Posts By: First Nations Drum

NWT Treaty 8 Tribal Corporation

The Chiefs of Akaitcho Treaty 8 (Deninu Kue, Dettah, Lutsel K’e and Ndilo), Elders and representatives met on Thursday the 25th of November 1999 with Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Robert Nault in Ottawa to discuss a number of issues related to the implementation of Treaty 8. At the end of two and a half hours, the main issues remain largely unresolved.

One of the major issues that needed immediate attention relates to the boundary between Akaitcho Treaty 8 and the Dogrib Treaty 11. At present, the Dogrib Agreement-In-Principle (AIP) initialed by the federal, territorial council and the Dogrib negotiators on the 9th of August 1999 includes a settlement area that engulfs a large portion of Akaitcho Treaty 8 territory. In the present form, the Dogrib AIP includes all of the present federal government policy on comprehensive claims and violates their legal obligations to the Yellowknives Dene.

On the 18th of November 1999, the territorial council’ s cabinet gave their permission for the Minster of Aboriginal Affairs to sign the AIP. Akaitcho Treaty 8 is aware that the federal cabinet will be discussing and approving the Dogrib AIP on the 30th of November 1999. The Elders and members of the Yellowknife Dene are opposed to being included within the Dogrib AIP and have instructed the Chief and Council to pursue any action necessary to ensure that the Yellowknives territories protected.

The whole issue of the boundary needs to be dealt with prior to the signing of the Dogrib AIP. The Yellowknives Dene and Akaitcho Territory Chiefs have suggested that two amendments be inserted into the AIP prior to the federal minister signing the AIP. When this issue was raised with the Minister of Indian Affairs, he indicated that he is prepared to move forward and sign the Dogrib AIP on the 30th of November. The Minister would not consider the amendments suggested by the Yellowknives Dene.

As a result, the Akaitcho Treaty 8 Chiefs have no option but to take legal action against the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to prevent the Dogrib AIP from moving forward. At this time, the Akaitcho Peoples do not support the present Dogrib AIP as drafted, “We cannot support the Dogrib. The AIP as present drafted is violation of the Akaitcho Treaty 8 People’s right to lands and resources,” said Chief Richard Edjericon.

Over the years, there have been various attempts by Akaitcho Treaty 8 to deal with the issues in a fair and above board manner. Akaitcho Treaty 8 have been at the table with the federal government for twenty-eight (28) years trying to implement the spirit and intent of the Treaty 8. However, Akaitcho Treaty 8 have been stone walled by the federal government and the bureaucrats as they attempted to push Akaitcho Treaty 8 towards a comprehensive land claim.

The Akaitcho Treaty 8 rejected the comprehensive land claim model in 1990 as the Akaitcho Peoples did not want to extinguish our treaty and land rights. On May 14, 1992, in Dettah at a special assembly of the Treaty 8 membership, the leadership was directed to pursue a discussions with Canada based on Spirit and intent of Treaty 8. In September 1992, DIAND accepted and validated Treaty 8 as the basis for negotiations. Negotiations began on a Treaty land Entitlement (TLE). However, the process was flawed. Canada wanted to give Akaitcho Peoples a limited amount of land and some cash compensation. The Akaitcho Peoples could not accept the officer from Canada since it would be a clear violation of their understanding of their Treaty. So, the Chiefs tried another approach when Ron Irwin became Minister and called for proposals to settle outstanding Treaty issues with Canada.

At that time, the Chiefs suggested a means to settle outstanding through a process called co-existence. For the Akaitcho Peoples, co-existence is an implementation of the Treaty. The settlers and the Dene would live side by side the resources of the Dene. However, after two and a half years of trying to get a framework agreement together, there is still no resolution.

“If a framework is a walk in the garden, as suggested to Akaitcho Treaty 8, we are walking in a boulder ridden path. The boulders are placed by the federal government who does not want to discuss and implement our treaty. There is constant reference to policies of the state. We did not create the policies. We made a treaty. Canada has a legal obligation to implement the Treaty. We are not responsible for the programs of the state. In the past, Akaitcho Treaty 8 has attempted to understand the federal position and work with it. However, Canada has made no attempt to change their approach to Akaitcho and continues to push us towards a comprehensive policy which is not our mandate.” said Chief Felix Lockhart of Lutsel K’e.

At the meeting, the Minister said that he would review the position of the territorial council as a third party to the negotiations. The Akaitcho Treaty 8 Chiefs have always maintained that the talks have to be between Canada and Akaitcho since the issues to outstanding Treaty matter need to be dealt with in a bilateral basis. After the discussions with Canada are proceeding, then the two parties could decide to add another party. At this point, it would be premature and not in dealing with the spirit and intent of the Treaty.

At the end of the day, Akaitcho Treaty 8 still have their treaty. They have been waiting for one hundred years for Canada to implement the Treaty. Akaitcho has been talking with Canada for twenty-eight years without any resolution. The land is still there and we will take all measures necessary to protect our lands despite the Minster’s refusal to impose a moratorium on the area and not issue permits and licencses without our consent. We have an obligation to the future generations to protect the land for them.

National Chief Urges Action By the Government

Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), stated today that the federal government must begin working immediately with First Nations to implement the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Corbiere v. Canada and the Batchewana Band.

The Corbiere decision affirms the right of First Nation citizens to vote in their community’s elections, regardless of whether they live on or off the reserve. The decision takes effect November 20, 2000.

“Time is of the essence,” said National Chief Fontaine. “The Corbiere decision is national in scope and will require adequate time and resources to implement the necessary changes. The clock is ticking.”

National Chief Fontaine stated that the AFN has been ready to move on the issue well before the Corbiere decision.

“The AFN supports the right of all First Nations people to vote in their community’s elections. We had a resolution to this effect more than a year prior to the Corbiere decision,” stated the National Chief. “When the decision came down, we had already had a workplan to implement Corbiere, and it was approved by the Chief’s in Assembly in July 1999. If the government is looking for direction, we have the plan.”

The Supreme Court allowed for an 18-month period before the decision takes effect. The Court urged the federal government to use that time to work with First Nations on implementing Corbiere.

“Traditionally, we always governed in ways that were inclusive and participatory,” said National Chief Fontaine. “The Corbiere decision is the result of the government imposing its own policies and systems on our people . Once again, the Supreme Court is saying that First Nations are best suited to determine their own laws and governance in these matters. The federal government created this problem. Only First Nations can find solutions that will work for our communities. We are calling for a process that is designed and led by First Nations.”

The AFN has been meeting with the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Native Women’s Association of Canada to begin work on Corbiere.

“We hope to hear something soon from the federal government, but we cannot wait,” said National Chief Fontaine. “We have seen with recent court decisions what can happen when governments fail to engage early on with First Nations. We are working with other First Nations organizations in spite of our limited resources. We want the federal government to join us to ensure that Corbiere results in positive and beneficial changes. Our concern at this point in that the clock is ticking, and any national process requires time.”

Murder of Anna Mae Aquash Unsolved After 23 Years

By Eric Anderssen

When Anna Mae Aquash was buried, women from the Pine Ridge Reservation dug her grave themselves in the March cold.

Her body was wrapped in a traditional star quilt and a medicine man presided at the funeral. More than 100 people came in a snowfall to show their respect for the Canadian Micmac whose tombstone reads, “Woman Warrior at Wounded Knee.”

Twenty-three years later, friends still leave remembrance at her grave: a broken cigarette to bring good will, a piece of sweet grass, a turtle rattle.

Ms. Aquash grew up poor in Nova Scotia, but she became a powerful voice in the American Indian Movement.

She came to Pine Ridge to join the AIM protest at Wounded Knee in 1973, and stayed to fight for native rights on this struggling reservation in southwestern Dakota.

Then in June of 1975, tension on the reservation peaked after two federal agents came to the town of Ogala to investigate a pair of stolen cowboy boots. They and one AIM member died in a gunfight.

By late summer, the AIM leaders Ms. Aquash knew best were on the run. And US Federal Bureau of Investigation was hunting her, intent on finding witnesses to the shooting.

Backed by the federal government, tribal council chairman Richard Wilson had his private police force prowling the reservation openly at war with anyone connected to AIM.

Worst of all, people within the movement were whispering questions about Ms. Aquash’s loyalty. Some said she was a snitch.

Back in Shubenecadie, N.S., her eldest sister, Rebecca, begged her to come home. But as frightened as she was, she refused to leave. Her friends said she had started predicting her own death. In her last letter to Rebecca that fall, she wrote: “I know that sooner or later I’m going to be killed.”

During the months after the June killings, she tried to keep a low profile, but she was arrested twice. She was quickly released on bail – fuelling the rumors about her being an informant. In November, she fled to Denver to hide out at a friend’s house.

Three months later, on Feb. 24, 1976, Anna Mae Aquash’ s body was found at the bottom of a ravine near a desolate reservation highway on the edge of the badlands of South Dakota. She had been shot, execution-style, with the muzzle of the gun pressed into the back of her neck.

No one has ever been charged with her killing. After a botched autopsy, the FBI investigation went nowhere. Grand juries heard testimony but produced no indictments.

While her death made headlines in the United States, it was largely ignored in Canada, beyond a few calls for justice from the federal government and the odd query in the House of Commons.

But in the past few years, a new investigation has developed a shocking theory about how – and why – Ms. Aquash died. The trail has taken detectives from the reservation where she died in South Dakota to the house in Denver where she was hiding, to the doorstep of a native Canadian in Whitehorse who is thought to have information about the case and is being watched by the RCMP.

Investigators now believe that the people who shot Ms. Aquash came from within the very movement she left her family to join. They claim to be close to laying charges.

Roger Amiotte found the rotting body of a woman on a mild February afternoon in 1976. He had gone out to sight a new fence line for his 1,215-hectare ranch on the Pine Ridge Reservation to stop his cattle from drifting across the highway.

The body lay at the bottom of a steep ravine, 30 metres from the road, in the path he had planned for his new fence. She was curled in the snow, as though she had fallen asleep.

The woman was wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a burgundy jacket. She was lying on her side with her knees bent, near a curve in a dry creek bed. She had a turquoise bracelet on her left arm. Her hair covered her face, but she had been there long enough that her skin had turned gray and the animals had eaten her nose and right ear.

Mr. Amiotte never went close enough to touch her. He drove home and called the police.

Two decades of wind and rain have changed the Badlands, and Mr Amiotte can no longer find the exact spot. He has taken so many police investigators and reporters out to the site that the story bores him.

He sat cross-legged in the wheat grass a safe distance from the cliff, dribbled a line of tobacco into a sheet of rolling paper and waited to to give the same answers to the same old questions. “It don’t take long to see a dead body,” he drawled. “But you sure ain’t expecting it. A dead cow, you can kind of see.”

The day after Mr. Amiotte’s discovery, pathologist W.O. Brown conducted an autopsy for the F.B.I., which is responsible for investigating all suspicious deaths on U.S. reservations.
He concluded that the woman, whom no one could identify, had died of exposure seven to 10 days earlier.

There was no sign of a violent death, he wrote in his reports. Most remarkably, he noted that her scalp and skull appeared normal, that there was nothing unusual about her brain.

Her hands were cut off and sent to the bureau’s lab in Washington to see if the fingertips turned up a match.

On March 2, the woman was buried in a pauper’s grave in a Roman Catholic cemetery. The next day, thanks to the fingertips, she was identified as 30-year-old Anna Mae Aquash.

Her friends and family immediately started asking questions.

Nothing made sense.

Ms. Aquash would never have traveled into the Badlands alone, they said. And if she had, she had lived in the cold enough to survive bad weather. There was no alcohol or drugs in her system to explain how she could have died of exposure.

And how was it that no one recognized her at the hospital, when one of the FBI agents who saw her body had questioned her only a few months before?

Rumors of an FBI cover-up mushroomed at Pine Ridge.

Few people believed the argument that Ms. Aquash had gone unidentified because of decomposition, and there was talk that federal agents had killed the AIM activist to set an example, then chopped off her hands to scare others.

Others – including the FBI – spoke of another motive, suggesting that she may have been killed by AIM supporters because of suspicions that she had snitched to federal agents.

Her family pushed for an exhumation and on March 11, a second autopsy was performed by Dr. Gary Peterson, an independent pathologist.

It took minutes for him to discover a .32-caliber bullet lodged in her left cheekbone. The bullet had tracked through her brain and lodged in her cheek.

It seemed incredible that it had been missed; hospital staff told the FBI that they had noticed dried blood on the back of Ms. Aquash’s neck and even felt a wound when she was brought in by the ambulance. They assumed that the coroner would find it. Dr. Brown said later that he “inadvertently overlooked” the bullet wound.

The Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Ogela Sioux. lies at the bottom of South Dakota, a land of clay hills, and hailstorms fierce enough to spider-crack car windshields. It borders on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, and they are both a collection of small, struggling towns divided by stretches of empty highways. People are poor and many live in run-down trailers.

The roads are lined with state signs that ask “Why Die?” and mark the spot of fatal car accidents. Nothing brands the land clearly as a reservation, except the Sioux-language stop signs in the town of Pine Ridge, which reads Inajin.

In 1973, a group of traditionalists on the reservation appealed to the leaders of AIM for help. They were trying to impeach Richard Wilson, the new tribal chairman, who amid charges of nepotism and vote buying had failed to hold public council meetings and done nothing to stop ongoing uranium leases for white companies on reservation land.

Stridently anti-AIM Mr. Wilson had used government funds to create a private police force on the reserve, dubbed the “goon squad” by many residents because of its brutality. The force appropriated the name as an acronym for” Guardians of the Ogala Nations.” In the war against AIM and GOONs were the tribal chairman’s army. Drive-by shootings became common and scores of Indians were estimated to have been killed from 1973 to 1975.

On Feb. 27, 1973, after attempts to impeach Mr. Wilson had failed, a large group of angry Sioux and AIM leaders assembled a caravan of cars and drove out to the small reservation town of Wounded Knee. It was a symbolic decision: in 1890, a cavalry troop had opened fire on a Sioux encampment at the site and massacred an estimated 350 men, women and children.

This time, the Indians seized a white-owned trading post and the Roman Catholic church. FBI agents and US Marshals swarmed to the scene and set up roadblocks to cut off access. They were equipped with high-powered rifles, helicopters and tanks for bunkers. The protesters refused to leave, and the standoff soon became a symbol of native resistance.

Watching the news in Boston, a young Canadian Micmac named Anna Mae Pictou was captivated. How could she not get involved in something that might make a better future for her two daughters, then still toddlers? She would later tell her friends.

March 10, 1973, was her last day on the assembly line of the General Motors plant in Framingham, Mass. She left her daughters in a sister’s care in Boston, and with her boyfriend, Nogeeshik Aquash, a Chippewa from Ontario, drove to South Dakota. Carrying food and supplies, they slipped past the police barricades and joined AIM protest at Wounded Knee.

Life for the protestors was hard; not planning to stay long, they had brought little with them.

Scarcity was nothing new to Ms. Aquash who was born on March 27, 1945, and grew up poor on the Pictou Landing reserve near the Northumberland Strait. Living in a rickety house without plumbing or electricity, she had learned early to lug water and chop wood, and to get by on potatoes at dinner.

She was always the last to get sick among her three siblings, and though she never stood taller than 5-foot-2. She was tough enough to win fights with the boys at school.

She dropped out of school before finishing Grade 9, and joined the annual summer migration from the reserve to pick blueberries in Maine. From there, she traveled with another Micmac named Jake Maloney to Boston. The couple had two daughters, and eventually married, but it didn’t work out.

Three years later, she fell in with the city’s native activists, including Nogeeshik Aquash. She helped to form the Boston Indian Council, which planned the protest on the Mayflower II on Thanksgiving Day in 1970. By the time the AIM moved into Wounded Knee on Feb. 27, 1973, it would only make sense that she would go.

In South Dakota, she quickly became known for her organizing skills and her passionate idealism; on several occasions, she slipped by federal agents and sneaked fresh supplies into the encampment. She was outspoken and intelligent, keen to talk of treaties while the other women spent their time rolling cigarettes for the men. Days after arriving at Wounded Knee, she and Mr. Aquash were married in traditional native ceremony.

The standoff ended after 71 days, with two native men killed by government gunfire and several others wounded; the people who remained inside Wounded Knee were arrested.

In the most high-profile case, AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means were acquitted on several charges of conspiracy and assault. Ms. Aquash, who had left before the protest ended, faced a minor charge for violating reservation law. In 1973, the Aquashes traveled to Ottawa and the next year, she helped to organize a native fashion show staged at the National Arts Centre.

Visions Conference: Youthful Entrepreneurs Get Options

By Ronald B. Barbour

New Westminster-A traveling road show is currently making the rounds within the province bringing a message of hope and opportunity to the Native youth regarding their future.

The Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture, the sponsors of a dozen youth options programs developed the Visions for the Future conferences as a response to concerns expressed by contemporary youth.

“This is the second year, officially, of the program, but the idea for it came about 1996 after the Premier’s Youth Forum,” says Chris McAuliffe, a communications coordinator for the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture.

“This program is in particular is set up to identify opportunities for Aboriginal youth throughout the province in terms of career planning, business training, some of the educational opportunities that are available to them within the communities.”
The Visions for the Future conferences are targeting Native youth ages 15-29 and is delivering their hopeful message to 14 urban centres thoughout the province. The Visions for the Future conference stopped at Douglas College recently – the only conference slated for the lower mainland.

The Visions… conference brought together a host of representatives from a wide variety of education institutions and potential funding sources such as Langara College’s new Aboriginal Studies program; NITEP; First Nations Health Careers; Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; Ministry of Attorney General; Kwantlen College; Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security; Open Learning Institute; Youth Options B.C.; Pittman’s Business College; Canadian Tourism College; Options For Youth and reps for Litefoot’s return engagement – Red Ryder Tour ’99.

Flavio Caron, contracted by the Ministry and Visions to co-ordinate this conference is excited about what the Vision conference offers youth.

“Three major things the first being awareness – awareness of opportunity. And with awareness of opportunity, trying to match that into self-confidence, self-esteem issues and bringing that to the forefront,” says Caron.

“The Second one is, again with the opportunity, career options that go with that and in the Aboriginal community, we have a perhaps it’s a mythical advantage of that we know what the word ‘vision’ means. So that’s what I try instill as well. We have to have a vision – a personal vision, cultural vision, a community vision that we’re working towards and matching that vision with those career opportunities, so that you’re doing something that you love and that ties in with having a passion for life in what you’re doing.

“We’re also linking together the entrepreneurial spirit with those career options. The biggest growth in the economy without question…is the growth in self-employment. So even if that’s not the choice for a young person, you’ll have to be aware of it as an option.”

The Visions for the Future conferences will be targeting these following locations: Prince George, Chetwynd, Fort St. James, Kelowna during late October and early November, Massett/Haida Gwaii on November 8th; Victoria/Saanich on November 15th; Port Hardy on November 19th; Lillooet on November 24, and in Merritt, January 2000.

Caron stresses what he understands to be a key point for finding your way to success. “Find out what you want to do – find out what you’d love to do, find out what you’re good at. Make it part of your life’s passion,” says Caron.

From that point Caron suggests that the opportunities and options can be exploited though many of the various funding programs available such as Options for Youth, and YOU BET, the Youth Business and Entrepreneurship Training Program.
McAuliffe feels the Visions… conferences have been quite successful in bringing useful and accessible information to the youth.

“Last year our target for participation was 750 youth and by the end of our program year we had over 2500 participants – and that was with 11 conferences,” says McAuliffe.

“This year we’re running 14 conferences across the province. We’re hoping to get a thousand participants but I’m sure that number will be surpassed very soon.”

Embrace the Visionaries

Contemporary works by Emerging Salish Artists
Aboriginal Curator: Rose M. Spahan
November 18, 1999 – January 28, 2000

For the exhibition “Embrace the Visionaries” the curator, Rose M. Spahan, has invited thirteen Salish artists using various media and from various backgrounds. The artists represented are young, emergent, and indigenous. They have bold insights into their experiences of both contemporary and traditional worlds; they are artists with exciting young visions.

Rose has chosen to look at the idea of “the embrace”: to honour the artist of the Salish territories while welcoming the international artists from the Cree Nation and Australian Indigenous Lands who are exhibiting in the parallel exhibit, Four Circles/Soaring Visions.

The thirteen Salish artists are reviving the culture and expressing a continuation of a living, breathing culture. The exhibition of these Salish artists’ will honour the ancient protocol of this land by welcoming and honouring the international artists.

The exhibition is unique in the sense that many of the artists featured are teams; husbands and wife, sisters, and a father and son. The team dynamics bring a family closeness that offers a beautiful reflection of family togetherness and shared respect through art and culture.

In the history of the Gallery and the Museum there has not been a show that honours the new emerging artists coming from various Salish backgrounds, educations, or territories. Our exhibition recognizes the need to honour the Salish because this exhibition is situated on Salish lands. Salish art on the westcoast has been overlooked. Embrace the Visionaries offers thirteen Salishan artists the opportunity to show the diversity of contemporary first nations art as it exists today. The visual commentary of these artists are fresh with a new dynamic view of art in the Salish world.

Embrace the Visionaries presents, thirteen artists aboriginal, personal voices speaking about today’s life and tomorrow’s hope for the millennium. The work does not deal with an disturbing concept but an untroubled, self motivated, curious creative native process. These thirteen emergent Salish artists unfold a vision for the Millennium with Embrace the Visionaries. The unity, strength and integrity of these exciting Salish artists will take us into the next millennium with a new confidence and direction for the future.

Embrace the Visionaries represents artists driven by exploration, responsibility and motivational curiosity. These young emergent artists walk with confidence and a strong identity, bringing traditional backgrounds and contemporary native perspectives to the world.
Floyd Joseph of the Squamish Nation, is a young elder and new Hereditary Chief who uses “Tyee”, his Indian name. Floyd is justly proud of his heritage and determined to record it in his unique way. His skill and style have evolved following formal and informal training as an apprentice with older carvers and as a student at Capilano College.

Charles Elliott of the Saanich/Tsarlip Nation is a multi-talented artist. His carvings, prints and sculptures can be found in Catholic alters in Victoria, on the Common Wealth baton from the games in 1998, in City works such as the Saanich police station, and on the lawn of the Victoria Legislative Building. Charles is an educator and a key holder of Contemporary Salish Arts: he is an artist who teaches and continues the Salish art and culture.

Bradley Dick of Songhees ancestry, is a young educator and artisan, who combines his indigenous iconography with a celtic influence. His diptyches, triptych and mural paintings often become tattoos on the skin of Bradley’s art appreciators.

Rita Louis and Ester R. Bob are sisters from Pauquachin who working together and separately to make Salish weavings in both traditional and contemporary work. Rita has made sweaters for Queen Elizabeth. Ester R. Bob is a dedicated weaver with a contemporary outlook in her traditional installation.

William A. White is (Nanaimo/Cowichan) Art Historian/Photographer who works as an Aboriginal Liaison at the University of Victoria. He also eloquently photographs and documents Salish Elders and important events with Salish peoples.

Rita George-Green (Cowichan) and Joel Green (Lummi-USA) are a husband and wife team whose traditional art work reflects the love, honour and sharing of the Salish of both the American and Canadian heritage.

Barbara P. Marchand (Okanagan) represents contemporary Interior Salish work. Barb is a educator and a multi-talented artist working with multi-media.

Irving Sparrow and Christopher Sparrow are Musqueam Carvers who work together as a father and son team to produce carvings on the Musqueam reserve. They both teach young artists their Salish carving skills.

Rose M. Spahan, the curator of this exhibition, who works with mixed media (Saanich/Lower Nicola) is also a Salish artist whose work bridges the Coast and Interior in Heritage and iconography.

Mark Guerin is a contemporary Musqueam artist whose talent is three-dimensionally based. He uses contemporary materials such as aluminum while he talks of ancient history and creation stories through his art work.

Gangsters Out to Beat The Rap

Winnipeg – Three teenagers saunter down the sidewalk in North End Winnipeg, one dragging a bicycle and another carrying a plastic bag. Driving slowly behind them is an unmarked police cruiser with two veteran officers inside.
Brakes lights flash.

“Hey how’s it going?” offers Detective Sergeant Ron Hodgkins, an affable policeman, as he hops from behind the steering wheel.

“What’s in the bag?” asks Sergeant Rick Lobban, a powerful-looking man who gets right down to business.

One boy drops the bike with a sigh and another hands over the bag; inside is a package of chicken destined to become dinner.

With Sgt. Lobban circling around the group, each of the teenagers is coaxed aside by Det.-Sgt. Hodgins and asked his name, age, address and gang affiliation.

The two younger teens – both 17 – wear ball caps and proudly announce their membership in a street gang called the Indian Posse. The third, a year older and perhaps wiser, says he is not involved in gangs.

As the older boy speaks, Sgt. Lobban notes a thin elastic holding his hair into a ponytail and two roughly hewn tattoos: the letters “O.G.” on his shoulder and a “G” with two vertical strokes through it, like a dollar sign, on his biceps.

It seems innocuous stuff, but all three teenagers have just earned themselves an entry in the Winnipeg police Street Gang’s Unit computer data bank of known gang members and associates – an identification that might one day bring them before the courts under new, but untested federal legislation designed to attack Canada’s growing organized crime problem.

The evidence against these boys might easily have been missed.

The two younger boys are wearing red caps, the gang colour of the Winnipeg-based gang. Of course, their admission to being in the Indian Posse helps.

The third boy requires a more experienced eye: the two veteran street cops note the band in his hair is red. the “O.G.” says Sgt. Lobban, stands for “original gangster” and is worn by many veterans street gangsters; the “G” tattoo means “gangster money,” a mark worn by gang members who have obtained cash through robbery.

This all suggests the boy is not being upfront about his gang affiliation, especially
considering he’s with two self-admitted gang members.

“This was one casual encounter on the street and we had two verbal administrations and an association,” says Det.-Sgt. Hodgins.

While these three youngsters in a poor stretch of Winnipeg’s core seem a far cry from traditional face of organized crime – outlaw motorcycle gangs in Quebec, Mafia crime families in Ontario, and Asian Triads in British Columbia – the Crown alleges their gang, and others like them, represent a growing threat that is spreading across the Prairies.

“Street gangs are a definite threat to public safety in the province of Manitoba,” says Vic Toews, Manitoba’s Attorney General.

Such gangs are blamed for Manitoba’s violent crime rate, which crept steadily upwards through the 1990’s – until last year when it dropped to its lowest point in six years.

To meet the perceived threat, the Winnipeg police’s Gang Unit has developed what could one of the most effective new tools in the law enforcement arsenal for fighting gangs: a computer database.

First, however, both the database and the new federal legislation under which it is to be used in court must pass legal muster in an important court battle scheduled to begin next month in a specially constructed $3-million courthouse in Winnipeg to accommodate 33 accused, their lawyers, prosecutors and judge and jury. the defendants are all alleged to be members of a gang called the Manitoba warriors. The trial begins on Sept. 7 and could be one of Canada’s longest ever.

Winnipeg’s North End has a considerable history. An old, working-class neighborhood, it was once home to such legends as Monte Hall, the famous game show host, and Burton Cummings, the chart-topping musician. Today, however, small patches of the wide streets and narrow alleys that criss-cross each other look like pared-down scenes from a war zone.

“The neighborhood bottomed out a few years ago,” says Det-Sgt. Hodgkins.

“Here is where we have a large drug-dealing problem. They move into a rental property and sell crack out of it until it gets raided and busted; then it’s just pack up and move on,” says Det-Sgt. Hodgins.

It is here that “flaps” sell for $20 – the sale of “flaps” (A quarter gram of cocaine wrapped up in an old lottery ticket) is big business for the more established gangs, police says.
Graffiti – sometimes in letters as tall as a man – adorn some homes and businesses, proclaiming turf around it belongs to a specific gang.

“Graffiti is an indicator of an area they’re active in,” says Det.-Sgt. Hodgins, as he drives down an alley well-marked with gangland art.

Sometimes the message is simple and blunt, other times it takes considerable decoding.
“INF” stands for “In Full Effect” and usually follows a gang name, meaning that gang dominates this turf, says Sgt. Lobban. “PK” stands for “Posse Killers,” the rivals of the Indian Posse.

“187” seems innocent enough, but it is the criminal code section for homicide in California, and is used as a death threat among gangs, who take much of their dress and manners from their American cousins.

Police monitor graffiti closely for clues as to gang territory, emerging rivalries and which gangs are growing.

The emergence of rival street gangs across the prairies has led, police to the prairies has led, police say, to drug sales, stabbings, home invasions, robbery, machete attacks, prostitution and murder.

“When you have street gang members banding together, you have to add the bravado factor to crime. they want d the bravado factor to crime. To prove themselves hey want to prove themselves. Because they have an audience, they want to do something a little more ballsy than when they are alone.” says Sgt. Lobban.

Street gangs started to make their dark presence felt in Winnipeg in the late 1980’s. The Overlords was the first gang of any note and it soon splintered into rival factions and it soon splintered into rival factions. Those factions today form several of the 26 gangs in Winnipeg tracked today by police.

According to the Street Gang Unit’s database, these gangs incorporate 1,548 identified active gang members and 826 inactive members.

“It was formerly seen as a youth gang problem but it was obvious people involved in street gangs at the age of 12 and 13 weren’t just leaving gangs because they turned 18,” says Sgt. Lobban.

The oldest known member of a Winnipeg gang is 56. Many others are in their 30’s. There are even parents and children who are all members of the same gang.

“It is officially an issue that involves many gang members, however, I’d say about 85% of the street gang members are aboriginal,” says Mr. Toews.

There are four primary gangs.

The Indian Posse is the largest gang. There are 505 active and inactive IP members in the police database. The group often invokes aboriginal culture in their activities.
Deuce is a younger gang and is the fastest-growing and most multicultural. There are 502 active and 75 inactive Deuce members in the database.

“They tend to attract a younger group who are attracted to the mystique from the heavy television and movie influence,” says Sgt. Lobban.

Deuce members closely mimic the large gangs in Los Angeles in dress, speech and manners; with bandanas around their head and caps perched on top, members throw awkward gang signs with their fingers in a culture ripped right from popular American gang movies such as ‘Colours’.

“Talking to some of the Deuce you would swear you’re in South Central L.A.,” Sgt. Lobban.

The Native Syndicate has 35 active and 19 inactive members in the police database. The gang mimics an Italian Mafia family cribbed from The Godfather movie, with a boss, an underboss and a consigliere as the three ranking positions.

The NS is composed almost entirely of adults and is believed to have been formed by convicts when in prison.

The Manitoba Warriors closely resembles an outlaw motorcycle gang in its structure and use of logos on the backs of their vests and jackets. The gang has a president, vice-president and sergeant-at-arms, and would-be members must serve an apprenticeship, called “striking,” just as in bike gang culture.

The Manitoba Warriors recorded membership of 327 active and 143 inactive are almost all adults.

“The Warriors are an older gang and more oriented towards day-to-day business rather than running around tagging their gang name on everything in sight,” says Sgt. Lobban.

The gangs are not confined to Winnipeg.

Through recruitment in other cities and in prisons, the gangs are spreading their tentacles across the prairies and into Ontario.

When the Manitoba Warriors – wearing gang colours, T-shirts emblazoned with the gang name, and baseball caps – started recruiting in Regina, police there thought a new baseball team had come to town. Now a branch called the Saskatchewan Warriors seems to inhabit both Regina and Saskatoon, says Sergeant Greg McKinnon of the Regina police.

He believes the Warriors, Native Syndicate and Indian Posse are all in Saskatchewan, comprising some of the estimated 250 members and associates of street gangs in Regina.

“One gang being there will create four others,” Sgt. McKinnon laments.
He and a team from the Regina police spent a week with the Winnipeg Street Gang Unit this summer to learn how best to stem the growth.

“We want to start off on the right foot and not make any mistakes. We’re here to learn,” he says.

There is also growing concern over emerging native gangs in Edmonton, Calgary and Brandon.

“This is not simply a Winnipeg problem, this is not just a Manitoba problem. This is a problem that is found all over the Prairie provinces and as Manitoba gets tougher and tougher on gang activity, what we are finding is that the gangs are simply setting up elsewhere,” says Mr. Toews.

When gang warfare was threatening to surge out of control in Winnipeg, all levels of governments looked for a new strategy.

“It wasn’t enough to rely on the federal Criminal Code, or the municipal police,” said Mr. Toews. “We felt as a provincial government, we should step in in a much more active way.”

Another 40 extra police officers were hired in Winnipeg in 1995, and the Street Gang Unit, featuring 15 officers was formed.

“The mandate here is for high visibility, in-your-face policing,” says Sgt. Lobban, the unit’s head.

The mandate accounts for the team’s military-style uniforms – with dark blue T-shirts, bearing the unit’s name in bright yellow letter’s, that are pulled over bullet proof vests.

“The unit is project-oriented and raid-oriented. We target an area where we can make an impact.”

Says Mr. Toews: “Where they are white gangsters or aboriginal gangsters, I make no distinction – I don’t want them on the street. I make no apologies about what people sometimes say about our tough line in terms of attacking the gang problem. For the hardened, violent criminal, I say they need to be incarcerated.”

It is a tactic that has put 385 gang members currently behind bars in provincial jails. Many more are in federal prisons.

Mr. Toews is looking to increase that pressure and is expecting great things from two very new items in Canadian law enforcement arsenal: the federal anti-gang legislation and the Street Gang Unit’s creative use of computers.

In the war against gangsters quick to draw machetes and shoot from passing cars, the computer might seem a rather lame weapon.

If prosecutors are right, however, the modest database in the unit’s back office could prove to be one of the most effective tools for putting gang members behind bars.

“The gang database is not filled with intelligence briefs, but factual, defendable information,” says Sgt. Lobban.

“Information that [police officers] can be called to testify on in court. When an officer stops an individual, any tattoos, gang colours, associations with gang members – it can all be entered into the database.”

The difference between this database and other police compendiums of information is that each entry relates to a specific person found by a named officer on a specific date and time to have met strict criteria that indicate gang membership. Such as the three youth Sgt. Lobban and Det.-Sgt. Hodgins stopped with the bag of chicken.

Not long after the database was started the unit launched an expansive operation probing suspected cocaine sales out of hotels in the city’s core. After a year of undercover and surveillance operations, police were ready to make arrests for alleged narcotics and weapons offences.

Police wanted to know if they could also lay charges against the alleged gang members under the new anti-gang legislation, says Clyde Bond, senior counsel for the federal
Department of Justice in Winnipeg.

Passed in April 1997, Section 467.1 of the Criminal Code allows for a maximum 14-year sentence for participation in, or substantially contributing to, the activities of a criminal organization.

“The police came to me because it was a drug operation and asked if they could charge them under the new legislation. I sent them away with several questions that I assumed they would not be able to answer,” says Mr. Bond.

“Frankly, I didn’t think there was a hope of it, but, lo and behold, they could.”

Police realized that in the growing gang database was reasonable and potentially provable evidence that certain individuals were members of a criminal gang.

“The database really started as a place to gather information and developed into something far more sophisticated. I don’t think anyone fully realized how valuable it would be as evidence,” says Mr. Bond.

Interest in the database is spreading, with inquiries about it coming from police across Canada.

“The database is crucial for us,” says Det.-Sgt. Hodgins. “I think databases are cutting-edge in the fight against street gangs. We’ve shared a lot of our experiences with other departments.”

“But the court case up will be the big test.”

It is a test being watched closely by lawyers, police officials and Department of Justice officials in Ottawa and may help decide how we fight against organized crime in a country
that values personal freedom so highly.

Says Mr. Toews: “I’m not proud of the fact that we have more crime than I want in the province. I am very pleased, however, that our officers are sharing our experiences.”

Bee In The Bonnet – Smoke ‘Em

Smoke ‘Em”What? How much?” The sweet little old lady said as she bought her cigarettes at the native smoke shop. She started to grumble on and on about, how low the prices used to be in the “Good ol’ days.”

Her rantings gave me a moment to think back, after all I had the time, thanks to this long winded ol’ gal.

She was right, prices had gone up over the years. But it was no fault of the poor man trying to explain to the lady, that the smoke shop was just passing along the increase from the manufacturer. All to no avail I might add. She just continued on, so I guess I will too.

If she had just thought back a little further than her “good ol’ days”, she would have realized the poor man trying to serve her, was very low on the totem pole of who’s to blame for the increasing prices.

Let’s roll back the clock, to a time when it was the natives of this continent that introduced tobacco to the new arrivals. Little did they know of it’s potential power. To them it was just another gift from the great spirit. A gift they shared freely, with one and all. Or he knows. maybe they thought they could rid themselves of these greedy newcomers, by letting them have all the tobacco they wanted. Tobacco to stuff in their pipes and in between their cheeks and gums. Enough tobacco to roll up a few million cigars and let’s not forget cigarettes. Oh no, we can’t forget cigarettes.

The chatty, old lady was by now giving us all a year account of how little she use to pay. Did you know that in 1955, she paid only $.19 for her tobacco fix? Do you care?

Well back to our poor uniformed ancestors. As time passed the newcomers introduced them to “commerce”. This new concept must have been very confusing to them. For instance, the tobacco plant, that was once a gift from nature, now had a “value”. How could something that used to be free, now have a price fixed on it? Incidentally the old boot, was now up to the 80’s and $2.22 a pack.

Fixed pricing, what an appropriate name. The newcomers fixed a lot of things. And just like you used to take advantage of a younger siblings understanding of a big shiny nickel and a skinny little old dime!

(Hey, “big brother,” didn’t think I’d remember, eh? Well I did and about that “candy money” you took. You don’t have to pay me back,… just give it to “our little brother”).

They of course, took full advantage. As more time passed, the newcomers soon held all the “dimes.”

They even changed the “Golden Rule”. The “new: golden rule is, those who have the gold, make the rules. They also fix today’s tobacco’s prices. “Up date, she’s in the mid 90’s, at $3.19.” Which of course translates into more time for me to think.

I truly hope that future generations don’t look back upon us (with all these new treaty talks going on) and say “Those idiots up all this for peanuts!” Today’s tax exemptions, could be tomorrows “tobacco plant!”

Speaking of tax exemptions, tobacco sold to natives is exempt. Could it be the newcomers, the fixers, are trying to offer us all the tobacco we can stuff, roll and smoke? Just a thought!

Finally! The fat old cow is starting to walk away, with what I thought were her own personal cigarettes. Now, this is the part the really gets me! As she was leaving, the clerk said sarcastically. “Don’t smoke ’em all at once.” Her retort was, “Oh they’re not for me, I quit last year. I’m selling them to Mr. Wong at the corner store!”

Mohawks To Be “Offshore” Banking Power

By Mark Stevenson

The Kahnawake Mohawk Nation in Quebec says it will establish its reserve as a “sovereign financial territory” and transform it into a major “offshore” tax haven, with out federal or provincial government approval.

Kahnawake leaders say a bank, a securities exchange and a regulatory authority that will oversee them are all under development and will make their reserve, located 30 kilometres south of Montreal, a financial centre similiar to Antigua, the Caribbean nation where low taxes and privacy legislation encourage international investors to shelter money.

“We have every intention of becoming a power in offshore banking,” said Chief Davis Rice, who heads Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT), a high-tech park with 44 employees at the reserve.

“We’re talking about offshore banking on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.”

To help the effort, MIT has hired Michael Tobin, the former head of business development at the New York Stock Exchange.
In September, MIT announced it would use the legal protection of its sovereign nation to become the first territory in North America to license online gambling firms. Most Internet gaming businesses conduct transactions through computer servers based offshore to avoid an uncertain legal climate in Canada and the United States.

The plan now is to lure investors with a range of financial services and accounts “hidden … for obvious tax reasons,” according to Chief Rice.

“Why can’t we take business from Antigua and put it on the St. Lawrence?” he said.

“Of course Canada and others will say that it’s impossible, that what we’re doing is illegal … [That] will be our battle.”

Kahnawake Mohawks, as with all native Canadians, pay no income taxes provided they live on reserve and are not subject to sales tax on products or services purchased on their territory.

Chief Rice maintains that their “sovereign status” as natives means they do not need approval from Ottawa to establish their own bank or securities exchange.

Federal officials say they do not know if the Mohawk efforts are legal.

Margaret Pearc, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), the federal regulator, said there are strict requirements, including capital and deposit insurance standards, which banks must meet to operate legally in Canada.

She said reserve status may pose regulatory jurisdiction questions.

Nevertheless, she said a Mohawk bank would not be recognized unless it met OSFI’s requirements.

“We wouldn’t consider them a bank unless they became a bank,” said Ms. Pearcy Jean-Michael Catta, a spokesman for the Finance Department, would not comment on whether the Mohawk move would be legal.

“If you want to set up a bank in Canada, there are rules that need to be followed,” said Mr. Catta.

“But in the [Mohawk] case … we would have to get a legal opinion.”

No one at the Mohawk Nation would offer details about the tax regime that would be set up to create an “offshore” banking centre are typically low-tax countries with such secretive banking regulations that an individual’s or company’s home country cannot prove where the money in a given bank account came from.

Michael Tobin, the former New York Stock Exchange official advising MIT, is also a former director of economic development for New York State in the province of Quebec.

In a telephone interview with the National Post from Long Beach, California, he said he expects the bank to be operating within six months and the securities exchange in a year.

“The Mohawks have a certain special tax status … which will be part of the formula,” Mr. Tobin said.

“There is no reason for this not to evolve into something based on the Caribbean [model].”

Mr. Tobin was reluctant to release further details, but said the group would offer bank accounts, electronic cash and a securities exchange through the Internet. Businesses and financial firms are also being encouraged to locate at the park.

He said MIT has already been approached by a number of interested banks, including “heavy hitters from the US and Europe.”

Both online businesses and firms located at the reserve would be under a Mohawk financial authority that is being developed to protect investors and ensure such practices as money laundering do not occur, said Mr. Tobin.

Tax experts say a sovereign financial entity on North America soil would have certain benefits.

Alex Doulis, an expert on tax shelters who is based in the Caribbean said a Mohawk bank, for example would be unique difficulties for Canadian tax collectors.

At present, Revenue Canada tracks money leaving the country through records provided by banks, which are required to record transfers greater than $10,000.

But with a tax haven on Canadian soil, investors could avoid detection by physically moving the money, said Mr. Doulis.

“If we have a tax haven in Canada, someone would drive from Montreal with $20,000 in their jeans [deposit the money at the Mohawk bank] and say, thank you, very much.”

Lindley Family Farms

Faced with a choice between commercial or agricultural development, a Westbank First Nation’s family opted for the latter-and reaped more than a source of organically grown food.

Roxanne Lindley faced a difficult choice: whether or not to develop her family’s 35 acres, which form part of a highly-sought-after parcel of land on the Westbank Indian Reserve. Pressure to sign 99-year leases on the property and allow commercial development was intense because of the tremendous value of the property.

“We had and independent analysis and property evaluation done a couple of years ago and found that each acre of our property was valued at $100,000,” Roxanne says.

But although the lure of potential profit from lakefront development was great, Roxanne and her family wanted to do something else with their land. It as been in their family for untold generations and they did not want to give up control to outsiders. Instead, they had a vision of developing a business that would incorporate the traditional teachings of the Okanagan people, provide the family with clean, non-toxic food and earn them a steady income from their land.

Thus the idea of Lindley Family Farms was born. Established in 1997, it is a family-operated, organic market garden. Roxanne and her family worked with the Western Indian Lending Association (now known as the First Nations Agricultural Lending Association), headquartered in Kamloops, to develop a business plan to borrow money for capital development and the purchase of necessary equipment and supplies to start up the farm.

Roxanne is manager and co-owner, along with her mother Elizabeth, sister Sherry, husband Wayne, daughters Twyla and Rheanna, and son Nathan. Other family members help to keep the operation going by contributing both know-how and sweat.

One way Aboriginal values are incorporated into working the land occurs when plants are transferred from the nursery into the ground. “Everyone who handles the plants thinks good thoughts, when transplanting the vegetables,” says Roxanne. This respect and care continue throughout the growing cycle, right up until the crops are harvested.

The Lindleys know they must give something back to the land because it is there for them to live off of in a responsible and practical way. For this reason, they have opened their farm up to the community, encouraging First Nation’s youth from Westbank to work there. The youth help with planting, irrigation, harvesting, weeding and general farm maintenance.

“The changes we see are positive,” Roxanne says, “The youth feel contact with the earth and draw strength from it. When they say to us, ‘Those are our vegetables,’ we know they’re taking ownership of their work.”

The Lindley’s have learned a great deal from operating the farm; not just in growing vegetables but in growing relationships as well. “Our son Nathan was working at the vegetable stand when an elderly couple came in. They were a little short on money, so Nathan said, ‘Don’t worry, just pay me the difference when you come back.’ It was incredible. The couple were so touched by his offer that they started crying.” Now, the couple returns on a regular basis and has become staunch supporters of Lindley Farms.

The farm has four acres of vegetables under production, with 20 acres devoted to hay. The vegetables are grown organically for local markets. Although the crops are not certified by the provincial government as ” organically grown, ” the Lindleys are careful to avoid using chemicals in any part of their operation.

“We fought with moles and magpies, and at the end of the season two young bear cubs visited us,” Roxanne says. ” The worst were the moles. They didn’t bother our root crops, but they chewed holes in our underground irrigation drip lines. Instead of using poisons, we used a trap designed specially for moles.”

“Thirsty birds were another problem; they pecked holes in our tomatoes. We placed containers of water around the rows and left a mister going, hoping the birds would drink the water rather than peck holes in the vegetables,” she says.

Customer service is an important key to the operation. The family blends common sense with their sense of community as Aboriginal people in the way they treat people. “Last year, we picked vegetables specifically for people and even delivered the produce around supper time so our customers could truly savor the sweetness of the corn. There is really nothing like eating freshly picked corn,” says Roxanne.

“At our stand we encourage people to eat the vegetables raw. If the customer was not aware of a certain vegetable or variety, we offered a free sample,” she adds.

“Looking back at our first full year of operation, I’d say the concept and operation of Lindley Family Farms has been a very rewarding experience for my family,” Roxanne concludes. “Not only did we earn extra money, we contributed our ideas, energy and time and created an experience that has been beneficial to us all. The connection to Mother Earth has given us strength and provided us with a sense of balance, which is necessary in the fast world in which we live,” says Roxanne. “Our land is very productive and we take a tremendous amount of pride in our family-operated business.”

Susan Aglukark – A Leading Voice in Canadian Music

In only seven years of performing, recording artist Susan Aglukark has emerged as a leading voice in Canadian music. Her unique blend of traditional Inuk folklore with contemporary pop sounds has captivated listeners from all walks of life.

On her new release Unsung Heroes, Susan Aglukark once again shines the spotlight on history and heart of Inuit life with beautiful melodies and uplifting rhythms.

Unsung Heroes is the long-awaited, follow up to 1995’s triple platinum disc This Child, which featured Susan singing in both English and her native tongue, Inuktitut. Her fourth full-length album, Unsung Heroes contains 12 new songs co-written by Susan and produced by long-time collaborator Chad Irschick (The Rankins). A soothing and spiritual collection sung entirely in English, it’s Susan’s most accessible release yet.

“I’ve always tried to make it clear that I’m not specifically any one thing,” explains Susan. “Since This Child, I’ve really committed myself as an artist, and if there is a message to communicate, I’ve chosen to do it in the form that will be best understood. In touring This Child, I realized how diverse my audience was. This inspired the songwriting on Unsung Heroes.”

Born in Churchill, Manitoba, Susan Aglukark spent her childhood moving throughout the Keewatin Region of the Northwest Territories, eventually settling with her family in Arviat, NWT a small community on the Hudson Bay. In April 1999, Arviat became part of Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory, which returns the governing of the land to its native residents. This exceptional moment in history is celebrated on the joyful “Turn of the Century,” in which Susan writes from her own personal point of view.

“It’s my emotional interpretation of the event,” she explains. “Being a child of a politician who was involved, I know that the young people gave up a lot, temporarily losing their fathers to go to work out this self-government. Of course, it was worth it in the long run, but the song raises the feelings of the children that I think needed to be addressed.”

Unsung Heroes is rich with message of personal strength, love of community and optimism for the future. Yet Susan Aglukark also explores the often-sorrowful history of Canada’s Inuit people.

The ballad “Never Be The Same” speaks for the victims of tuberculosis who were taken from their northern homes and sent to urban hospitals, often dying far from their families. “It’s about how as soon as you leave your homeland, wherever that is, you lose your innocence.” This is followed by “E186” a solemn remembrance of a government policy initiated in the late 1930’s where Inuit people were identified with dog tags. Susan describes it as a “dark little song,” with a positive message from which the title Unsung Heroes is taken.

“I don’t like making political statements, but I feel that these are stories that need to be heard,” says Susan. “I wanted to write from a different perspective, giving back dignity to the unsung heroes of past generations.”

Susan Aglukark’s musical career began in the early 90’s, after leaving her community to work as a linguist for the Department of Indian & Northern Affairs in Ottawa. Her earliest recording appeared on a CBC radio compilation of Eastern Arctic artists; her first video, for “Searching,” won a Much Music Award for outstanding cinematography.

Susan’s first full album was 1992’s independently released Arctic Rose, a hit with country and aboriginal music fans alike. EMI delivered a worldwide deal in 1993, and quickly released her Christmas album, featuring the song “Little Toy Trains.” Arctic Rose was re-released in 1994 and spawned two hit single, “Song of the Land” and “Still Running.” It earned her Juno Awards for Best New Solo Artist and Best Aboriginal Canadian Recording and the Canadian Country Music Association’s Vista Rising Star Award. Susan was also awarded the first-year Aboriginal Achievement Award in the Arts & Entertainment field in 1994.

1995’s This Child catapulted Susan Aglukark to the top of Canadian music charts. The first single, “O Siem” reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts and into the Top 10 on CHR and Country radio. The hits “Hina Na Ho” and “Breakin Down” followed leading to five Juno Award nominations in 1996.

Through her music, Susan Aglukark spreads uplifting messages to her own community and the nation at large. She was praised extensively in publications such as The New York Times, Saturday Night, Macleans, Modern Woman and Chatelaine, who touted her on its cover as a “pop star with a purpose.” As an ambassador of Canadian culture, Susan has performed twice for HRH Queen Elizabeth, for Prime Minister Mulroney and Chretien, for Nelson Mandela and at the World Special Olympics.

Unsung Heroes not only documents Susan Aglukark’s experience as an Inuk, but also as a woman finding her place in the world. Inspired as much by the success and touring of This Child as her childhood, the album speaks of the personal discoveries and growth that each of us ponders. Ultimately, the themes are universal.

“My ultimate message is to learn to be yourself and believe in that person,” says Susan. “It’s a constant fight, an everyday process. If by example I can relay this simple message, that would be great.”