priorities and economic, social and cultural
development, and encourage harmonious and cooperative relations between
state and indigenous peoples.
"The Indian Act: Canada has no effective
mechanism to implement the spirit, nor the intent of the treaties.
Canada provides programs and services under the Indian Act,
and only for those programs and services they choose. The Indian
Act is a law passed by Canada without
First Nations' involvement or free, prior and informed consent. The Indian
Act was designed to control every aspect of Aboriginal peoples'
lives and to establish the rules and regulations under which they would
be governed. The Indian Act is recognized nationally and
internationally as an
out-dated, paternalistic piece of legislation that has had a
devastation impact on our peoples' independence, and the conditions in
which we are forced to live. First Nations' governance is delegated
under the Indian Act. Limited powers may be delegated at the
discretion of Canada to the First Nations
to create bylaws which are subject to Canada's approval. This is
delegated jurisdiction only, and does not mean the nation-to-nation
approach in the treaties.
"Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in
decisions that could affect their rights, property, cultures, and
environment. They have the right to determine their own priorities.
Indigenous peoples have the right to make their own decisions, to say
'yes' or 'no' whenever governments or corporations propose
actions that could impact their lives and futures. The exercise of this
human right is known as free, prior and informed consent. As an
example, the 'First Nations Education Act.' Canada has announced the
consultation process which included three phases: a discussion guide
that was developed in December of 2012,
then followed by a legislative blueprint in July of 2013. And now, in a
very quick process, they have draft legislation, a draft bill to be
presented in the fall. That is not our free, prior and informed
consent. As grassroots people, we have not participated in any due
process and that's why we are here, that's we were
sent here by the Elders of our area, not only our area but Elders
across Canada -- that we are grassroots people, we will stand with our
own grassroots people, we will stand with our grassroots leader, to
honour our treaties, and non-treaties as well!
"Those are our treaties. Nishnawe Aski Nation Chiefs
rejected participation in the consultation process on the basis that
the consultations were not being done in good faith. It would not
result in free, prior and informed consent of First Nations. This would
also consider us as willing partners. I just wanted to
come here and send a strong message from our Elders. We are
Omushkegowuk representing various communities of James Bay. We are the
Anishinabe living across Canada, living across the world which we call
Mother Earth. And we are the grassroots people. The time to honour the
treaties is now! The time to
reconcile Aboriginal issues is now! And we all know what all those
Aboriginal issues are, from lack of infrastructure, housing, missing
and murdered women and girls, the list goes on and on! We have to
reconcile those now to live in harmony on a nation-to-nation basis!"
The rest of the walkers then introduced themselves and
each said a few words.
Brian Okimaw from
Attawapiskat First Nations said, "The
spirit of Wihsakecahkw [Cree Manitou] has asked me to be on this
journey. My brothers and sisters in Canada, yes, Wihsakecahkw is here
with you guys, and I am very honoured to be here. He has shown me
visions about this walk - that there are many
footsteps that the ancestors know here. This is our sacred land to our
people. Wihsakecahkw, Nanabozho, hear the cries, the suffering here in
Canada! And it's the spirits today that will do the job. The federal
and the provincial government, they will not. They will feel the spirit
of Wihsakecahkw across this land.
Let me tell you, I want to share with you something here today. The
land is very sacred to us. Here, the ceremonies of our ancestors that
dwell here today, their spirit is with us here today. And I'll tell you
another thing. We need to protect our Mother Earth here. There's too
many mining activities, fracturing; our
Mother Earth is bleeding. There's poison in her water. I came here to
tell you we are the keepers of this land. We appointed by the high
powers of this land. We are children of God. And I tell this to the
federal, the provincial government: this is our land. Our sacred land.
Paul Mattinas from Attawapiskat First Nation said, "I'm
glad to be here today. So many days I walked It's time to think! We
have to think! I'm glad I see my Chief here. And my Elder and my
Albert Iahtail of Attawapiskat First Nation spoke in
Cree and thanked the crowd and his family.
Rodney Hookimaw, also from Attawapiskat First Nation
spoke briefly in Cree.
Paul Mattinas; Albert
Iahtail; Rodney Hookimaw
Gordon Hookimaw from
Attawapiskat spoke with daughter in
his arms and said, "I wanted to let my daughter down, but she doesn't
want me to put her down. I was surprised that my brother Rodney was
holding her, and bringing her my way. I thought she wasn't able to make
it here, to Ottawa, for my arrival
at Parliament Hill. My days on the road were tough. A lot of emotional
feelings I was going through, I dealt with. I'm happy that I made it.
I'm happy that my mother really supported me, and not having me to give
up. And I also thank that little kid. That night when I was on the
highway walking out, around 11
o'clock, and by the time I got picked up, I must have got home at one
AM. And I'm thankful for that kid that lit that smudge for me to not
give up. It really meant a lot for me."
Remi Nakogee of Attawapiskat said, "My knees and my feet
are sore right now. I'm just happy to be here. I thought I was not
going to see my mom, then I saw her. When I saw my mom I was crying.
This is my daughter right here. I am just happy right now."
River Metatawabin from Attawapiskat said, "Originally I
wanted to join my father from the start on this walk. I'll keep it
short, there were complications and that's why I couldn't join. But I
was still glad to be able to join when they came to Cochrane [Ontario].
I thought this walk would be really hard. Part
way through, I wanted to quit. But I always found a reason to keep
going. The people who I walked for were mostly my best cousins who
couldn't join at the time because of school. I just want to say thank
you for all those who kept supporting me, and telling me to keep going.
And I would like to thank my dad
for letting me join this walk with no questions."
Remi Nakogee; River
Edmond Etherington from Moose Cree First Nation said, "I
stood on these steps a few times now. I walked a lot of miles across
this land. Out of respect to all of you, not as titles... we stand here
today with no titles, no suits and ties. We stand here with no
headdresses to say who we are. We stand here as people,
to bring our message to the people who are going to listen. I see a few
suits and ties out here. Charlie Angus. I asked Charlie Angus so many
times. He drove by us so many times. Why hasn't he come and seen us? At
least acknowledge us. He's our MP for our region. And I say this to
Charlie Angus out of respect,
and I do not speak with anger. I don't want to start speaking with
anger out of what this building behind us has been doing to us, to
everybody out there. You talk about honouring the treaties, our
treaties represent everybody. East, south, west, north. You talk about
honouring, honour and honour. You keep on talking,
and talking, and talking. I was there when that lady put her life on
the line, Theresa Spence. I was there when those young people walked
from Quebec. I was there when I walked across Canada this past summer.
Do not have hatred towards this building, because that's what they
want. They want us to react, and
I say that with all my heart. I bring that message from the old people.
Today, we see standing beside me the young people. The young people
have been told by the generation of residential schools to be quiet.
Young people are speaking up. It takes one to make change. You guys,
each one of you are the change
"I speak from my heart. I
do not show my emotions today,
but I am happy. I'm happy to be standing here again. I bring this
message to those suits and ties, and I bring this message to those
people who call themselves Chiefs. You guys call yourselves leaders,
but you're not leaders, you're just spokespersons.
The people standing out there with that voice have the power to put
that check mark [while all of your are just] as a spokesperson, not a
leader. These people here today are the leaders. This young man, 14
years old walked -- Chad Friday. All these people here walked for young
people. At times we wanted to push
ourselves to go faster, and [some] days we did. Lots of energy we had
for the people. I say, I believe in change. And today there is going to
be change A warrior stands up for the people. He doesn't stand up
because he hates what's in front of him. He stands up because he loves
what's behind him. I'm not going
to stop -- I'll make that promise again. I'm not going to stop
protecting this land and this water.
"I invite all these young people, whoever, to come walk
with me again. We're not done. This building is going to keep doing
what they're doing. Those people inside that building are like
children. You see it: they point fingers at each other and talk bad
about each other. In our laws, the native people we sit
around in a circle to agree with each other. I say this in a kind way,
and I'll remind those suits and ties again, those men: be a man, again.
You guys are spokespersons. Do what's right. Quit acting like children
inside that building and pointing fingers at each other. Come stand
with the leaders that are standing on
the steps today, that suffered for the people.
Patrick Etherington of Moose Cree First Nation said, "I
don't know what to say that hasn't already been said, so I'm not going
to say anything. I want to go do something. I'm going to walk right up
there and I'm going to put some tobacco down."
Patrick Etherington; Jean
Jean Sutherland from Fort Albany First Nation said, "I
joined this walk and I represented all the women, the women from the
past, the Sisters in Spirit, the women today that are standing here,
and for the future, our children, this little girl standing beside me
here. Such an overwhelming feeling coming in here.
All the pains and struggles that we went through coming here, from
physical pain to [...] it's just very hard. I went through blisters,
knee pains, hip pains and everything. But it was worth it every minute,
every step. Today we are here to send a strong message to the
government, both provincial and federal, that it's
time to change now! Time to honour our treaties is now! Now!"
Wayne Koostachin from Fort Albany First Nation said, "I
joined this walk for my people, meaning all First Nations people, but
most of all for the future generations, to honour our treaties. It was
a very difficult journey, and very emotional. During my walk my
grandmother passed. It was very hard, but I did
it for my people. I'm very happy that I am here with my fellow walkers,
my Omushkegowuk Walkers. I'm very happy that I see my Chief is here."
George Rose from Fort Albany said, "I joined the walkers
in North Bay, not too far from here, but it's a long walk. I just
wanted to acknowledge these young people. As they went along, I watched
them. They were determined. They were strong. Even though it was hard
-- they were limping, they were sore.
They kept going, and especially this young man here River. I've never
seen so much determination in a young person. I'm very proud I was able
to walk with him."
Wayne Koostachin; George
Rose; Raven Turner
Raven Turner said she started the journey just past
Temagami, her home territory. "That night when I was listening to them
all speak my spirit was really lifted. I felt like I had to join their
journey with them. I've been walking since just past Temagami and the
journey's really been such an amazing experience
for me. I'm so proud of everybody. I met so many great people. I just
want to say migwetch to everyone who walked and everyone who's
supported us, my family especially."
Richard Okemow of
Attawapiskat First Nation said, "A
couple days ago I was walked and a thought crept up to me -- what the
purpose of this walk was, where it's going to lead, where it's going to
end. Something bothered me. What bothered me was the youth -- those
little ones you see walking around. Is
this going to continue? Do they have to keep up this rebellion?
Rebellion against corruption, as I see it. I feel a little bit ashamed
when I say that. But somehow I just gather a little strength from what
I believe in, the Creator, the high power. That's all I need from here
on out. My buddy asked me to join this walk,
his name is Rodney Hookimaw. I was a little reluctant at first but I
found space. And I'm just glad I am here today because this was a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, just to represent everybody who
couldn't be here, the ones who are about to be born, and the ones
before us, our ancestors. Just like Danny
says, it's time to honour our treaties, no more, no less."
Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nationa (left) joins in welcoming the
Omushkegowuk Walkers to Ottawa, along with Rex Knapaysweet, Chief of
the Fort Albany First Nation (centre).
Rex Knapaysweet, Fort Albany First Nation Chief said to
the walkers, "I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud and I admire your
bravery, your courage and the love you have for your people, the young
people and elders alike. Are you guys getting tired of this government
lying to you? Are you guys getting tired
of this conservative government lying to you? Lying to your faces every
day? Trying to bog us down with paper, legislation? And these are the
guys that are going to stop them. It's us. It's the people. That's
where we get our power."
Finally, an Elder from Attawapiskat spoke in Cree then
English, saying "I want to thank the Creator for bringing you here. I
am sure our ancestors, our mothers, our fathers, our grandfathers who
are in the spirit world now must be very happy to see you accomplish
walking on this earth by foot. We walked everywhere
by foot, our ancestors. They brought us canoes to go all over the
place, to survive, to teach us how to survive, and to show us how
Creator is powerful. And this is how we are strong, oh Mother how we
struggle in our lives. We struggle so much in poverty! But the creator
is stronger than the government. Do you
agree? That's what my father and my grandfather told me all the time.
It's not a residential school that told me that. And my own mum and
dad, and my grandparents. And I believe that. and I carry that. And I
want you to carry that for the rest of your life."
Following the speeches of the walkers a women's honour
song was performed by drummers and singers.
No More Missing Girls and Women!
March 5 Vigil on Parliament Hill for Loretta Saunders
and to Demand a National Inquiry
The Nova Scotia Native Women's
Association is holding a
vigil on Parliament Hill on March 5 at 12:00 noon to remember the life
Loretta Saunders, the recently murdered young Inuk woman, and renew the
call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women
and girls. In a post on Facebook,
Cheryl Maloney, President of the Nova Scotia Native Women's
"I would like to reach out to concerned citizens who
would like to pay tribute to Loretta and her work on missing and
murdered Aboriginal women. I would also like to renew the call for an
INQUIRY INTO MISSING AND MURDURED ABORIGINAL WOMEN.
"Please join us and urge our MPs and Government to call
for a National Inquiry. I think it would be fitting that the Inquiry be
named in honour of Loretta Saunders. I was deeply moved that the very
day a petition was delivered to Parliament was the day that Loretta's
life was brutally cut short. I also feel that
her thesis work on Missing and Murdered women must be completed, but it
is up to Canada and Canadians to finish her work.
"Please come out and join me on the Hill March 5th at
noon by the flame. Please bring your drums and your colours and your
Tyendinaga Mohawk Take Action to Demand
On March 2, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, located near
Belleville, Ontario, followed through
on commitment to take action if the federal government did not
undertake a public inquiry by the end of February into the hundreds of
missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. At about
8:30 pm, some 80 to 100 protestors set up a blockade
along Shannonville Road just south of Highway 401, about 20 minutes
from Belleville. The commitment to take action was made in a February
10 open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from Mohawk activist
Speaking to the Two Row Times before
the blockade, Brant said, "That date at the end of the month is a date
that everyone is taking seriously. But we haven't heard anything, not
even a negative response."
Brant said that even if the federal government released
a statement saying 'no' it would have made a difference. "We've had no
response at all." said Brant. "People have been angry and people are
angry about whats happened to Loretta [Saunders]. Everybody wants to
go. We have a plan that is in place and
we are not going to get knocked off course."
for APTN noted that on the
morning of Monday, March 3, the police greatly outnumbered the Mohawk,
to which one protestor remarked, "Why can't we have that response for
dead Native girls?"
The Two Row Times reports that on February 28,
"both Liberal and NDP MP's addressed the call for an inquiry during
question period. Conservative representatives then indicated that they
have already committed $25 million to the National Centre for Missing
Persons and Unidentified Remains but
no commitment has been made to investigate why indigenous women are
being targeted as victims specifically." The report continues:
"The Mohawk community of Tyendinaga are not the only
ones crying out for a public inquiry into the tragic statistic of
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Earlier this month a delegation
of the Native Women's Association of Canada presented the federal
government with a petition for an inquiry signed
by a staggering 23,000 people. That petition was delivered to the
federal government the same day Loretta Saunders was murdered. Saunders
was in the process of writing her thesis on missing and murdered
indigenous women when she was killed.
"A statement issued by the NWAC says 'Just in the past
six months, NWAC has noted that at least eight Aboriginal women have
been murdered. 'These statistics should raise the alarm for all
Canadians,' stated [NWAC] President, Michèle Audette. Much too
frequently, somewhere in Canada, families feel the pain and
loss of a loved one who has been a victim of violence. This happens way
too often for our Aboriginal people, and to the most vulnerable in our
society, the women and girls.'"
February 14 Memorial Marches Held in Across Canada
On or around Valentine's Day, February 14, memorial
marches for missing women and girls, especially those of aboriginal
origin, were held across Canada in at least 14 different cities from
coast to coast. These marches, which first began in Vancouver 23 years
ago, keep alive the memory of missing mothers,
daughters, grandmothers, aunties, sisters and friends and declare "No
More Missing Girls and Women!" The bold spirit of the actions made
clear that women refuse to be treated as fair game and victims, and
that everyone's security relies on taking up the fight for the rights
On Friday, March 14 at 12:00 noon, Regina will hold its
Stolen Sisters Memorial March at City Hall.
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