Topic: NEWS

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 www.cleanenergybc.org.

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

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.

Gitxsan Nation Divided Due to Pipeline Agreement

by Frank Larue

Liberal leader Christie Clark has done everything possible to push through the LNG projects, whereas native leaders have been reluctant to approve the LNG projects because of environmental concerns. However, not all native leaders were against LNG. Nine hereditary Gitxsan chiefs have given approval to this project in writing, which has shocked and angered many Gitxsan members who were not included in the decision.

Gitanmaax is a reserve in northern B.C.

Gitanmaax is a reserve in northern B.C. where Gitxsan members discovered confidential documents revealing that some hereditary chiefs had given their consent for the PRGT pipeline in exchange for money. Photo Credit: Trevor Jang

 

“No individual hereditary chief can make such a decision because the Gitxsan Nation is a collective of all members,” Gitxsan member, and consultant for Aboriginal rights, Neil John Sterrit told the media. “The hereditary chiefs act for all members. They should all be involved in any decision that binds the nation, which this does.”

The chiefs who signed the agreement were promised $6 million for their approval. The money was put in a fund which was to be used for projects approved by the band. Although, many of the members disagree with the decision to approve the LNG project. They want no part of the money, which they see as a form of bribery.

“It was done secretly,” Sterrit told the Vancouver Sun. “It was done so people like me would not know. Not just me, but a lot of people who were opposed to the way things operate.”

Earl Muldoon is the 80-year old hereditary chief known as Dulgamuukw, a symbolic ancestral chief name passed down from generation-to-generation of Gitxsan people. He is famous for the historic court case that confirmed Aboriginal title had not been extinguished by any colonial government. “It’s a name that’s greatly respected. We’ve earned respect for it,” Muldoon told the Vancouver Sun. He feels he has done no wrong.

Gordon Sebastian – also a hereditary chief who signed the letter of approval – stated the chiefs went through an extensive four year process. This involved 45 meetings with PRGT, the provincial government, industry experts, and those who were opposed to the project. “So what we did over four years is we evaluated everything,” says Sebastian. “The environment. The birds. The animals. I did all that stuff. I took it all in consideration. Me as well as the other 10 chiefs. We did all that, and we did it jointly.”

Muldoon has not benefitted from the money, it was deposited in a band trust fund. “I had members phone me and say they want $10,000, they want $20,000. Kind of a blackmail type of thing. We never spent any of the money. We didn’t want to deal with that type of method. It’s just sitting in the pot, that’s all. I had discussions with my family. We decided we have to go with progress.”

On the flip-side, a group of Gitxsan chiefs known as the United Gitxsan is opposed to any gas pipeline because of environmental concerns. “We’re not in favour of this at all,” spokesman Norm Stephens told the media. In an email, the pipeline administration provides the source of the problem: “TransCanada has a robust engagement policy that guides all of our interactions. PRGT has been able to sign benefit agreements with 13 First Nations along the route. This demonstrates that our approach works.”

Neither side is backing down, so we can expect a roadblock for the pipeline until everyone agrees. This will not happen in the foreseeable future. The LNG companies will not give up, there is too much money at stake; but the Gitxsan are a stubborn group, and solving their internal administrative problems will have to happen before any agreement can exist.

Members Denied Status With Newfoundland Band

by Frank Larue

The Mi’kmaq’s in Newfoundland have had to deal with a tragic history. In 1949, when Newfoundland became a Canadian province, there was no more than 560 Mi’kmaqs there. Unfortunately they were never subject to the Indian Act, which all native bands were governed by. This meant that they never received the benefits such as post-secondary assistance, medical assistance, along with the benefits most status indians received

William Prosper, a second generation Mi’kmaq descendant of the Prosper family, sits with his wife, Madeline, outside their wigmam in Nova Scotia sometime before William’s death in 1923. Photo: Nova Scotia Museum

William Prosper, a second generation Mi’kmaq descendant of the Prosper family, sits with his wife, Madeline, outside their wigmam in Nova Scotia sometime before William’s death in 1923. Photo: Nova Scotia Museum

 

In 2008, the population had grown to 23,000, so the government decided to create a landless band: the Qualipu. This gave the Mi’kmaq’s the same rights as most status Indians. The problem that the government wasn’t expecting was the number of applicants for the Qualipu, which has risen to 100,000. This meant that the Mi’kmaq were 1/5 of the population in Newfoundland. The federal government put through a new bill C-25, which gave them the power to review and revoke the indian status of native people who had been approved in 2005. Also, Bill C-25 didn’t allow native people who had been disqualified to appeal the decision.

To meet the criteria to be a member, the person must reside in Newfoundland – which many of the applicants did not – and for the applicant to prove their native identity. Their identity had to be accepted by a Mi’kmaq community, and show a connection to a Mi’kmaq community before 1949.

Hector Pearce, 69-year old retired psychologist and vice chair of the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, discovered his roots eight years ago. He told the CBC that “… this whole process has been bungled, they just made a mess of this from the beginning. I don’t want people to tell me I’m not something I am.”

More applicants were disqualified for not providing either a connection with a Mi’kmaq community, or a connection before 1949, but there were also petty administrative problems that nixed the applications. Jaimie Lickers, the lawyer representing the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, complained about the hundreds of applications that were turned down because of some small mistake. On top of this, there was no appeal for these mistakes.

“We’re talking about lifelong entitlement to Indian status and band membership. Recognition of your heritage,” she told the Globe and Mail. “To be disqualified from that because you forgot to include a long-form birth certificate is ridiculous.”

More than 68,000 native people have been rejected, including 10,000 members who were approved either in 1989 or 2005, which means they no longer are status Indians.

“Think about that for a moment,” Qualipa Chief Brendan Mitchell told the Globe and Mail. “People have a [status] card for five years, and all of a sudden the Canadian Government says: ‘we’re not recognizing you anymore. Give your card back.’ Sadly the government of Canada, in my view, shows no remorse or compassion about what happened here. It’s all ‘well, we had a deal and here’s the outcome and screw it, you’re in or you’re out.”

Year of the Woman: FND Celebrates Women of Change

By: Niimi Fontaine

In honour of Women’s Day, March 8th 2017, the First Nations Drum celebrates Native women who have made a difference. With the current political climate and recent Women’s March protest where an estimated 3 million people took part worldwide, some are calling this the ‘Year of The Woman.’ First Nations women have often been underrepresented and not received the credit they deserve, however, this is beginning to change and we hope to see more sisters young and old finding their voice and becoming a catalyst for positive change.

Waneek Horn-Miller

Waneek Horn-Miller, 2009. Photo Cred: Jeff De Booy/Winnipeg Free Press


 
WANEEK HORN – MILLER

Waneek Horn-Miller has recently been hired as the Director of Community Engagement for the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Horn-Miller, a former MVP for the gold medal winning Canadian women’s water polo team, says her new title is more than just a job – it’s a mission.

A Mohawk from Kahnawake, Que., Horn-Miller is a former Olympian, a media personality and a health advocate. Her hiring as director of community engagement was announced at the inquiry’s first news conference on Feb. 7. “I was really, really humbled and honoured to be asked, because this [inquiry] is a historic event,” Horn-Miller told the CBC. “Never in our history have we ever just solely focused on the safety of Indigenous women and girls.”

At the 1999 Pan Am Games Waneek was voted MVP and as a co-captain proudly led her team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. She went on to help Canada win a bronze medal at the 2001 FINA World Championships. Waneek was also present at the Oka Crisis in the occupational camp as a 14 year old. On the last day of the standoff as the occupiers were walking out there was a physical altercation between soldiers and Mohawk militants and Waneek was injured by a soldier’s bayonet as she carried her sister, and nearly lost her life.

As director of community engagement, Horn-Miller will oversee a team of regional community liaisons. The team will be in charge of connecting the commission with Indigenous organizations, the public, and most importantly, victims’ families across the country. “We’re supporting the families that have already identified themselves on what to expect from the hearings,” Horn-Miller told CBC. “But it’s also getting the word out there to people who don’t necessarily think that they have anything to contribute.”

Although she said it’s not entirely in her job description, Horn-MIller said she also plans to work with the commission’s communications staff to let the Canadian public know about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. ”It’s the reality in our communities…there’s a lot of women I know who have been the victim of violence, or know someone who has been impacted by violence,” she said. ”But I want the public to know that this issue is not just an Indigenous issue, it’s a Canadian issue.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie. Photo Cred: Matt Barnes Courtesy of the Artist


 
BUFFY SAINT MARIE

This year Buffy Sainte-Marie will be the award recipient of the 2017 Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. Sainte-Marie exemplifies the essence of humanitarianism through her dedication to protecting indigenous communities and indigenous intellectual property. Given out annually at the JUNO Awards, the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award celebrates and recognizes the philanthropic efforts made by Canadian musicians that have created a positive impact on the social welfare of society as whole.

Sainte-Marie was born on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan and grew up in Massachusetts. With a musical career spanning more than 50 years, Sainte-Marie is celebrated for her thought provoking lyrics and her passion for supporting Aboriginal people. Her singing and writing repertoire also includes subjects of love, war, religion, and mysticism. In 1997 she founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project, an educational curriculum devoted to better understanding Native Americans. She has won recognition and many awards and honours for both her music and her work in education and social activism.

The first First Nations artist who has been awarded an Academy Award (Best Original Song for “Up Where We Belong,”) Sainte-Marie is also the recipient of four JUNO Awards, a Golden Globe, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, a BAFTA Award, multiple Queen’s Jubilee Medals and Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. She carries the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Sainte-Marie’s most recent album Power in the Blood (2015) won 2016 JUNO Awards for Aboriginal Album of the Year sponsored by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, as well as the Polaris Music Prize.

Shannen Koostachin

Shannen Koostachin, 14. Photo Cred: Toronto Star


 
SHANNEN KOOSTACHIN

Shannen Koostachin, a young activist from Attawapiskat First Nation, Ont., was named one of Canada’s top 150 Canadians. She was a passionate advocate who took her message to Parliament Hill in 2009, to demand the federal government provide better, safer schools for students living on reserves. She spoke openly about deplorable conditions she and other aboriginal students had to deal with in their schools on First Nation reserves.

Sadly, the 15-year old passed away in a car accident in June 2010.

Koostachin’s advocacy for better and safer education for aboriginal students was turned into a campaign by her family and friends, known as Shannen’s Dream. That legacy is what earned Koostachin a spot on the list of top 150 Canadians. The list — which also includes names like Terry Fox and Emily Carr — is to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year.

Shannen’s Dream lives on through the First Nations Child and Caring Society, based in Ottawa. Executive director Cindy Blackstock says Koostachin was first confronted with a poor educational environment when she started kindergarten. At that time, the official school in Attawapiskat was closed down because the ground underneath it was contaminated. Students instead had their classes in portables trailers supplied by the federal government. “It was only supposed to be temporary, but by the time Shannen was in Grade 8 these portables had deteriorated so severely that there was ice build up, there was ruins, there was black mould,” says Blackstock. “There was a fire in this girl.” Blackstock recalls of Koostachin. “She just thought this was absolutely not fair.” Koostachin asked other Indigenous children to write letters to the government demanding change and demanding equal opportunity for all students. Blackstock remembers when Koostachin met with the Minister of Indian Affairs in 2009 to demand a better school for her community. When that politician responded with an unsatisfactory response, Koostachin told him she would never give up, because every child deserved better education.

As for the large 150th birthday celebration and being named as a great Canadian, Blackstock says she feels Koostachin would by disappointed that millions of dollars were being spent on a birthday party, when so many Indigenous students are still fighting for proper schools and struggling for basic needs. Koostachin didn’t advocate for recognition or awards, Blackstock says she did it to help other students. Blackstock says she feels Indigenous students across Canada are asking for one thing this year as the nation celebrates 150 years. “They want Shannen’s Dream to come true.”

Melanie Mark

Melanie Mark becomes first Aboriginal woman elected to B.C. legislature. Photo Credit: Facebook


 
MELANIE MARK

Melanie Mark is the first woman from a First Nation to be elected to the BC Legislature. She

is of Nisga’a, Gltxsan. Cree, and Ojibway heritage. Melanie admitted she knew little of her history until she worked as an interpreter for Bill Reid’s art displayed at the Vancouver airport.

“I was inspired by Bill Reid’s work not because I had any artistic ability but because I was curious about the native culture that was unknown to me.” Melanie had a very difficult childhood, her father died of a heroin overdose and her mother was described as an ‘alcoholic and fanatical woman.’ She grew up in downtown Vancouver’s Eastside, and was subject to abuse and humiliation, surrounded by drug and alcohol addiction and was often in charge of her siblings. “I hope the public doesn’t take the first two decades of my life as the defining piece of me. It’s part of what gives me empathy,” she told the media. “When people phone you and say ‘this is what I am faced with,’ I can understand what they’re talking about.”

As a former president of the Urban Native Youth Association Melanie Mark attended the Native Education Centre and Douglas College for a degree in Criminology. She spent eight years with the UNYA. “I saw enough inaction and status quo and stand-pat budgets and lack of commitment.” Having suffered abuse herself, she was committed to helping Native youth who had been abused. “Knowledge is power, and the trials and tribulations in my life have increased my knowledge as an Aboriginal woman to want to partake in creating a better system, of accountability for the protection of our young people.

Indigenous Women Join The March

By Lee Waters

Hundreds of thousands of women turned Washington’s National Mall into a sea of pink on Saturday, sending the first grassroots message of opposition to Donald Trump since he moved into the White House.

“Minority president”, “Women roar” and “I’m afraid” were among the signs waved by a crowd which was made up mostly of women but also comprised some men and which far exceeded turnout for Friday’s inauguration. Many wore pink handknit “pussy hats” – a rebuke to the billionaire businessman once caught on tape bragging about his ability to “grab” women “by the pussy”. Organisers estimated that more than a million people attended.

Also joining the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on Saturday — and identifiable by turquoise silk scarves — was a collective of native groups coming together to support human rights and advance indigenous issues. Women who participated in what they called the Indigenous Women Rise: Women’s March on Washington were gifted a limited-edition “Women Warrior” scarf by L.A. designer Bethany Yellowtail. The silk scarf was a creative collaboration between Yellowtail and artist John Isaiah Pepion. The scarf harkens to the traditional women’s war bonnet dance — in Crow culture called the “Shoshone War Bonnet Dance.” The dance is part of a larger ceremony that celebrates young leaders from indigenous nations.

In sister protests across Canada, indigenous women also joined the march. “Canadians are a part of this because we’re aware that what goes on in the U.S. does have an impact here,” said Tasha Donnelly, who’s with the Canadian delegation’s organizing committee. She points to the rhetoric that trickled over Canada’s borders since Trump was elected. “For a lot of people it meant sexism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment were not considered a deal-breaker for people. That attitude is what we’re worried about in Canada.” Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, for example, tweeted enthusiastic support for Trump’s victory, hoping it might be something that could be emulated here. “That worries us. We want to say this will not do in Canada, we will not permit that kind of divisiveness and disrespect to our voters.”

Canadians are also concerned about the message Trump sends their kids, Donnelly said, and they’re marching to protect rights we often take for granted in Canada, including reproductive freedoms. They’ll also highlight the rights and struggles of indigenous, black and Muslim people here.

While some felt the protest was primarily in reaction to the Trump presidency, others were fighting for a more global cause, especially focused on the racism against marginalised and Native women, who have historically been left out of the feminist movement. “If you go to Washington just to protest Donald Trump, you’ve missed the mark,” national co-chair Tamika Mallory said in a recent Facebook Live interview with Essence magazine. “He is a symptom of a disease that already existed. He’s just going to give new voice to white supremacy, the racism, the sexism, the misogyny, all the stuff that was already there.” As such, the march is about much more than equal pay and reproductive rights for women — it’s meant to draw attention to institutional sexism and racism against women particularly women of colour as well as LGBTQ rights and the rights of immigrants and lower-income people.