A Proposal to All My Anishinabeg Nations - REAL SOVEREIGNTY - DECOLONIZATION - IDLE NO MORE

Boozhoo Anishinabedog,

Mondageesokwe ndizhnikaaz, Makwa ndodem, Odawa miinawa Ojibwe miinawa Bodewaadamie Anishinaabekwe miinawa Irish ndaw. Michiganing ndojeba.

I would like to make a heartfelt call out to my brothers and sisters here on Turtle Island, to wake up and rub the colonization from their eyes, to see past their nation-states they live under, to look past their ministries and BIAs and their Tribal Memberships. I would like to make a proposal to look past our borders, to do something, we as Anishinaabeg should have done back in the 1300s, before the newcomers came here... TO UNIFY. TO UNIFY ... TO UNIFY. TO UNIFY OUR FAMILIES, OUR BANDS, OUR CLAN SYSTEM ACROSS ANISHINABE AKIING TO RE LIGHT THE FIRE OF THE ANISHINABEG CONFEDERACY. TO RULE OURSELVES BY OURSELVES -- NOT THROUGH TRIBAL COUNCILS, BUT THROUGH TRADITIONAL CLAN CHIEFS --- TO GOVERN OURSELVES THROUGH OUR CLAN SYSTEM, TO WORK TOGETHER PAST THE STATE AND CANADIAN BORDERS TO WORK AS ONE NATION THE ANISHINABEG NATION- THE SOVEREIGN ANISHINABEG NATION.

I am not just speaking about a few tribes or bands, I am speaking of all of the Anishinaabeg peoples everywhere on Turtle Island, those in the United States on or off the reservations and all of the Canadian provinces. I am not calling for a dismantling of the system in place currently because lets face it, it would be a legal mess. However, unification of all the Anishinabeg peoples with a 2- part clan system council with 2 reps from each area one being a honorable man for men's council one being an honorable women for women's council, would  be a place to start to make broad changes in both countries for the betterment of our people as a whole. Changes such as fights for Mother Earth - clean water/land/air, no fracking, treaty rights in both countries... a place to share tactical information, a place to learn from one another instead of recreating the wheel. We could band together for saving our language and sharing of resources for language renewal/revitalization and share the information with our people  --- keep an open dialog always so all of our people have a say, and can share ideas and help shape the future for our grandchildren.

I realize there are several councils, committees and groups in place that deal with specific issues such as violence against women, gaming, care of the great lakes and fisheries, the one language conference... but the information from these groups does not always get shared across borders, to all of our communities on and off the reservations. A governing traditional clan council could better consolidate information and make it more available to all our families and communities. We could waste less time reinventing strategies, re - hashing issues and resolutions... we could resolve issues better this way.

We live in a global society, we cannot fight alone, we cannot fight nation -states nor mining nor corporate interests alone, we have to, we must band together to help one another, more than a few protests and teach ins, we should form the Anishinaabeg Confederacy with a council based on our clan system with representatives from each Anishinaabeg community on both sides of the American - Canadian border. We need to keep it traditional, we need to keep our leaders walking their talk, no politics here, no nepotism... this must be biimaadiziwin miikana. it must be and stay traditional.

In Honor of the BBC's show Dr. Who's 50th Anniversary!

Aanii Everyone,

I have been gone awhile, I have been unable to complete my art for a bit due to severe retinal migraines combined with migraines with aura... but I had a good day today and was able to finish my Woodland Style Dr. Who painting in time for the 50th Anniversary. So here it is! Let me know what you think if any of you out there are fellow Whovians!

   "Dr. Who" - Prismacolor Pencil and Sharpie  Copyright 2013 Melanie Sunstorm Fish All Rights Reserved


"Dr. Who" - Prismacolor Pencil and Sharpie

Copyright 2013 Melanie Sunstorm Fish All Rights Reserved

Apihtawikosisan: We Can't Get Anywhere Until We Flip the Narrative

August 22, 2013

Aanii everyone, 

I am re-posting this blog article from Apihtawikosisan about the Idle No More movement.

Here is a link to the original blogpost  at apihtawikosisan.com



We can’t get anywhere until we flip the narrative

by âpihtawikosisân9 comments


Since December of 2012, and the rise of Idle No More events, there have been numerous “teach-ins” throughout the country. Some of them focused on the theme of reconciliation, others provided necessary background to those unfamiliar with the causes of ‘indigenous discontent’, while others attempted to provide a possible vision for the future. Whether you agree with a focus on education versus a widespread series of actions, it is nonetheless clear that much work is needed to overcome some very pervasive and damaging stereotypes.

This year alone, we have seen some very telling opinions being given a public platform, all of which depict indigenous peoples in a… less than flattering light.

In January, the Morris Mirror ran an editorial by the community paper’s editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte, that likened us to terrorists and decried our “corruption and laziness”. Not to be outdone, 80-something Nanaimo resident Don Olsen submitted a letter to the editor in March, titled “Educate First Nations to become modern citizens“, detailing our supposed total lack of achievements and inability to survive in a modern world. The Calgary Herald rounded out this vituperative triumvirate with another letter to the editor by Martin Miller of Okotoks called “Equal partners” which demands that we stop oppressing the brow-beaten taxpayer with our endless demands.

The Morris Mirror experienced significant backlash and despite its claims to “represent the views of the local community”, local residents were quick to voice their disgust with the views expressed. Some businesses withdrew their ads from the publication in response.


Karin Klassen, seasoned journalist and supporter of 60s Scoop policies.


The Nanaimo Daily also experienced negative publicity and lost ad revenue for its choice to publish Olsen’s letter. Unlike the Morris Mirror, the Nanaimo Daily offered a full-apology and withdrew the article. By then, a number of people had published rebuttals to the letter, including a very detailed one by Danica Denomme. In contrast, the Calgary Herald has not apologised or withdrawn Miller’s opinion piece.

In April, a BC NDP candidate resigned after some of her online comments about First Nations peoples came to light.

It didn’t stop there, of course. In July, a Calgary Herald journalist Karin Klassen wrote an article which in essence, defends the 60s Scoop and suggests that First Nations people are culturally unfit to parent. This opinion piece was not offered by a random citizen, but was delivered by a seasoned, paid journalist. In her article, she ignores all of the research on the subject in favour of a knee-jerk personal reaction supported by nothing more than her anecdotal experiences. At its very best, the article is an example of a gross lack of professionalism.

The fact that people are able to outright dismiss literally centuries of oppression as though this could have no possible impact on events today, never ceases to astound me. How is this even possible? Clearly the first step, as exemplified by Klassen, is to claim that good intentions negate oppression. Another tactic is to say, “those were different times”. This approach was taken by the son of a scientist behind nutritional experiments on First Nations children, who wrote to the media to justify the program.


A study of how Canadian English-language newspapers have portrayed Aboriginal peoples from 1869 to the present day.


When dealing with these kinds of opinions, one tends to have to weigh the pros and cons of ignoring them, or providing an often emotionally exhausting rebuttal. Native peoples and our allies are often faced with putting in extreme effort to refute and educate, but it can feel like we are making little progress.

The myth of progress

That feeling is unfortunately supported by extensive research. Anderson and Robertson’s “Seeing Red: A history of natives in Canadian newspapers” provides exhausting evidence of how little the narrative has changed in the media since 1869. In fact, Anderson and Robertson assert in their introduction that, “with respect to Aboriginal peoples, the colonial imaginary has thrived, even dominated, and continues to do so in mainstream English-language newspapers.” The imaginary to which they refer, is the way in which Canada has created an image of itself, based not so much on historical fact as on ideological interpretation. In doing so, Canada has necessarily had to rely upon an imaginary of indigenous peoples which, as expressed recently by Turcotte, Olsen and Miller, portrays us as pretty much useless.

How is it that so little progress has been made to overcome this narrative in 144 years? Certainly the colonial myths which continue to dominate media discourse have existed for much longer than this. Nonetheless one would hope that nearly a century and a half of technological and social development would see a corresponding shift in mainstream attitudes. Instead, we literally see the same arguments being made year after year after year.

Of course, the idea that Canadian society is evolving and progressing is an important part of the colonial imaginary. When Canadians consider the injustices faced by indigenous peoples, those injustices are nearly always located in the past. The irony of course is that every generation has located such injustice in the past, and only rarely in contemporary contexts. Were this actually true, no injustice could have possibly occurred ever, much less could be understood to continue today!

Canadians who do recognise historical injustice seem to understand it in this way:

  1. Bad things happened.
  2. Bad things stopped happening and equality was achieved.
  3. The low social and political status held by indigenous peoples is now wholly based on the choice to be corrupt, lazy, inefficient, and unsuited to the modern world.

In other words, there is no history of colonialism and systemic racism that informs the modern view of indigenous peoples, because that problem was solved at some point in the past. The real racism is in conflating legitimate dislike for indigenous peoples (based not on race or ethnicity but rather on the bad choices we make) with historic colonialism/racism which is over. In continuing to discuss colonialism and racism as a present-day concern, we are engaging in reverse-racism and oppressing blameless settlers.


Some people feel that the real cause of racism is claims like those made in this comic.


Canada is hardly unique in this ahistorical approach. In the United States, slavery is also located in the distant past, and the belief that full equality was achieved at some nebulous but definite point is widely accepted (at least by Whites) as true. Thus anti-Black sentiment is based not on race but on true generalisations of all the bad choices Black people have made since they became equal. Even suggesting this view is untrue raises hackles.

Flip the narrative

The fact is, what we all learn about Canadian history is wrong. Every single one of us, native and non-native alike, have been fed a series of lies, half-truths and fantasies intended to create a cohesive national identity. What is most startling about this, is that a great many people are aware of the errors and omissions present in our system of education and in our public discourse, and yet somehow there has not yet been a national attempt to rectify this.

That is not to say no effort has been made. The inclusion of events into the mainstream consciousness that I only heard rumours about when I was in school, has been incredibly important. Acknowledging Japanese internment, the Chinese Head Tax, Residential Schools and a host of other less-than-inspiring events and policies has certainly taken us beyond the kind of starry-eyed propaganda served up for a long time in this country.

Nonetheless, integral to colonial narrative is belief in the superiority of European contributions and the absence of any truly important contribution from non-European peoples to Canadian society, except when narrowly defined within examples of successful integration and ‘up by their bootstraps’ stories. After all, if non-European and indigenous contributions were of any real value, wouldn’t we see them everywhere? Instead, all that is good and modern originated in Europe!

Not everyone states this as baldly as Mr. Olsen et al. but the sentiment is nonetheless widely shared. Which is incredibly sad, because Canada will not crumble and fall apart if we become more honest and aware of the history of these lands and the incredible diversity of contributions by peoples from all over the world.

The violence of national myths

A more accurate and less self-serving history, a more honest reality, is ours. It is our birthright, whether we have been in these lands for thousands of years, or arrived yesterday. We are all being denied a real identity, based on more than colonial myths intended to create a national identity out of thin air.


This is not an intelligent or useful way to approach history or construct a national identity.


It is not only indigenous peoples who want to reclaim that birthright. There are millions of people living in this country who are trying to come to grips with their own personal histories, which more often than not, fail to accord with the official narrative. Unwed mothers who were pressured into giving up their babies for adoption, finding out that many of these babies were killed and buried instead. Black orphans who were horrifically abused by those who were supposed to protect them. Italians in Canada put into internment camps during WWII, and so very many more who have had to struggle to have their stories heard and believed.

These are all horrific stories, and they are only the tip of the iceberg, because most of us have heard only a fraction of them. The violence that national myths commit, is to delegitimise the very real pain that is the legacy of abuse and oppression. When these stories begin to surface, they are often treated as conspiracy theories. Even when incontrovertible proof is discovered, and the information becomes freely available, the overarching Canadian narrative obscures and confuses, splitting these events up into disparate and unconnected ‘unfortunate incidents’. Most Canadians will learn only a few of these stories, and will be unable to connect them to a wider history of colonialism. This means that nothing can change, as is made so clear in the book Seeing Red, and exemplified in articles like Klassen’s. How can we possibly learn from the past when this country is so invested in whitewashing it?

We all need to work on reclaiming our histories, but this cannot be an individual exercise, it absolutely must be a national one. We must share our histories and learn the histories of others, and our curriculum and media must reflect our evolving understandings.

Right now, indigenous peoples are trying very hard to share our histories. Whether this will create a new chapter in Anderson and Robertson’s research is going to depend on whether or not Canadians are finally willing to listen.

Original Apihtawikosisan Article

Canadian Flag Hung Upside Down in Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Grand Entry - Colby Tootoosis

Canadian Flag Hung Upside Down in Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Grand Entry

August 22, 2013

Aanii everyone, I wanted to re-post this article by Colby Tootoosis and why he carried the Canadian Flag upside down into Grand Entry at the Manito Ahbee pow wow....


A humble statement on the events that transpired at Manito Ahbe.


[Normally I don’t write or talk about myself as far as what I do or have done in the past.  Given the circumstances, I was encouraged by Last Real Indians, along with friends, to highlight a perspectives on what really happened at Manito Ahbee 2013 2nd Grand Entry - since there was speculation that what had happened was an accident… it was not. Enjoy and reflect.]



“Calling all flag carriers! Your names have been called, you know who are!” the MC announced as the arena prepared for the 2nd grand entry at 2013 Manito Ahbee powwow in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The thing about contesting powwows these days, is that they have gotten political.  They have gotten political not only within the contesting of dancers and singers, but more so in grand entries being an avenue for the public speaking of political agenda’s and ideals (even though I have travelled to various powwows in different territories, I can only speak from my experience of powwows close to home- the prairies north of the colonial border). Chiefs and dignitaries mostly give cliché speeches and rarely speak of nationhood, decolonization, and overcoming oppression.  But this article is not about controversial evolvement of modern day powwows.  This piece is about encouraging the utilization of every avenue possible to serve the cause of Indigenous liberation; to get Indigenous people to think critically about the relationship they have with not only oppression but reflect about themselves in who they think they are– and most importantly, to courageously take conscious action.



The reasons why we have Land (not in an in ownership sense but in a Sovereign Nation sense), Treaties, and that we are even alive is because our ancestors refused to “get with the times”.  What does “get with the times” really mean, anyway?  Does it mean to ignore the Consciousness of our bloodlines that is connected to our land and to identify ourselves with modern day colonial borders?  Does it mean to participate with the abuse of the land by the extraction of resources and adopt same values as the colonist?  Does it simply mean ignoring our indigenous values all together?  Quite honestly, “getting with the times” never made sense to me when it’s used in a counter argument against those who are defending the land and following through in the inherit qualities and values of indigenous consciousness.



The reality is it is time to become the best we can possibly be and follow through with the certainty that we are Nations within a Nation.  Part of that is denouncing the imposed identity that we are Canadian.  My friend Jodi Kechego articulated it well when he stated “My bloodline is inherently separate from Canada in that my ancestors have been here for literally thousands and thousands of years– as apposed three or four generations”.  I support this statement and also add that the Consciousness of who we are has been within our lands since the beginning of time.  We can not forget this.  Our young people have a political responsibility that is very likely to involve the rebelling against a strategic regime and continued agenda of oppression.  Often times this rebelling evokes fear of various flavors.  Fear of what ifs, what others will think, fear of being abandoned, ostracized, fear of repercussions, scolding, and oddly fear of upsetting the oppressor.  In fact, it’s interesting how the oppressed always seem to apologize to the oppressor.  We can connect the dots a million times within our brains and reflect on the reasons our current circumstance is the way it is.  With great honor and respect to our moshums and kokums that are champions of life as they over came the genocide of residential schools– we have to step beyond the confines of our fears cross that line of comfort within ourselves.



My brother and I would tease each other when we ever we get asked to dance in the Canadian flag in grand entries, every time- not because we hate Canada or have resentment, mainly because we were taught with values and teachings of who we are in the sense of Nationhood with the Consciousness relative to the land.  “Calling all flag carriers!”  I walked towards the flags tying my roach ensuring it’s straight.  Worst thing is to dance in the flags with a crooked roach! “I hope I get to dance in the Union Jack and not the Canadian flag,” I thought to myself as I approached the other fancy dancers.  “Here!” the arena director stated, as he handed me the Canadian flag.  “Aw man! Can I trade with this guy?” I said pointing to my friend who was holding the Union Jack.  “Nope! Because you’ll ruin our system,” he replied.  Well that’s why I came to the planet my friend I thought silently, “This is the most annoying flag a guy can dance in,” I said. “But I’ll dance it in since your giving me tobacco” I grabbed the flag and got in line.



In that moment, I decided I’m going to dance this flag in this grand entry, and I’m not going hold it high.  I’m going to grip it, keep it low to the ground.  In my heart and mind I thought about all the Indigenous people across the land living in struggle.  I thought about the missing and murdered Indigenous women, and those who have been brutalized by the RCMP.  When the song started and our line up began to move forward.  An anxiety began to surface and I didn’t let it faze the intention, the prayer.  I danced and I danced and I danced hard right through.



Of all the times I’ve danced in flags the thought always came to turn the flag upside down.  However with bustles, fringe everywhere, and the fact that majority of flags are tied on with strings, it always seemed to difficult to do and I never bothered.  However, on this occasion on August 20th at Manito Ahbee powwow, these flags had a simple clip mechanism that can easily be clipped on and off within a few seconds.  When would I have another opportunity like this? Without even thinking about the fact that the powwow was being live streamed or that anyone would notice, I unclipped the mechanisms and rearranged the flag in a matter of seconds with the help of my friend to my left.  I kept the flag gripped till the end of the grand entry, and also during the flag song.  Of course I thought about the veterans, my relatives who fought in the wars.  I also remembered that Indigenous people didn’t fight in the wars to protect Canada, rather to protect our Treaties with the Queen.  Too often people make the mistake of believing that the numbered Treaties were created with Canada, when they are not.  I can only speak in the context of Treaty six in relation to the numbered Treaties.  How I’ve come to understand the Treaties in a deeper context is that the Treaties are not the starting point of anything new, rather the spiritual support and protection of what has always existed here.  So that day I took a stand, fear came up, but I did it anyway.  My heart was warm.  I felt fulfilled.  It was when the victory song was sung and the MC was announcing names of the staff and flag carriers to dance forward – I raised the flag.  “Carrying the Canadian flag coming to us from Treaty Six Territory! Colby Tootoosis!” For the first time in all the years of carrying in that flag, I felt purposeful.  Obviously I didn’t think it through and I didn’t think anyone would notice because everything carried on as usual.  Neither did I know my friend Tim Catchaway noticed the action from the start and was taking pictures of the whole thing.  Of course social media expanded the awareness of the act along with people who were watching the LIVE stream who were tweeting about it.  One tweet by twitter handle @otcimaw stated “CND flag was hanging appropriately this evening, my family was chuckling..”.  A facebook comment stated, “I heard that long ago during treaty negotiations, if people were unhappy, they would fly the flag upside down.  Maybe someone knows that story”.  Personally I haven’t heard that story and strongly believe that people simply need to take their own conscious actions.  In their own way the best way they know how.  We need to expand beyond the fear that keeps us tied to the behaviors of an oppressed people.



A few hours later the powwow committee redid the flag song and victory song.  “When there is a wrong we need to make it right!” the announcer declared.  It’s funny because I agree with that statement strongly, which is why I did what I did.  The action wasn’t to get attention; it was simply listening to my heart and felt like the proper appropriate action in that moment.  Especially considering the current circumstances Indigenous people around the world are going through.   We need to think critically about our circumstances as Indigenous people.



How can a person decide to “be the change they want to see in the world” when their perception of the world remains the same?  If we want to create and be part of transformations within our Nations, we need change our perception of them.  Remember the prayers of our old people go way back, the Consciousness of who we are goes back to the beginning of time.  It’s those prayers that continue to support us, guide us in all the goodness that we do.  I feel if we all truly knew what stood next to us during times of the struggle and during the times of joy, fear would dissolve into itself and only faith will be revealed.



In Love,



Colby Tootoosis


Here is a link to the original story found at Last Real Indians 


Last Real Indians Article

Idle No More: Canada Escalates War on First Nations - Repost from Indian Country Today

June 26, 2013

Aanii everyone, here is a repost of an article written by Winona Laduke and Frank Jr. Molley that appears on Indian Country Today's  website.

Idle No More: Canada Escalates War on First Nations

Winona LaDuke and Frank Jr. Molley


June 26, 2013

Mi’kmaq and Maliseet reserves in Atlantic Canada are the sites of a new major battle between First Nation activists and the Canadian government that represents the next stage of the Idle No More movement. The flash point came when the Conservative government threw down the gauntlet with what some call sign-or-starve consent agreements presented to First Nations right across the country.

Facing increasingly strong opposition to both its extractive industries and its federal policies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has adopted a hard-line strategy seemingly designed to eliminate First Nations’ negotiating power and rights. Harper’s cudgels are annual contribution agreements between the government and the First Nations that have new, questionable appendices that are forcing some of the poorest communities to take it or leave it, or

Bartibogue calls the new agreement terms “blackmail.”

worse, face third-party management, which would essentially mean having the Canadian government manage their finances and governmental affairs. At stake here is title over Indian lands and minerals, as well as a host of choices on the future direction of Canada.

The government seems to be focused on getting de facto termination of many constitutionally and treaty protected rights of First Nations. Its first thrust in this battle was this past fall’s Bill C-45, which gutted most of Canada’s environmental laws and was the spur for last year’s Idle No More movement. “It took away a lot of the treaty muscle First Nations have,” says Nina Wilson, one of Idle No More’s founders, of that bill.

Since the eruption of the Idle No More movement in early December, there have been many amendments to Canadian laws that threaten aboriginal peoples rights and their traditional lands, all of them enacted as part of what the government calls “Canada’s Economic Action Plan.” Although dubbed a long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy, the majority of the “actions” in this plan will curtail aboriginal peoples rights over their lands and resources. The government seems to be trying to undermine the traditional “derogation” provision, a clause that Chelsea Vowel, a Métis scholar and blogger for Apihtawikosisan.com, explains “is central to every agreement between First Nations and the Canadian government.” A nonderogation clause in aboriginal law generally reads like this: Nothing in this agreement shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

In “Are you alarmed? You should be,” an article posted on Apihtawikosisan.com, Vowel explains that these new my-way-or-the-highway agreements include language that is, “typical legal doublespeak. Your rights are protected… unless we need to violate them to carry out this legislation that we did not create with adequate consultation with you and further, we will not consult with you as we carry out these legislative duties.”

The new consent agreements bearing these bits of subterfuge are the staple of financial support for First Nations, funding essential health care, education and housing. “Some new agreements with the bands are designed to force a land

Downie, Premiere Gold Mines (AP)

surrender,” says Wilson. “In other cases, basic rights, like the right to potable water—which is not available in a number of First Nations—are being linked to a diminishment of rights.”

All this comes at a time when many First Nations are in dire financial straits. “We have been receiving very minimal support for services in our communities,” Wilson explains. “[Federal appropriations are] based on prices that date back to the last millennium. For instance, one community gets $4,000 a year for snow removal, and in fact is spending $36,000 a year. That money has to come from somewhere. [This annual shortfall] has snowballed into a debt, and bands have no way of taking care of it. Bands now are being faced with new financial negotiations, and many bands are in the red because of the low-ball appropriations.”

The omnibus budget bill enacted in January has been criticized by opposition MPs as an attempt to subvert the democratic process. The bill was rushed through Parliament, along with many supplementary bills, eight of which directly affect aboriginal peoples and their lands. Of concern to First Nations are changes to legislation on water rights, matrimonial law, the Indian Act, education, health, privatization of Indian lands, taxation on reserves and on the matter of financial transparency and accountability.

Cree Lawyer Sharon Venne is an international human rights attorney and watchdog on federal aboriginal policy. Her experience in dealing with the feds is extensive, most notably as chief negotiator for First Nations for 10 years in Canada’s Northwest Territories. She held a special presentation in October in Kahnawake, Mohawk territory in which she explained that the federal plan is to absolve federal fiduciary obligations, which are essential elements of both treaties and federal Indian policy, based on a notorious set of policy recommendations dating back to the 1960s called the white paper. “What they are doing [now] is ‘frustrating’ the application of S.91(24) in the British North American Act, ‘Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians,’ by transferring this stuff to the Provinces and they are doing it through all kinds of mechanisms. It’s not only through legislation, but it’s through the [annual] contribution agreements.”

That shift would diminish the nation-to-nation relationships between Canada and all the First Nations—in particular their legal jurisdiction and responsibilities—by putting them under the control of local authorities.

Burnt Church
Esgenoopetitj Burnt Church is a Mi’kmaq First Nation that has an unenviable claim to fame: it is reported to be the poorest postal code in all of Canada. In mid-March, it was sent their annual contribution agreement. This time the agreement was different—it didn’t contain the standard non-derogation clause, which erodes treaty rights in return for money. Treaty and aboriginal rights are no longer explicitly acknowledged, which means they are, implicitly, imperiled. Councilor Mr. Curtis Bartibogue is outraged by this change in tactics by the government. “It’s blackmail, and it’s the most illegal thing ever done.… We told the [Aboriginal Affairs] Minister it’s like you’re putting a gun to our head and telling us to sign.”

What happened next surprised many, perhaps the Canadian government most of all. Despite the dire conditions of the community—80 percent unemployment, and essentially full dependency on the promised copy6 million funding allocation—Burnt Church refused to sign. “The outcome of our meeting was that we can’t sign,” Bartibogue says. “We asked the public and informed them of the situation and they stand behind us not to sign. To accept the social reform, the omitting clauses of the treaties and the case before the courts, is something we can’t do to our community.”

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

“The government, through its contribution agreements, is trying to get First Nations to sign onto [their policies] or else be cut from their funding,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta told a ­HillTimes.com reporter. He said his nation refused to sign its contribution agreement, worth more than copy million, because it doesn’t agree with the federal government’s omnibus budget implementation legislation. In Saskatchewan, Cree First Nations similarly decided to say ‘No.’ “One of the council members took the whole appendix home and read it all. There were a lot of conditions never seen before. Some signed and some didn’t,” Christine Dieter, a First Nations woman in southern Saskatchewan, told a reporter for Ipolitics.ca, an electronic newsmagazine. The appendix allegedly requires the bands to support federal omnibus legislation and proposed resource developments as a condition of getting their funding. Some bands have already signed the funding agreements out of necessity, noting that they did so under duress.

The harsh reality behind this power play is that 200 years of Canadian development has left First Nation economies underfunded. Canadian mining and forestry have essentially stripped their resources for a paltry sum. Today, many of Canada’s 617 First Nations live in third-world conditions. Negotiations are too often uneven. As prominent Native scholar Russell Diabo wrote, “It seems the negotiating First Nations are so compromised by their federal loans, and dependent on the negotiations funding stream that they are unable or unwilling to withdraw from the tables en masse and make real on the demand that the Harper government reform its comprehensive claims and self-government policies to be consistent with the articles of the [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples].”

Manufacturing Consent
What’s at stake for Canada is an estimated $650 billion extraction industry worth of minerals, oil, gas and trade-route access for pipeline companies. Canada’s domination of a world minerals market is at risk because First Nations are saying ‘No’ and are making demands. For the first time in six years, Canada failed to top the mining industry’s list of the best mining jurisdictions in the world. Indigenous rights are a challenge to that economy. “I would say one of the big things that is weighing on mining investment in Canada right now is First Nations issues,” Ewan Downie, told Reuters. Downie is chief executive officer of Premier Gold Mines, which owns numerous projects in northern Ontario. Half a million Canadians and their livelihoods are tied in the copy20 billion-a-year industry within the fields of natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil, oil sands and other mineral extractions, according to a 2013 Statistical Handbook issued by Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. (Many argue that all of those resources originate on First Nation territories.)

Prior and informed consent is a part of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and most international protocols. This becomes an international legal standard of how business is done, after hundreds of years of theft and genocide, in order to secure lands from Indigenous peoples. Hence, international accords today enable fair agreements with Indigenous peoples over their lands and resources. Now, with an increasingly educated, and empowered Indigenous community, evidenced by the Idle No More movement, that standard of consent is not looking so easy to secure. This is particularly true as communities themselves challenge, what has become, essentially entrenched power.

As Professor Pamela Palmater of Toronto’s Ryerson University explains, “[The Idle No More] movement was about educating First Nations to say no.… ” And saying “no” has already slowed or derailed at least a half-dozen energy and mining projects in British Columbia. “It’s the project-killer, the investment killer,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Cree organizer with the Indigenous Tar Sands campaign.

In March, Mathias Colomb Cree Nation blocked access for HudBay Minerals Inc. to its Lalor Lake mine project in Manitoba. Protesters blockaded access to the gold-copper-zinc mine for several hours, demanding talks with the company on an ownership stake in the $773.84 million project. Blockades have increased dramatically over this winter, spurred on by the federal government’s failure to consult, along with their green light nods toward new aggressive mining interests, many of which are in more remote and pristine areas than ever before. The companies are also facing a more politicized and mobilized grassroots movement that is determined to defend the constitutionally protected rights of First Nations.

In late September former cabinet minister Jim Prentice slammed both the government and the oil industry for not addressing First Nation concerns. Yet Canada’s Bill C-45 paved the way across aboriginal territory without much adherence to consultation or accommodation let alone the environment, opening new resource extraction opportunities with Suncor Energy, Enbridge, TransCanada and a sleuth of junior mining and natural gas companies effectively giving their activities the green light.

Last year, TransCanada reportedly floated the idea of a pipeline to the East. New Brunswick’s Premier David Alward “has been traveling the country peddling the virtues of a West-East oil pipeline that would see Alberta and Saskatchewan crude flow to a refinery in Saint John,” reported the Financial Post. The pipeline might go through territory of the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq peoples, and one source says that the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick were not consulted about the plans. This is disturbing in many respects, including the fact that Alward is, thanks to a consolidation of power in the Maritime provinces, also responsible for aboriginal affairs in the province.

Can the Harper government be thwarted in this attempt to subjugate and exploit the First Nations? U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, who is completing a report for the United Nations on extractive industries and Indigenous Peoples, has been requesting to formally enter Canada since early 2012. He was finally given formal approval in April.

In the meantime, the Idle No More movement that began late last year has bloomed this spring with new force, an Indigenous Spring, so to speak, that is spreading from eastern Canada’s Burnt Church to northern Saskatchewan. Native people are declaring that consent cannot be manufactured by federal threats.

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/26/idle-no-more-canada-escalates-war-first-nations-150125