By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
Danny Metatawabin, spokesman for the most influential woman in the country, took centre stage in her absence. Chief Theresa Spence was said to be under observation in a local hospital. Her protest—”hunger strike?” “fast?” “liquids-only diet?”—was now concluded, but she would not be here to mark the occasion.
There had been some delay in starting and there was some confusion about the seating arrangement, but now everyone had found a place at the table at the front of the National Press Theatre—Mr. Metatawabin, Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson, Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde and Native Women’s Association of Canada president Michelle Audette, NDP MP Romeo Saganash and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. Mr. Metatawabin was asked to speak first. He paused for a few seconds before beginning.
He offered a few words in his own language, acknowledged the Creator and Chief White Duck of the traditional Algonquin territory. “This is sage,” he said, holding up a bowl that he had placed in front of him. “But I’m not going to light it. It’s against fire regulations.” He smiled. “But it was a gesture … we had hoped to do a cleansing ceremony because I know media has been on our backs for the last six weeks now. And I know you mean well and I know at times the full story doesn’t get out there, to the Canadian public or even on the international stage. But what we have accomplished has gone international.”
He wore a brown leather vest and in his left hand he held an eagle feather.
“It is not only about Theresa Spence, it is not only about Raymond. And I’m passionate for protecting my treaty rights as well, but it wasn’t only for me. It was for the entire indigenous nations as well your future. Our future together. We must walk in harmony together. We must work together,” he said. “That was one of the messages that we always brought forth, since day one. All that we wanted was for the Prime Minister of Canada to invite the Governor General to meet with First Nations leadership. That’s all that we wanted.”
Merely that the elected head of government, the titular head of state and the elected representatives of some 600 communities meet for the purposes of beginning to fix the problems that have compounded over some 500 years of history. That’s all. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 3:29 PM - 0 Comments
Raymond Robinson is an elder from Manitoba who joined Theresa Spence on a hunger strike in December. He spoke second at today’s news conference, after Theresa Spence’s spokesman, Danny Metatawabin. Here is a transcript of his statement (save for a few words that my tape didn’t pick up clearly).
As Danny was alluding to, today is the final day for my journey that I took upon myself over 30 days ago. It is with mixed emotions, with a lot of stress, joy, tribulation that I make this statement today that my journey on my hunger strike ends as of today, as we speak today.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride, for my sake, for my family’s sake, for my wife, my children, my grandchildren, for my community. The journey that I took upon myself to try to get some kind of word out to the general population, with respect to the way our people, my people have been treated over the course of these generations.
It’s amazing that, in this day and age, that our people are still not being respected as people in our own land. The non-aboriginal nation have been very complacent in our own territory and insisting that they have total control of every aspect of our lives, our lands, our resources, our waters. Little do they know we welcomed them with open arms when they first foisted their boats and set sail to this land. We nurtured you guys, we gave you our medicine. You guys would have died without our medicine. Without us teaching you how to live and survive in this country. We forged a relationship with you guys, hoping that you would be our partners, in everything, 50/50. We smoked the pipe to symbolize the relationship we wanted to forge with you, government to government, nation to nation, one sovereign nation to another sovereign nation, one country to another country, 50/50. That’s all we ever wanted from the start, 50/50. Nothing more, nothing less.
But through time, the non-aboriginal society, the government, thought that they could take everything from us. I’m an Indian residential school survivor myself. I went to three residential schools. The government of Canada tried to take my identity away from me, my life, my language, my being a First Nations person, to try to assimilate me to a foreign culture that I don’t know about. These are the things that I … in this journey that I took for 43 days, as part of that journey, to tell the world, to tell Canada that enough is enough. Can’t you just leave us alone? Can’t we just be ordinary people in this land? Can we have the same opportunities that you guys live on a daily basis? Can we learn to get along? Can I be received as a human being in my own land? Can I be acknowledged as a contributing society member of this land? Can I have the same opportunities that you guys enjoy, instead of trying to shove me in a corner, or bury me alive, with these genocidal bills that have been created by the government?
Bill C-38 gives … powers to the ministers to do as they wish. In our territory, the royal proclamation of 1763, states that there’s lands reserved for the Indians, that’s supposed to remain undisturbed, unmolested. But look at what these bills are doing to our lands … Bill C-45 takes control of all our lands, our resources, our waters. Bill 428 [wants to revise the Indian Act], where’s the duty and the obligations that lie within that act. Instead of progressing, we’re regressing.
I think it’s about time that the Canadian government and the general society of this land learn that we are part of this society. We’re not going anywhere and we’re never going to go anywhere. We just need our equal opportunities. We want our place in this soil. Is there something wrong with my colour that you don’t like? Is my heart, the blood flowing in my veins, different than yours? What is it? What can I do to tell you that I’m as human as you are? When I look at you, I don’t see no colour, no barriers, no prejudices. That’s the way I lived all my life. I see the beauty in everyone of you guys here, without distinction based on race. You will never see me act that way. But you seem to be doing the opposite. Trying to bury me alive. Bury my wife, my children, my grandchildren, alive. And you’ve taken full control of our daily activities, our way of life, even taken our property rights away. This is the message that I’ve been trying to carry these last 43 days. Sacrificing myself, my health, at the expense of my wife, my children, my grandchildren, to try to help you guys … the Canadian population too. This is your fight too. These acts, these bills will kill us all if they’re forced ahead. We’re supposed to have a freedom of democracy in this land, now where are they? The government takes them away. So fight with us. Make sure these bills do not go anywhere. Thank you very much and that’s what I have to say.