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March 4, 2014 - No. 22

Canada Must Recognize First Nations’ Rights

Omushkegowuk Walkers' Historic
Journey Calls for New Arrangements

 

The Omushkegowuk Walkers on Parliament Hill, February 25, 2014.

Ottawa

Vigil on Parliament Hill for Loretta Saunders and to Demand a
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls

Wednesday, March 5 -- 12:00 noon

Parliament Hill
Organized by: Nova Scotia Native Women's Association
For information: Facebook

Canada Must Recognize First Nations’ Rights
Omushkegowuk Walkers' Historic Journey Calls for New Arrangements

No More Missing and Murdered Girls and Women!
March 5 Vigil on Parliament Hill for Loretta Saunders and to Demand a National Inquiry
Tyendinaga Mohawk Take Action to Demand National Inquiry
February 14 Memorial Marches Held Across Canada


Canada Must Recognize First Nations’ Rights

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 strongest."

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. Migwetch."

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 Councillor."

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 Metatawabin

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 today.

"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 Sutherland

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."


Chief Theresa 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.

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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 of 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 Association, writes:

"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 neighbours."

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Tyendinaga Mohawk Take Action to Demand
National Inquiry

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 Shawn Brant.

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."

A reporter 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.'"

(APTN, Two Row Times; Photos: K. Jackson)

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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 of all.

On Friday, March 14 at 12:00 noon, Regina will hold its Stolen Sisters Memorial March at City Hall.

Vancouver



Edmonton




Calgary



Saskatoon


Orillia


Toronto




Montreal



(Photos: TML, S. Kravitz, H. Magalahaes, GBVPP, J. Len, M.K. Yamchuk, One True Media)

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