Message Given the Queen on Her 1997 Visit to Newfoundland
As is well known, in Newfoundland the genocide of the Beothuk Indigenous people occurred due to the slave trade and brutal treatment carried out by colonial powers of which the English set the pattern, something the Indigenous peoples have repeatedly raised.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Labrador in 1997 to mark the quincentennial anniversary of the "discovery" of Newfoundland by the Venetian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), who was commissioned by Henry VII of England. In Sheshatshiu, on June 26, 1997, Innu community leaders presented her with a letter that read in part:
"The history of colonization here has been lamentable and has severely demoralized our People. They turn now to drink and self-destruction. We have the highest rate of suicide in North America. Children as young as 12 have taken their own life recently. We feel powerless to prevent the massive mining projects now planned and many of us are driven into discussing mere financial compensation, even though we know that the mines and hydroelectric dams will destroy our land and our culture and that money will not save us.
"The Labrador part of Nitassinan was claimed as British soil until very recently (1949), when without consulting us, your government ceded it to Canada. We have never, however, signed any treaty with either Great Britain or Canada. Nor have we ever given up our right to self-determination.
"The fact that we have become financially dependent on the state which violates our rights is a reflection of our desperate circumstances. It does not mean that we acquiesce in those violations.
"We have been treated as non-People, with no more rights than the caribou on which we depend and which are now themselves being threatened by NATO war exercises and other so-called development. In spite of this, we remain a People in the fullest sense of the word. We have not given up, and we are now looking to rebuild our pride and self esteem."
This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 5 - May 21, 2022
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