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First Nations an Integral Part of Clean Energy Landscape in BC

By Paul Kariya, Executive Director Clean Energy BC (CEBC)

Culliton Creek hydro facility commissioning

BluEarth celebrates Culliton Creek hydro facility commissioning with the Squamish First Nation in May 2016. Photo Credit: BluEarth Renewables

As Executive Director of CEBC, which represents clean energy operators and developers, suppliers, contractors, service providers, and post-secondary institutions’ Yorkville University and BCIT, I know the dramatic impact that renewables can have on First Nations economic development.

There are currently 106 independent power projects in operation throughout BC. The private sector has invested over $9 billion in clean energy projects that benefit all British Columbians. We in BC are very good at doing these clean and renewable projects. We have a supply chain that is experienced and possess the know-how to do this – the contractors, legal teams, financiers, environmental consultants, etc. Projects are a significant source of revenue for local communities, and taxpayers benefit too (public debt is not used).

But this success story would not be possible without the support of First Nations. Our members work closely with First Nations, who receive training, jobs, and contracts. First Nations partners also benefit from royalties from the developer and revenue sharing from the provincial government.

First Nations have embraced economic development from clean and renewable energy projects that will provide revenue for their government and necessary public services – schools, education, recreation, cultural services and roads etc. Previously, the wealth came from fishing, hunting and trade based on natural resources. The economic underpinnings of government still come from the land and natural resources. Many First Nations embrace clean and renewable energy projects because they meet their principles – protect the environment, build legacy infrastructure, and enable sustainable economic development.

Water Flowing out of the tailrace culvert

Water Flowing out of the tailrace culvert at Alterra’s Jimmie Creek hydro project. Photo Credit: Alterra Power Corp.

Last year, I attended ceremonial openings of the Box Canyon, Culliton Creek, and Tretheway Creek hydro projects. These projects were all awarded contracts from BC Hydro under the 2008 Clean Power Call. But soon, the last of these projects will be completed. And the Standing Offer Program, which provides an opportunity for projects under 15MWs, is also at risk of being rolled-back. So when and where will the next opportunity come? Will economic reconciliation with First Nations continue to include hydro, wind, solar, biomass and other renewable projects?

BC can unlock more of these opportunities through aggressive climate policies that encourage greater use of electricity to power how we live. That involves everything from promoting electric vehicles, to getting remote communities off of diesel. CEBC is one of the few industry associations with First Nations members, and we encourage your readers to consider joining CEBC as we advocate clean energy for more opportunities going forward. Given the need to encourage young people to look for careers in clean energy, we are also launching a Clean Energy Scholarship, which will provide $1000 to a graduating student this year. For more information, please visit

Northern Waterworks

by Frank Larue

Northern Waterworks Inc. (NWI) was established in 1997 as an aboriginal owned Water Authority.

“Due to our location in Northwestern Ontario, we saw first-hand the deplorable condition of water and wastewater treatment facilities. We therefore offered services to the remote northern communities in the vicinity, that lacked access to specialized trades and expertise. We were the Operating Authority of Municipal systems, so didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We merely duplicated the municipal box we had built, and assisted interested First Nations in implementing our programs. We attempted to eliminate the two tier system that was developing in Ontario. Post Walkerton, the Provincial Government adopted legislation and accreditation to ensure the safety of residents; meanwhile, the Federal Government hadn’t kept pace.

Northern Waterworks Graphic

“Our relationship with the First Nation bands we have provided services to is excellent. As an aboriginal company, we understand and appreciate the process of community outreach. We engage both the community and leadership. It is a grass roots approach. Only through commitment from the operator, up through to Chief and Council, can any program achieve success. This has proven true time and time again. If we don’t have support of Chief and Council, we will typically not submit a tender bid. To do so would be to set the program up for failure. We have numerous First Nation programs rolled out in Ontario currently. Here is a snap shot of a couple programs currently being delivered by NWI. We provide 24/7 Technical Support and First Response Services to all Ontario First Nation Communities. Through this program of the Federal Government, we have responded to and mitigated more than 400-Emergency situations throughout the Province. We have provided this since 2011.

“We have provided Annual Performance Inspections, a mandatory risk assessment of the Federal Government for the past three years. This program has us perform on-site risk assessments, of all First Nation water and wastewater systems in Ontario. So we know first hand the true condition of First Nation systems. The main advantages are the relationships, and trust built, through 20-years of continuous service. Many organizations have a habit of attempting to enter the field, after Federal announcements of impending dollars being allocated to address the issue. We have a track record of service, and stability, backed by 20-years. Another advantage is knowledge of the systems. Through provision of services Province wide, we have first hand, on the ground experience with all systems in Ontario. When there is an emergency or critical failure, these files and experience are priceless.

“Remote, fly-in communities typically have no access to specialized trades. Further, a hardware store isn’t a block away with remote communities. Therefore access to required skilled trades, and supplies does not typically exist. We maintain a stacked warehouse full of parts, materials, and supplies for just that reason. We have the ability to be on-site within hours, complete with all required parts and supplies to mitigate and rectify. Common problems with communities throughout Ontario in general include a lack of local certified operators. Over the next three years, our goal is to assist in the development of a First Nation owned Water Authorities. We are working with a First Nation group to develop, from ground up, a Water Authority developed by First Nations, for First Nations. Over 20-years, we have dynamically developed and tuned our model, allowing us to duplicate a proven model.

“With Government policy ever changing, coupled with annual funding agreements, to take on the First Nation water crisis at its root is not sustainable. Skilled and Qualified operators are typically certified at Level 3 (Ontario: Operator-In-Training, Level I, Level II, Level III, Level IV). They have typically gained their experience through operation of municipal systems, and typically have 15+ years’ experience. This means they are some of the highest certified in the Province, have 15+ years’ experience, are near the top of their pay scale, and have significant time invested into a pension plan [almost all, if not all municipalities have pension plans and attractive benefit packages].

“Due to funding mechanisms of the Federal Government, funding agreements are typically annual, and must be renewed each year. It is near impossible to attract the qualified staff required, while offering the security of “one-year term contracts”. Rightfully so, these qualified personnel are just not willing to leave the security offered through municipal employment. NWI delivered the Circuit Rider Training Program (CRTP) for two years, throughout Ontario. This is a program of the Federal Government, standardized nationally, to provide technical assistance and ‘on-the-job-training’ or OJT, to First Nation communities throughout Canada. Annually, we had to give our trainers ‘lay-off notices’ while awaiting the Governments decision to fund CRTP another year or not. Of course, each annual cycle, we lost employees during this ‘wait and see’ period. Employees, which in many cases, took years to attract in the first place.

“While attending annual CRTP conferences, we have discussed this challenge with trainers from other provinces. It is not a challenge unique to NWI. Nationally, it appears as though almost all CRTP Service Providers are short qualified staff, with no additional capacity existing. So if capacity doesn’t exist for current programs, what will happen with the proposed implementation of new standards and regulations? We are scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, as is. Something needs to change… Long story short, what I am trying to say is that the system, as currently established, is destined to fail. We have tried for 20-years to work within this box, and it just doesn’t work. We are transferring our knowledge and capacity to First Nation Authorities. We are developing, in partnership with various stake holders, First Nation Water Authorities to allow NWI to focus on stable, municipal opportunities, which typically provide the stable 5-10 year contracts, allowing us to attract and retain qualified staff. Unfortunately this is the only viable model at present, and is now the objective of our 3-5 year business plan. Significant changes may be occurring behind the scenes, but I have personally not seen a change or improvement. To the contrary, in many ways, we have seen risks increase over the past couple of years.”

On Call for Fentanyl

by Michelle Oleman

Vancouver BC, one of Canada’s largest and busiest port cities, is riddled with overdose victims – many ending up as dead bodies. At a ready to aid on the front line is Glenice Delorme, a young First Nations woman trained to administer Narcanon to overdose victims. She works with a team of first responders in the downtown eastside.

Glenice Delorme, OPS Team member

Glenice Delorme, OPS Team member

She lives at a Raincity Housing building in Vancouver. Here, she received training through the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS).  Upon being asked how she felt about helping others and working with authority figures, she responds: “I think it’s great, we are peer-to-peer – addicts helping addicts. I think they trust us a little more than they would police or ambulance because we’re there to help them… keep them safe.”

Emphasizing the idea behind the Overdose Prevention Society’s mandate to help prevent death by overdose through trust and peer mentorship, one Vancouverite states that “… it’s someone else who has been on the street, walked in their shoes… pulled up her boots. More relative than some lady living in a penthouse suite who knows basically nothing about the person.”

During the interview at the trailer on Lot 62 W Hastings, one overdose actually occurs. First Nations Drum could not get any photographs of the action, but we did get a running commentary from the ante-room in the trailer.

The victim falls, and Glenice ushers me into the ante-room away from the drug user room. She points to a chair where I can sit and take notes.

The sounds of first responder’s voices are heard:

Female: “How long ago did he use?”

2nd Female: “He signed in 20 mins ago.”

Male:  “What did he take?”

2nd Female: “Down [heroine] – in the arm.”

There are scuffling sounds as the responder team rallies around the victim, checking vital signs and assessing his situation. More voices are heard as they try to revive the victim.

Male: “Wake up buddy! Wake up or we’re going to Narc you!”

2nd Female: “Call 911!  He’s got the… He needs some breath.”

More scuffling as oxygen is administered. I still cannot take a picture, though, the image of the young male – completely motionless – surrounded by people in orange safety vests etches itself in my memory. His lips are blue. Glenice closes the door.

Male: “Please don’t fight while we’re trying to save somebody’s life.”

A fellow user has recognized the victim: “I know him! His name is –”

Male: “Please step back, we need to help him.”

Female: “Yeah, you need to wait outside.”

The trailer door bangs shut as they escort the other user outside, and the team continues their work.

2nd Male: “Did you narc him? Narc him again!”

2nd Female: “Do you want me to make him another one?”

The victim stirs audibly.

Male: “He’s ok, I just gave him another one. He’s ok.”

Female: “He’s breathing.”

2nd Female: “There’s the ambulance.”

Possibly the most intense 5-minutes anybody could ever experience is over for everyone involved.

I later learned that it took a team of four first responders to revive this victim and call the ambulance within less than 5-minutes. The victim cannot be named, but he was taken to hospital in an ambulance and has hopefully survived this ordeal.

When asked about her recent experiences reviving young people, Glenice says, “so far, I’ve had to revive only one native victim. She was so young, she was only 17 and her [male partner] didn’t want me to help her. She was so tiny, maybe 80-pounds, and I had to narc her several times.” On another note, she adds, “It is so sad that we’re losing so many aboriginal drug users to the fentanyl because they are embarrassed and ashamed to come into our program for help, in case their families find out.”

Philip Tom, OPS Team Member

Philip Tom, OPS Team Member

Speaking to Lee (who wishes not to be photographed), the acting Overdose Prevention Society program director/ supervisor for this shift, states very solemnly that: “Definitely without a place like this, many will die.” He also states that this program is ongoing, growing and learning quickly. Along with Lee and Glenice, there are two more team members willing to share their brief experiences of working at Lot 62 E Hastings St., alley entrance to the tents and trailer just behind Pigeon Park Savings.

Samantha Boss lives in the downtown eastside, and has been working with OPS since just before Christmas time. This is one of the busiest seasons for overdose occurrences. “It can get to you, plus bring harm reduction,” she says. “It’s keeping me sober.”

Philip Tom from Burns Lake BC worked at Carnegie Center, The Gathering Place, and the former Downtown Eastside Street Market before the side became the OPS location. He says that “… it’s the most satisfying work I’ve done around here.”

Joseph Boyden Now Questioned for Similarities

by Frank Larue

Joseph Boyden is one of the most successful native authors in Canada. His books, the Orenda, Three Day Road,  Born with a Tooth, Wenjack, Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, A Mixed Blood Highway, Kiskwakew, Upronts: The Orenda, Northwords, and Outside the Wire have become best sellers, and he has been the recipient of several awards including the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Canada Reads. He has also been celebrated by the media as one of the country’s best writers.

Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden, author of award winning books Three Day Road and Black Spruce, questioned about aboriginal ancestry

Lately though, not everything has been going his way. APTN recently questioned Boyden, asking him if he is truly native.

Years ago, when the future superstar Shania Twain was climbing the ladder of success, she stated she was native and was raised by an Indian father. The latter was true, but the same doesn’t go for the initial. There was no native blood running in her veins. APTN is wondering if Boyden will be another case.

Boyden has stated that his ancestry is one of mixed blood. “I’ve used the term Metis in the past when referring to myself as a mixed blood person. I do not trace my roots to Red River, and I apologize to any Red River Metis I’ve upset.”

Boyden may have critics, but he also has supporters. Manitoba NDP MLA Wab Kinew understands the problems of proving native ancestry without being able to connect with some native community.

“I myself have been curious about Joseph Boyden’s ancestry, but at the same time, I recognize that he is part of our community by virtue of the relationship he has formed with many people,” expresses Kinew. “I think, for any people who find out about their Indigenous ancestry later in life, there a lot of questions about ‘how do they belong’. I think the way he has gone about giving back to the community, particularly in the James Bay region, taking kids to hunting camps, doing some philanthropy in some other areas, and working to highlight up and coming writers – even giving them residency – these are all signs he is giving back,” Kinew told APTN.

Considering the reputation Joseph Boyden has built over the years as an author and someone who cares about native people, First Nation’s Drum wonders what has brought about the questions of ancestry?

“I’ve heard of people questioning his background,” Russ Diablo, policy analyst from Kanawake, told APTN. “It is because of his public comments on Aboriginal issues that people started to question ‘Who is this guy?”

The controversy won’t go away, only the calendar will resolve the situation. In the meantime, Boyden has another problem, which is also serious enough to derail his career.

Boyden’s short story Bearwalker has similarities to a story written by Ron Geyshick, titled Inside My Heart. Geyshick died in 1996, so he can’t discuss the matter; however, Judith Doyle, the woman who helped him compile his stories, told APTN:

“The stories formally share intimate structural details. They begin and end in exactly the same way – the turn of phrase, the cadence, the description, the characters. There’s such symmetry between the two passages.” Boyden stated he had heard the story from elder Xavier Bird in the mid-nineties in Fort Albany, and then again in Moosonee.

“I saw it as a type of modern parable, a Christian story, filtered through the distinct local experience and lens. It was a story that stuck with me.” It seems strange that a celebrated and respected writer, who has written 11 books – including award winners Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce – has been questioned about his blood and the sources for his writings. Respected literary critics in the United States and Canada have reviewed him, and most of the reviews were of a positive nature – the word plagiarist never being brought up.

One of Canada’s Finest Writers, Richard Wagamese Dies at 61

by Frank Larue

Richard Wagamese, one of Canada’s greatest writers, died in March.

“He taught us about our history. He taught us the emotional truth of our history, as great fiction writers do. And he was one of our greats,” says Shelagh Rogers, a close friend of Wagamese. “He lived story. Story was who he was. And he felt that we all connect through sharing our stories, and that reconciliation would be about sharing our stories.”

He was the author of several books, including Indian Horse – which will soon be a movie – Medicine Walk, Keeper’n Me, Ragged Company, One Native Life, One Story One Song, Dream Wheels, For Joshua, The Next Sure Thing, Him Standing, Runaway Dream, and his most recent release, Embers. 

Richard Wagamese 

His books are greatly influenced by past experience. Largely, it was the pain of being one of the Scoop of The Sixties victims, ripped away from his birth parents, forced to be brought up by adopted white parents. But along with the pain, there also came a deep understanding of native life, and of the difficulties of cultural survival within our present. Within the residential schools legacy and the racism that has existed for the last century.

“We’re becoming an undeniable voice. The strength and the vitality in the way we’re learning and choosing to tell our stories is becoming undeniable, so that when we present manuscripts to publishers, the first thing they look at is the quality of the writing and not the colour of the person.” Wagamese told the Kamloops Star. “What we’re indeed engaged in is creating a literature of our people.”

Before writing books, Wagamese was a journalist. Beginning in 1979, he wrote columns for newspapers, including the Calgary Herald. His columns attracted attention for their style and originality. He was the first Indigenous writer to receive a National Newspaper award.

Eventually, he started writing for the Globe and Mail, and he became the voice of Canadian Indigenous people. In one article, he wrote:

“To be Indian in Canada today means that one signatory to be the nation-to-nation agreement that frames your life forgets that it’s a treaty nation. It entrenched itself historically when it signed those documents. Unfortunately, the years since have been an ongoing process of denial of obligations and responsibilities under treaty.

“To be Indian today is to see youth languish in chronic unemployment and malaise, endure high rates of alcohol, drug, and solvent abuse or die by suicide at a rate five-to-seven times higher than non-aboriginal youth.

“To be Indian today is to see your children suffer. On reserve, in Metis communities, and in the cities. Aboriginal children go hungry, lack warm clothing and solid educational resources, die as infants at a rate two-to-four times the national average, and endure immunization rates 20 times lower than the general population.

“To be Indian in Canada today is to know your women are likely to be victimized, murdered, or go missing. It’s to know that you may have to share a two bedroom with as many as 16 other people. It’s the understanding that running water is a luxury, or clean drinking water a rarity. It’s the awareness that Canada has known about these grave issues for decades, but they still persist.”

Wagamese brings out several other pitfalls for being an Indian, and then concludes in a more optimistic direction:

“To be Indian today is to stand in solidarity and equality with brothers and sisters across the country. To say that we won’t live in this way no longer. To watch our youth and our women take to the forefront of this direct action, and lead. This is what awaits the new ‘Indians’, and to them, I say welcome.”

Wagamese was also critical of certain native organizations such as the AFN.

“At the risk of being politically incorrect, there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians in the Assembly of First Nations. When the AFN votes today to elect a new chief, only 633 voices will count. Those are the voices of the elected chief, they, or their proxies, are the only ones who are allowed to vote. To be a First Nation’s person in Canada is to be rendered voiceless by the very organization that purports to represent you.”

To say Wagamese will be missed is an understatement. He was an original, and has left big shoes to fill.

“I think he was very generous and kind with others,” Wab Kinew, a member of the Manitoba Legislature, told the media. “As much as it is sad to see that he left us too soon, it’s also very powerful to see the impact he had on so many people in life.”

Natives Are Defending Ontario Forests

by Dr. John Bacher (PhD) and Danny Beaton

Our Mother Earth is protectively robed in a cloak of beautiful forests, but in southern Ontario they are threatened by urban sprawl. Most of the remaining forests away from the northern taiga bogs and the rocky Canadian Shield are wetlands, which farmers have gained the wisdom to understand are unsuitable for agriculture. These vital wildlife refuges are now threatened by a policy review that has escaped coverage in the mainstream media outside of the Niagara Region.

Danny Beaton (left) and John Bacher (right) at Niagara Falls in 2016. Photo by Sandy Devih Heeralal

Danny Beaton (left) and John Bacher (right) at Niagara Falls in 2016. Photo by Sandy Devih Heeralal

The cornerstone of public policy in Ontario, whose concepts have emerged from the United States’ Clean Water Act and subsequent battles by environmentalists in the courts, is protected, achieved from the wetland policy mandated in 1992. It was achieved following a process triggered by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government of Ontario, and initiated by the previous Liberal government.

The core of the wetland policy is that once it has achieved a scoring of 600 points, a wetland is considered ‘provincially significant’, and is therefore legally prohibited from development and ‘site alteration’. Apart from having plant species that thrive in wet environments, what pushes the point score to the needed threshold is the presence of species at risk.

The wetland policy was one of the achievements by the NDP government when it was intensively consulting with native peoples on needed environmental reforms. During this time, the respected Iroquois Confederacy Chief Arnie General would complain about the need for better mileage allowances, although he tried to economize through getting around in a mini two-seat car.

During the early 1990’s when the wetland policy was being developed, Danny Beaton – a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan – worked closely with General and other environmentally concerned native leaders, such as Norm Jacobs. This experience put him in a good position in 2015, when brave public servants sent alarm signals privately to environmentalists, warning that two disturbing changes in public policy were being made to open up southern Ontario’s wetland forests to developers.

The two proposed changes were to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Provincial Wetland policy. Currently, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) evaluate wetlands. The policy change was to alter the Conservation Authorities Act in order to permit the staff of municipally appointed Conservation Authorities, subject to influence from developers, to evaluate wetlands. The other change was to allow currently protected, provincially significant wetlands to be destroyed by developers if compensation in the form of what was called, in a provincial consultation paper, ‘bio-diversity offsetting’.

In September 2015, Beaton journeyed to Newmarket, where the consultation on the Conservation Authorities Act was taking place with environmental groups. Beaton’s inspiring words denouncing the firing of the conservation authority staff, those who had worked to protect wetlands, woke up the environmentalists present. This discrediting of proposed alterations to the conservation legislation had the impact of developers putting even more pressure on the province to implement ‘bio-diversity offsetting’.

Developers targeted the 500-acre Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls for what they termed a ‘pilot project’ in ‘bio-diversity offsetting’. The old growth forest – predominately oak – is a refuge for a number of endangered species. These include three species of bats, the rare Black Gum, the Wood Thrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Chimney Swift, Monarch Butterfly, the Nine Spotted Lady Beetle, and the Snapping Turtle. The forest is rich in vernal pools that provide critical habitat for obligate species, such as the Blue Spotted Salamander, and the Wood, Chorus, and Grey Tree Frogs. It also contains rare Buttonbush and Rufous Bullrush communities.

On April 12th, Beaton went to the Niagara Falls City Council to rescue the threatened Thundering Waters Forest. He spoke about the dangerous precedent that was attempted to be set at Thundering Waters, which could spread destruction to forests throughout Ontario.

City Hall Council Niagara Falls 2016.  Photo by photo by Sandy Devih Heeralal 2016

City Hall Council Niagara Falls 2016.  Photo by photo by Sandy Devih Heeralal 2016

Beaton’s words helped to inspire an Oneida resident of Niagara Falls, Karl Doxtater. He mobilized his extended family in Niagara Falls to take part in the struggle to save the Thundering Waters Forest. Doxtater also subsequently played a major role in mobilizing native leaders in the struggle on both sides of the Niagara River.

Doxtater played a key role in organizing a rally by the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition of Niagara on July 7th, 2016, in front of the City Hall of Niagara Falls. Here, native leaders who took part included Celeste Smith, Allan Jamieson, Lester Green, and Kelly Frantastic Davis.  Smith, who is of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida of Grand River, called for a “… moratorium on the development of the Thundering Waters Forest until a clear, transparent, public process can decisively establish a full social, environmental, and economic benefit of this forest remaining completely intact.”

In his many writings defending the Thundering Waters Forest, Doxtater penned the moving essay: ‘Life Cycle of a Niagara White Oak Tree’. The essay is a tribute to the tallest and oldest tree discovered in the threatened forest. Expert ecologist Dr. Barry Warner – a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan – estimates the tree to be 250 years old.

Doxtater wrote that “… almost 250 years ago, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, William Johnson, stood only a few miles” from the now great oak. It was just a seedling. Then in the Treaty of Niagara of 1763, Doxtater explains that Johnson “… planted the seeds for a covenant of peace that became formative in the country now called Canada. This agreement, the Treaty of Niagara, which came on the heels of the Royal Proclamation, laid the foundation to formalize the importance of Niagara as a traditional land of peace, strength, and integrity. Johnson understood better than any of his contemporaries that the only path to peace was by including the principles of people original to the land. Those legally affirmed principles of land stewardship – such as equal access to resources like water and air for all living things – now tower over the Western cultural appetite for endless exponential growth.”

Beaton and Doxtater woke up the residents of Niagara, and a few leaders of the environmental group. It is to be hoped that their message of the urgency to protect threatened forested wetlands, as well as its dependent wildlife, is heard more widely.

by Dr. John Bacher (PhD) and Danny Beaton

A Dream Trip for Northern Saskatchewan Hockey Fans

by Allan Beaver

Not often do hockey fans travel 6 plus hours to watch their favorite team play an NHL game. Well, maybe they do, but with the more than 50 people from Northern Saskatchewan that attended the Sunday, March 12th game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens, there was a little something special for the group.

Beaver Sports and Memorabilia Inc. (Edmonton, AB) arranged the meet-and-greet for the group, and talked to Sportsnets’ Gene Principe to do a live TV feature of their visit during the game.

On Saturday, March 11th, some of the group that arrived early in Edmonton got a surprise opportunity to watch the Canadiens practice at the newly minted Rogers Place.

As some of the group cheered on with every save made by First Nations hero Carey Price, others waved to two-time Stanley Cup champion Dwight King.

Carey Price spends time with Dawnie Favel

Carey Price spends time with Dawnie Favel

King is originally from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, and some the kids have attended King’s Hockey School, so it was something of a personal connection for all who came.

After practice, both players made their way to the seating area where the group was sitting. Here, they introduced themselves and talked with their fans, signed autographs, and took pictures.

“I had a dream weekend,” says Ile-a-la Crosse resident Ken Raymond. “I’ve been a fan of the Montreal Canadiens forever and always enjoyed watching Carey Price, but to have this time with them is just unbelievable.”

Both players did not disappoint their fans. They took as much time as they could to ensure everyone got an autograph or a picture with them.

“Both players were so humble, and for them to do this for us is just overwhelming”, says Oilers die-hard Donny Favel.

Carson Favel meets Carey Price

Carson Favel meets Carey Price

“So awesome that we got to meet a huge Aboriginal role model this weekend, regardless of the team he plays for. It’s even better when Sportsnet calls you and wants to feature your visit on a national broadcasting NHL game,” says Favel. “What an amazing weekend we had.”

Price is a very humble man, and enjoys spending the time to sign autographs. He knows that it will inspire youth in achieving their dreams. One day, and we all know it, Price will raise that Lord’s Stanley Cup above his head, and many, many people across North America will be so happy for him and celebrate with him. Believe me, that day is coming.

Part of the Northern Saskatchewan Group attending Canadiens practice

Part of the Northern Saskatchewan Group attending Canadiens practice

Price backstopped Canada to Olympic Gold in 2014, and has almost won every award there is for a goaltender to win, including the NHL Most Valuable Player (Hart Memorial) in 2015. He cleaned up at the NHL Awards that year. Montréal selected him in 2005: 1st Round, 5th over-all.

Dwight King recently got traded from the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him in 2007 in the 4th round as their 18th pick and 109th overall. He has been a steady force. King played a key role in the Los Angeles Kings first two Stanley Cup championships back in 2012 and 2014.

Dwight King pays his visit to his Northern Saskatchewan Visitors

Dwight King pays his visit to his Northern Saskatchewan Visitors

As there are many Montréal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans in Northern Saskatchewan that travelled to the game, they are already looking forward to the next tilt in 2017-2018 schedule.

NIMIIWE: First Nations Roots and Traditions Inspire Dance Production Ready for World Premiere

By Kelly Many Guns

Native Earth Performing Arts presents NIMIIWE, an Indigenous dance double bill featuring Brian Solomon’s ‘The NDN Way’ and Margaret Grenier and Karen Jamieson’s ‘Light Breaking Broken’. The production is going to premiere at AKI Studio in Toronto from March 30th to April 1st, 2017.

First Nations Drum spoke with both Solomon and Grenier about their productions, discovering that their dance performances feature similar back-stories about keeping traditional cultures alive through contemporary movement.

Brian Solomon

Brian Solomon

Solomon – Anishinaabe/Irish background – first envisioned what would become ‘The NDN Way’ when he first heard Cindy Bisaillon’s award-winning 1974 CBC documentary ‘The Indian Way’.

“I was friends with Cindy Bisaillon’s daughter, and she mentioned this interview that was done back in 1974,” said Solomon. “So I listened to the cassette tape, and I was blown away with what I was hearing. I told myself, ‘man, this needs to be rescued from the past’.”

‘The Indian Way’ was comprised of an interview with a young Métis-Cree man from Northern Saskatchewan, Ron Evans, who was a teacher/philosopher living in Toronto.

“He spoke so incredibly about the Cree culture, philosophies, and traditional ways, and his explanation of the life cycle in 60-minutes is something astonishing to me. I’ve never heard anyone speak this way,” said Solomon. “From that interview you get a good sense that the language was different then, there’s none of this ‘politically correct’ jargon that we have today. We were called ‘Indian’ back then.”

Mariana Medellin-Meinke

Mariana Medellin-Meinke

Solomon says one thing that caught his attention during the interview was when Evan’s said that “… the white culture is running away from death, while the Indian are running towards death and are constantly preparing for death.”

It is Evans way of thinking and speaking that inspired Solomon to bring those thoughts and visions to ‘The NDN Way’.

Solomon says he studied as a visual artist. He usually begins with one big moving picture when starting a piece, and often incorporates storytelling.

“I grew up in the northern bush, and not with a lot of traditional teachings. But since I moved to the city at age 17, I’ve found that a lot of young people still carry the spirit of their traditional roots – within their everyday lives, inside concrete walls, in the city they live in.”

Solomon will take his audience through a brilliant synthesization of Cree belief structures, using it as an ‘atmospheric departure point’ from which a full visual and visceral world is created. Solomon re-imagines, remixes, and interprets these philosophies about medicine, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, and death in a highly theatrical, visual art-warp, using the original grainy tape as part of the soundscape.

Margaret Grenier

Margaret Grenier

Grenier – Gitxsan and Cree background – talked about how she developed ‘Light Breaking Broken’, which is a creative collaboration with Chalmers Award winning dance artist Karen Jamieson. These women are Vancouver-based contemporary dance artists who identify and draw upon radically different cultural traditions and protocols.

The work explores the subject of light breaking through ignorance, and the paradox of ‘broken’ from different perspectives. ‘Light Breaking Broken’ is the personal journey of two artists reconnecting with language, culture, and identity, honouring the past while locating itself in the creative present.

“I have a long history with Karen, I am happy about this duel collaboration,” said Grenier. “I am a trained traditional coastal dancer and use this form within my performances.”

Grenier says the story of ‘Light Breaking Broken’ was inspired from the potlatches 70-year ban, which was finally lifted in 1951.

Karen Jamieson

Karen Jamieson

First Nations in BC were not allowed to practice any form of the ceremony. The federal government felt that the process of assimilation was not progressing with adequate speed. In response, the Canadian government passed amendments to the Indian Act in 1884. First Nations chiefs used potlatches to pass down names, songs, dances, and rights from one generation to the next. Both males and females participated in potlatch ceremonies.

The potlatch was also a time when wealth was distributed throughout the community. The potlatch displayed the wealth of the chief to his communities and guest communities. In these times, though, wealth was not based on the European concept of how much one had accumulated. Instead, it was an Aboriginal concept based on how much a hosting chief or family could give to guests during the potlatch, and how much hospitality was shown to guests.

“When the potlatches ban was finally lifted, a lot of the elders had lost some of the traditional cultures. They could not really teach, or hand down those teachings and beliefs,” explains Grenier. “In many ways, this was a broken period of our history.”
Grenier says she would like audiences to envision that her and Jamieson are having a conversation through their dance performance, and envision the story of the return of the potlatch.

“This production expresses my identity, and who I am,” said Grenier.

The 40-minute performance of ‘Light Breaking Broken’ uses video and production with the concept of light.

Audiences attending the NIMIIWE will be in for a great visual and dance performance experience.

A Interview with A Tribe Called Red’s Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau

by Hannah Many Guns

Conducted via a phone-call on November 20th, 2016.

Q: What are the Nations that make up A Tribe Called Red?

A: “I am Anishinaabe from Nipissing. Ojibiway is what I identify as. Tim (2oolman) is a Six Nations Mohawk. Bear Witness is of the Cayuga. Our cultures within A Tribe Called Red are completely different – everything’s different. That definitely brings a lot of perspective, and a lot of different ideas to the table.”

Q: Is there a specific First Nation’s language used in your songs, or does it vary?

A: “It varies with the drum we’re using. The drums that we are using a lot are from Blackbear, who are Atikamekw. They’re a super dope group from Northern Quebec, four hours away from Montréal. So yeah, we use the languages of the drum that we sample.”

A Tribe Called Red’s Album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’

Check out A Tribe Called Red’s Album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’, delving into deep-rooted issues using the medium of modern dance music.


Q: Other than drums, is there any other traditional elements that go into constructing your music with an indigenous framework?

A: “Oh yeah. Over the past couple of year on our tours, we’ve been compiling material,” Campeau is audibly enthusiastic about this, and begins telling me a story.

“We went to Norway and played a festival called Riddu Riđđu, an all indigenous, global music festival. It’s, like, not massive. We’ve played massive festivals, and this one wasn’t very big, but it’s definitely one of my favorites where it was all indigenous people. We got to sit and hang out in Sami country, with Sami people. There were Tuvan throat singers, Greenland and Inuit people, we were there, and all kinds of other people.

“One of the people we met there was Maxida Marak, who is a Sami artist from Sweden. We got to record her traditional singing, which is called ‘Joik’. Their Joik’s – or their songs – are used to lead their reindeer herds. Reindeer herding is a part of their traditional way of living. So yeah, we got to record her Joik in Norway.” This recording can be hear on the A Tribe Called Red song ‘Eanan’.

“And then we got to record our friend Stew from the band Oka in Melbourne. He’s indigenous from Australia.” You can listen to their collaboration on the A Tribe Called Red Song song ‘Maima Koopi’. “It’s really cool to be able to record and sample indigenous singing, and indigenous instruments from their home – you know what I mean? Like recording Sami artists IN Norway; recording the didgeridoo IN Australia. It was really cool, and really important. I think that shines through on the record [We Are The Halluci Nation] a lot.”

I comment on how cool it was that they used indigenous music from all over the world, and not just Canada.

“Oh yeah. And travelling all over the world was very empowering in a way of realizing that we are not alone. We’re not alone, not in just our struggles, but even in a lot of our ceremonies. That was really eye-opening for me, travelling as far away from home as I possibly can – without leaving the planet – and seeing people doing smudging ceremonies. Seeing people do call-and-response songs that reminded me of Iroquois social songs.

“I knew we were going to connect on this colonial, oppressive history. All three of us, North American indigenous, Sami indigenous, and Australian indigenous, have gone through a type of residential school system. We’re all currently protesting against pipelines. It’s so empowering to know that we’re all going through this. In Canada, we don’t have a place to go back to. Like, when racist people say, ‘oh, go back to your country’, like, we don’t have a homeland. Our homeland was taken over and somebody else lives here now. And you feel really alone. You feel really lonely when you don’t have that place anymore. But, going to other countries, and seeing that we’re not alone – that there’s other people going through this and feeling the same thing – it’s really empowering. It makes me realize that we’re not in this struggle alone. We do have people to reach out to that are going through the same thing, and that are able to discuss the solutions.”

Ian ‘DJ NDN’ Campeau, Anishinaabe from Nipissing

Ian ‘DJ NDN’ Campeau, Anishinaabe from Nipissing

Q: Why is electronica music the medium you use in order to express your culture?

A: “Thinking back on it now, it seemed to be the easiest transition from traditional music. Traditional music is also dance orientated. So that’s what we did, meshed up dance music with dance music. Making that bridge, I think it was really important, not only for non-indigenous people to experience or hear pow-wow music for – many of them – the first time, but on the other side, a lot of indigenous youths hearing electronic music for the first time – who never really had access to that sort of thing. I like being that bridge. There’s a lot of producers coming up within our community, and it’s extremely exciting to hear what they’re putting out.”

Q: How does the perspective of being an urban indigenous person live inside of your music?

A: “It’s because it’s uniquely from that perspective, and it’s from that perspective in a way that’s not done in a sad way. A lot of indigenous music that has shone through the community is typically oppressed music, like a lot of blues, a lot of country, a lot of rap. It comes from struggle music, which is totally understandable. We’ve come through a lot of struggle, and I understand that. But I think that playing music that is not like that, that is typically happy and more upbeat, gets people in a place where they’re not ready for a fight. Instead, we’re able to have a conversation in this place we’re everybody’s dancing and happy. Where there’s no finger-pointing, and it’s not in your face like on social media. Through art, it’s a much more laid-back approach.”

Q: What is the importance of being, or remaining happy, when talking about our indigenous issues? So many people are bitter when talking about the past.

A: “There’s a lot to heal. There’s a lot to know about what happened within Canada, what we call Canada, for it to exist. The decimation of indigenous people had to happen in order for Canada to exist as it does today. When we’re confronting a lot of these really hard reality’s, when we tell people these really hard realities, I think that having this conversation at a dance party is way easier to do. What we need to say, and what we need to get out there, is easier to do when you’re dancing. I think that’s something indigenous people knew a long time ago, and that’s why dancing is such an important part of our everyday life.”

Q: Why is it important for you to raise awareness on Mother Earth throughout your album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’?

A: “Oh man, Mother Earth – we’re all of the earth! There’s a process a long time ago that Bear [Witness] told me on how the indigenous people – the Red Nation – was going to remind the world, and the rest of humanity, how to be human beings again. We have a history. There’s an archaeologist who was hanging out on my rez and taking kids out for digs. He was telling me that there is archaeological proof that the Nipissing people, my people – and he was telling me this at my Mom’s house, while we’re sitting on that lake – that we’ve been living on that lake for 13,000 years. Like, there’s archaeological proof of it. So 13,000 years ago, the ice-age was over, the ice was receding, the melting camp was going up, and we followed up from the south,which destroys the barring strait theory.  Anyways, as we were coming up to the north, everything was getting uncovered from ice for hundreds of thousands of years. It took a long time for the tree’s and the vegetation that we see to come back. So on the scale, it showed as the tree’s were coming back – like as a timeline – and it was 6,000 years after we were there that the Maple Tree showed back up. Or showed up, I don’t even know if they were there before or what. But, like, that’s the symbol of Canada – the Maple Leaf. I’m 6,000 years older than your symbol on your flag. That is one of the most empowering moments that I’ve had. So when you look around at your 150 year anniversary next year, it kinda’ makes me, like, roll my eyes, you know what I mean? When I know that my history goes back 13,000 years.

“It gives me a lot of hope that all of this racism, this misogyny, the resource extraction without putting back, and the disruption of the natural laws is all brand new. It’s only 150 years old. So I think that we’re here to show that we’re meant to live within this. With this. We know how to live with this. That the idea of wilderness is a colonial idea. It wasn’t wild to us, it was very bountiful and it was very tame. So when people realized these things, it was home. It wasn’t wilderness, it wasn’t wild. It isn’t until we get these colonial ideas broken down that we can get that message out: that there’s other ideas of how to live, there’s other ideas of wealth.

“And I think that the smallest change in the idea of wealth will change everything. We have to change the idea of wealth from how much we can hoard and accumulate and keep away from other people, to how much we can help other people. Once we say, like ‘ hey, I grew more tomatoes, so I can give you as much as I have’, and that’s wealth. Why don’t we change it to that? That was an indigenous idea a long time ago. We have to make a change to these ideas, go back to the framework of 13,000 years ago. We can do it. All of this is brand new. All of these ideologies are brand new. We can change it. Coming from matriarchal societies, we are now living within a patriarchal society full of misogyny. This isn’t the way we lived for tens-of-thousands-of-years.

“So just getting back to your original question about representation of the earth, you know, Indigenous people believe that we are of the earth, and that we can’t live outside of that balance. Other people all over the world realize that too. So having, like, an Iraqi rapper saying the same thing, it just shows that we all understand. Again, this society that we live in within North America is brand new, and we can change it.”

Q: How do indigenous people define their identity, even when they’re off reserve and surrounded by western culture?

A: “Any way they want. It’s really funny, like, as an indigenous person, I want to be recognized as such. Even if I’m wearing my hoodie and a baseball cap, I’m still indigenous. You need to recognize that. Just because I’m not wearing buckskin and feathers all the time, it doesn’t mean that I’m not indigenous when I’m not doing that.

“It’s funny. Our time when we were in Europe playing a set, we’d have people, like, these European people, and they’ll will be upset with us. They’d say ‘I wish you’d play more of your music’. Then I’m like ‘well, we play, like, mostly our music’. Then they’re like ‘no, no, no, like more native music’, and I’m just like ‘if we make it, it’s native music’. So what they were saying is that they wanted to hear more pow-wow samples. But even when it doesn’t have pow-wow samples, the fact that we make it makes it indigenous music. It doesn’t have to have pow-wow in it to make it indigenous. Just because A Tribe Called Red made it, that’s what makes it indigenous.”

Yeah, you don’t have to put yourself in a box because you’re indigenous. It’s great to be traditional, but really –

“You can be whatever you want. Find your own way. It’s malleable, we don’t have to live in moulds. That’s a big thing within the indigenous community that we need to bring back. We never had these structures and such black and white ways of doing things. It wasn’t until the Indian Act showed up that the color of our skin mattered. It said ‘I’m white, you’re Indian, so this is what it is’. Race was legislated. People of color didn’t come up with slavery laws, with Jim Crowe laws, with the Indian Act. It was the hierarchy of race, and by white supremacy, that it was all legislated. That needs to be known, and a lot of people don’t know this. So listen, the Indian Act was not created by native people and enforced by native people. When you realize that the idea of white supremacy was what has been legislated, it will be easier to un-legislate it.”

Q: How do you think people should be going about taking that apart?

A: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. This is all very brand new, and it’s all super urgent. Like with these elections that just happened, things are scarier than ever.” I ask him what his views are on the US political election. “I understand that anything that has to do with North America doesn’t have to do with me. Any election, any government, anything that has to do with the well-being of North America, it doesn’t have to do with the well-being of indigenous people. Actually, it mostly has to do with the direct opposite of that. So I understand that the whole Trump process isn’t for me. That being said, I understand that it’s going to be really scary, and I have a lot of friends in Canada that are terrified. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I just don’t know. This is all so brand new.”

Q: What are your views on the peaceful protest our Brothers and Sisters are putting on down in the Standing Rock Sioux Nation?

A: “It’s incredible. Finally, FINALLY, people are starting to understand that our issues aren’t just indigenous issues, you know what I mean? Like water’s pretty important for humanity. And again, as indigenous people, we have to remind humanity on what it is to be human. Water’s important, we need this, guys. And so, as this protest is happening, solidarity protests are leading the news. It blows my mind that an indigenous issue would lead the news like that. I think that Trump is a direct response from non-indigenous people waking up to the plight that we’ve been talking about forever. It’s a direct reaction of Trump people trying to hold on to that white supremacy, and their ideas of capitalism.”

Scoop of the Sixties Victims Win Day in Court

By Frank Larue

When the dark era of the residential school came to an end in the early sixties, a new plan was developed by Ottawa: The Scoop of the Sixties. This placed aboriginal children in white foster homes across Canada and the United States. The children were cut off from their own parents, culture, traditions, relatives, and family history.

Sixties Scoop gathering

A woman is comforted at a Sixties Scoop gathering before a provincial apology was delivered in Winnipeg from Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger in June 2015. Photo Credit: John Woods / The Canadian Press)

In 1982, Judge Edwin C. Kimelman wrote a report on the negative repercussions of the Scoop of the Sixties. “The goal of child welfare should be to strengthen family ties, not to sever them. With the closing of residential schools, rather than providing the resources on reserve to build economic security and providing services to support responsible parenting, society found it easier and cheaper to remove the children from their homes and apparently fill the market demand for children in Canada and the U.S.”

Cultural genocide was used to describe the residential school system, and it applies also for the Scoop of the Sixties. Kimelman compares both systems and the damage done, saying: “When the indian residential schools were operating, children were forcibly removed from their homes for the duration of the academic year. But at least under that system, the children knew who their parents were, and they returned home for the summer months.”

The Scoop was total separation. Foster parents brought up these children as white kids. Ironically, the society into which aboriginal children were being inducted would never let these children forget they were aboriginal.

The children taken from their homes during the Sixties Scoop grew up totally separated from their families and communities, with little or no understanding of their own culture, and no grasp of their own identity. In their new environments, they were often discriminated against because of their race. By the time they reached their mid-teens, the vast majority were running away repeatedly from the security of their white homes in search of their real homes and parents. Most never found their real parents, abusing drugs and alcohol, or turning to crime as a result of identity crises.

Five billion was given to residential school victims, but not a penny was given to the victims of the Scoop of the Sixties. Fortunately, that is about to change because of a class action against the government on behalf of the Ontario victims. Justice Edward P. Belobaba told the court that the province of Ontario failed to “… prevent on-reserve indian children in Ontario, who were placed in the care of non-aboriginal foster or adoptive parents, from losing their aboriginal identity.” The federal government will now have to compensate the victims who are asking $1.3 billion for the 16,000 scoop victims.

This is only the beginning. There are two class actions coming up in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC are expecting to follow suit which means the federal government will finally have to come up with a large payout. The federal government have avoided helping the Scoop victims for years. In fact, they have tried eight times to stop the trial, and now Carolyn Bennett – minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development – has agreed to abide by the court’s decision. She hasn’t made any apologies for attempting to prevent the Scoop victims from receiving any compensation. Considering Prime Minister Trudeau’s promises of rectifying mistreatment of First Nations, this is yet another example of his hollow promises and no action, which seems to be the modus operandi of the Liberal government.