Topic: NEWS

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.

Standing Rock Continues to Gather Worldwide Support

by Kelly Many Guns

Since our last report on Standing Rock, there have been many new developments. There has been a growth in worldwide support, daily social media updates, law enforcement and the military using excess force when arresting water protectors, a high profile U.S. politician rallying support, and a major bank selling its assets out of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In mid-September, Energy Transfer Partners – the oil company building the Dakota Access Pipeline – hired law enforcement and military from local and surrounding States to enforce aggression against the water protectors. Arrests continue daily at Standing Rock. Over two-hundred water protectors were arrested, some women allegedly were stripped and locked in dog cages, and military officials shot tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds.

Last week, the front lines of protesters blocking the Dakota Access pipeline looked like this. Photo: Desiree Kane / YES! Magazine

Last week, the front lines of protesters blocking the Dakota Access pipeline looked like this. Photo: Desiree Kane / YES! Magazine

In a recent press conference, David Archambault, chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, says there have been false, unverified stories printed in the media about the peaceful protestors and water protectors. This includes a story about a woman firing a gun at law enforcement, and the North Dakota media ran with that. Another story stated that arrows were being shot at low flying aircraft’s.

“These press releases go out and diminish what we’ve been trying to accomplish, making us look like villains,” Archambault said. “This is an unfortunate time at Standing Rock, and I can honestly say we have the right to be on that land because that land was illegally taken from us, according to the 1851 Treaty.” According to Achambault, the state of North Dakota has laws that corporations cannot own farm or ranch lands without a pre-approved business, and that did not happen with Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).

Photo by Ryan Vizzions

Photo by Ryan Vizzions

“Energy Transfer Partners asked the State of North Dakota to step in and remove us, saying we were trespassing on our own land, and that’s just not right,” informs Archambault. “So the North Dakota law enforcement and the surrounding states came in with aggression, using weapons to force innocent people back.”

Over forty people were injured in the first clash with officers suited in riot gear against the pipeline protesters, including welts from rubber bullets, and tear gas shot from cannons. Archambault says it is wrong to use that type of force on innocent people on their own land.

“It seems like Energy Transfer Partners is getting protection, and this is what we’re up against,” he says. “We’re standing up for water and that has been our focus. Water is the most important thing, and not just for us, for everyone.”

The chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continued by saying that they’re up against state officials who support the pipeline. They support oil production, elected state officials receiving oil industry contributions, flawed federal laws, unions saying Standing Rock supporters are trying to shut down employment for them, and Donald Trump, who has a direct investment interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“So the oil industry is a powerful conglomerate, and we’re up against all these forces”

says Achambault. “All we have is support, unity, prayers, and we still have a chance.” Everyone can still benefit from this opportunity to stop or reroute this pipeline and not put our Tribes and everyone’s water at risk. He says it can be done.

ROBYN BECK VIA GETTY IMAGES

ROBYN BECK VIA GETTY IMAGES

Archambault believes that they should be investing in refurbishing and remodelling every pipeline that is under the Missouri River, and update existing pipelines. “This is about Energy Transfer Partners – they are a bad company. They have lawsuits in four different states for contaminating the environment and water. They illegally used unlicensed and untrained handlers to use guard dogs in their aggression towards the protestors. There is so many wrongs with this oil company ETP.”

In a November 17th, 2016 press release, the largest bank in Norway, DNB sold its assets in the Dakota Access pipeline. The news follows the delivery of 120,000 signatures from Greenpeace Norway and others to DNB urging the bank and other financial institutions to pull finances for the project.

“It is great that DNB has sold its assets in the disputed pipeline, and it is a clear signal that it is important that people speak out when injustice is committed. We now expect DNB to also terminate its loans for the project immediately.” Greenpeace USA spokesperson Lilian Molina said: “The writing’s on the wall for the Dakota Access pipeline – people power is winning.”

According to a U.S. publication, Energy Transfer Partner officials say they’ve followed all the rules. They point out the pipeline is not even on a reservation land. Plus, they argue that moving oil via modern pipelines is a far safer way than putting it on trucks or trains because, as statistics show, this is more prone to a crash and spill. It also says the pipeline will generate revenue and jobs for North Dakota.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, says that the pipelines are the most efficient, safe, and cost-effective way to move oil to market. “The products get there virtually 100 percent of the time without issue.” The Dakota Access Pipeline begins in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, carrying crude oil almost 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa down to Illinois. The pipeline’s original path crossed the Missouri River just north of Bismarck, a city that is 90 percent Caucasian. However, when concerns were raised about a potential oil spill there, the pipeline was rerouted south to go under the river right next to the Standing Rock Reservation. The Missouri River is the Standing Rock reservations’ primary source of drinking water. The tribe says a spill there could be catastrophic for them. So when construction started, a plea for help went out.

In a recent PBS television report, the 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. do sometimes leak and rupture. When they do, they often spill far more oil than a single train car carries. Since 1995, there has been more than 2,000 significant accidents on oil and gas pipelines, causing about $3 billion in property damage. An example of this was in July of 2010. At least 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. It was one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history, and the costliest. Almost 5,000 acres of wetland habitat was inundated with oil. Hundreds of animals were killed. Thousands more were recovered, cleaned and released. Full recovery could take decades.

This past summer, as First Nations Drum reported, about 65,000 gallons of oil and other toxins spilled into the North Saskatchewan River, polluting the drinking water used by the James Smith Cree Nation. The Petroleum Council says those kinds of spills near the Standing Rock Reservation are very unlikely.

This pipeline is 90 feet below the river bed. It’s not going to leak right into the river, it’s got the detection equipment and the shutoff valves on each side of this pipeline,” said Ron Ness. The US Senator of Vermont and 2016 democratic nominee said that over 300 communities in the United States do not want the pipeline built. Sanders was video recorded on “Our Revolution” when he rallied a crowd in Washington on November 15th.

Sanders also said: “the issues are very clear. For hundreds of years, the native people in our country, the first Americans, have been lied to, have been cheated, and their sovereign rights have been denied to them. Today, we are saying it is time for a new approach to the Native American people, and not run a pipeline through their land.”

Sanders demands that sovereign rights of the Native American people be honoured and respected. In the midst of a major water crisis in the U.S. and around the world, he does not want to see a pipeline built and endanger clean water for millions of people.

Children of Attawapiskat

by Danny Beaton

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Brian Martin, a Mohawk from Tyendinaga, told me to call this elder who was a doctor working up north with people from Attawapiskat. It was the best news I had all summer while researching the events that were unfolding for several years now. He gave me her card, so I gave Dr. A.A. Dunlop a call. She was both positive and friendly. I asked her if she knew any natives in Attawapiskat who were using traditional native culture to heal, as well as if there were any people who she thought I could connect with after telling her my background with native child and family services. Dr. Dunlop gave me the phone number of the mental health unit in Attawapiskat, and said to ask for Jane or Peggy. She told me to tell them that I was a Mohawk elder interested in bringing back traditional Cree healing ceremonies within native communities.

Young boys in Attawapiskat. Picture by Danny Beaton

Young boys in Attawapiskat. Picture by Danny Beaton

When I called the Attawapiskat hospital and asked for Peggy or Jane, the person I spoke to said it sounds like you need to talk to Joe Tipp, the head of Health Canada in Attawapiskat. Peggy and Jane were out of the office that day. I immediately called Joe Tipp, or Joe Tippeneskum, Cree elder. When he answered, I explained that I was being funded to bring back culture and ceremonies, as well as my background of organizing healing activities to the elders and youth who were suffering in their community. Joe Tipp was a positive person for me to connect with. He explained that the youth were taking a lead in efforts to bring back traditional Cree culture, but they could use my skills in organizing events that would unite the community in Attawapiskat. Joe said there were several youths organizing the sacred sweat lodge ceremony, and if I was free at night it would be good to join them. Joe mentioned we could work together in the secondary school, presenting traditional native culture to the youth in grades nine-through-thirteen, as well as anyone interested in hearing our message. As it turned out, Joe and I did present at Vezina Secondary for one morning in October.

Little boy in Attawapiskat, photo by Danny Beaton

Little boy in Attawapiskat, photo by Danny Beaton

I shared a poetic prayer addressed to a traditional Iroquois Thanksgiving. I honored creation, plant life, waters, relatives, and everything that moves on Mother Earth, in the sky, and through the air. My understanding of our Thanksgiving ceremony is it is equivalent to smoking the pipe for the Lakota, or any other indigenous way of giving thanks to the gifts of the universe and Mother Earth. We answered student questions later on, and I shared several songs on my native flutes. I play with the intent to heal and open the spirit and mind.

The students were glad to see a Mohawk and Cree elder working together for the protection of Mother Earth, and the future of generations to come. We explained that we were working for the benefit of all children, not just our own, and that every child deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. I then explained how Mohawk spiritual leader, Tom Porter, viewed all men as brothers, and all women as sisters. He mentions that this is our way of life in our country, and that it was no different in Attawapiskat. We talked about art, and the sacredness of using communication to heal, be it through writing, drawing, singing, photography, film making, and even just talking. I also explained, in the indigenous way, life, and how North American indigenous must always stand for our first law: respect for the land.

In Attawapiskat, you are surrounded by forest and bush. You have the cleanest and freshest air. I love it there. It is so quiet that I could fall fast asleep any time I lay down.

We are living in a concrete jungle in Toronto. People have forgotten how to live simply here. My wife was the best person I’d ever met. She chose to live like a Zen monk despite all of the conveniences and distractions and the fast-pace of city life. I enjoy living in Toronto because I’ve gotten a lot done here, but you can still live a good life in Attawapiskat. Once you finish high-school there, you have the opportunity to travel down south to get a college or university degree. Education is a great tool for indigenous in present day. It provides us with the ability to overcome the suffering of our past.

When my mother, uncles, aunts, and all First Nation people in Canada were put into residential schools, they lost their culture. Be it the Mohawks, the Ojibway, the Cree, the Inuit, the Haida, the Algonquin, and all of the tribes and all of the clans – our way of life was lost. Indigenous people down south recovered in a big way, but I see the Cree are still suffering from culture shock and trauma. Our elders say: when you take away the ceremonies and way of life for First Nations people, you are taking away their wisdom and connection to Mother Earth. Once a person has been traumatized, they need help or healing by a therapist or through native ceremonies. Personally, when I see how happy our people are, it is usually when they were raised with ceremonial parents. In Six Nations, there are always ceremonies and social events that bring our people together in order to honor Mother Earth and the Creator.

Today, I see many young people and adults looking for their native roots and culture because they see how broken and lost society has become. If the Cree people can get their ceremonies and cultural roots back, then they will not be hurt or broken. People have to be reminded, just like our elders had to remind us here, that we are learning up until our last breath. We have no right to take our own life, only our Great Creator can take a life when our time is up. Life is so sacred. Every minute when times get tough, we need to seek help to work out difficulties. If we had positive teachers and healers in our life, things would not get so bleak. We all need positive energy, positive thoughts, inner-beauty, love, respect, companionship, creativity, and peace. Without this in our world, negativity gets in and destroys our health.

Left: Mike Booy Mohawk from Tyendinaga, Right: Danny Beaton Six Nations Mohawk,  photo by unknown Swampy Cree Oct 2016

Left: Mike Booy Mohawk from Tyendinaga, Right: Danny Beaton Six Nations Mohawk, photo by unknown Swampy Cree Oct 2016

The residential school system did not take care of native youth or people, instead, it tore through culture and our way of life. This has be said in the case of Attawapiskat.  I heard it from the people, community, nurses, and teachers. Many northern communities need healing and resources fast. When I look at the faces of the children I worked with, I am ecstatic from the beauty of the Cree! The idiosyncrasy of the children come from the earth, wetlands, marsh, moose, bear, wolf, deer, and wounded parents. When I study trauma, this is what I see in Attawapiskat!

Many aspects of a child’s health, physical and mental, rely on this primary source of safety and stability. We need our native values and culture more than ever to fill our mind, body, and spirit with that kind of medicine. Like my uncle said: Danny, the kids need to see us laughing and having fun. They need to see us working together, singing, starting a sacred fire, loading our pipes, eating together, praying, and doing our Sacred Ceremonies in unity. They need to see us live in the way it was before residential schools. They need to see us as we were in the beginning.

No Charges Against Val-d’Or Police For Sexual Harassment of Native Women

by Frank Larue

 Sindy Ruperthouse was an Algoquin woman who disappeared in 2014. She was last seen in a hospital in Val-d’Or, and her parents still continue the search for her. They have travelled to Montreal, Ottawa, and all little towns in-between, but they have not found any clues that would lead them to their daughter. The Grand Council of the Cree are offering a $50,000- reward for information that would lead to Sindy’s where-abouts. Unfortunately, this rewards has not been given away. Sindy still remains missing. Over the past two-years, the Police have had to change the missing to a homicide. There is nobody to support the belief that Sindy was the victim of foul play, but considering the time-frame of her disappearance, police believe Sindy Ruperhouse is another victim in the long list of missing and murdered native women.

Downtown Val d’Or north of Montreal. Indigenous communities lose faith in system after no charges filed against Val-d’Or SQ officers. Photo: Christopher Curtis, Montreal Gazette

Downtown Val d’Or north of Montreal. Indigenous communities lose faith in system after no charges filed against Val-d’Or SQ officers. Photo: Christopher Curtis, Montreal Gazette

Sindy was recovering from a beating in a hospital before she disappeared. She may have become a cold case to the police, but to her own people, she is remembered. Her disappearance has inspired native women living in Val-d’Or to go public with claims of abuse by the city’s police. Radio Canada’s French investigative show Enquete spoke to several of the women, and they were shocked at some of the women’s claims. Enquete referred to the police behaviour as the culture of violence against women in northern Quebec. In response, these women told of the Val-d’Or police officers who would pick native-women up when leaving bars. They would make sure the women had been drinking. If she was, they’d either rough her up, or take her to the outskirts of the city. Here, the women would be forced to perform sexual acts, and then left to walk home.

An investigation by the police in Montreal was initiated to clear-up the situation. Native leaders and female organizations were expecting charges to be laid,  but the six officers who had been suspended had all charges against them dropped. They are now suing Radio Canada. Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief for the Quebec Grand Council of the Cree, told the CBC. “The allegations are about specific abuses committed by specific individuals of the SQ against specific Cree and Algonquin women. These are accusations of rape… When does a rapist become a scapegoat? There are accusations of assault… How does an assailant become a scapegoat? There are accusations of supplying drugs and alcohol… How does a drug dealer, or a bootlegger, become a scapegoat? Wanting justice is not searching for a scapegoat.”

Native leaders are seething, but no one should be surprised because when the police investigate the police, no matter what the charge, the police are never charged. The Val-d’Or police have introduced cameras on all police vehicles, and police will be sometimes accompanied by a social worker. This seems to be a sensible prevention attempt. But what about the women who were already abused? Are they not deserving of justice? The Val-d’Or police walk away without even a slap-on-the-wrist. This reminds me of Neil Stonechild, a young native man left to freeze on a cold Saskatchewan night by policemen who escaped any form of punishment. Human rights are respected if you are white, but if you are an Aboriginal woman, you are stripped of these rights by sadistic racists who are not only protected by the police, but are the police themselves.

Oral Histories Of The Lax Kw’alaams And Metlakatla First Nation Confirmed

By Lee Waters

According to a new genetic study, nearly 60% of native people living in a 9,000-year-old community in Canada died when European settlers brought diseases to which the local people had no immunity.

The research confirmed the oral histories of the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nation peoples, which told how they had lived in the area for millennia.

Lax Kw’alaams Band has lived in this area (Prince Rupert) for between 1000 and 6000 years. Credit: Image courtesy of Pacific NorthWest LNG

Lax Kw’alaams Band has lived in this area (Prince Rupert) for between 1000 and 6000 years. Credit: Image courtesy of Pacific NorthWest LNG

Researchers studied the genomes of 25 people who lived between 1,000 and 6,000 years ago on the north coast of British Columbia, then compared this to the DNA of 25 of their descendants who still live in the region.

Joycelynn Mitchell, a Metlakatla woman who co-authored a paper about the research in the journal Nature Communications, said, “First Nations history mainly consists of oral stories passed from generation to generation. “Our oral history tells of the deaths of a large percentage of our population by diseases from the European settlers. “Smallpox, for our area, was particularly catastrophic. We are pleased to have scientific evidence that corroborates our oral history. “As technology continues to advance, we expect that science will continue to agree with the stories of our ancestors.”

Scientists were able to show there had been a dramatic decline in population about 175 years ago, when European diseases swept through the local population. Their findings suggested there had been a “reduction in effective population size of 57 per cent.” The researchers found that a particular gene variant associated with the immune system, part of a group called HLA, had been beneficial for thousands of years, helping the body to identify diseases. But it proved to be a disadvantage after the arrival of European diseases and has since declined by 64 per cent, a fall described by the researchers as “dramatic.”

Pennsylvania State University biology professor Michael DeGiorgio, who took part in the study, said, “The only scenario compatible with this stark change in diversity is negative evolutionary selection, suggesting that previously advantageous HLA-gene variants became disadvantageous, possibly contributing to the population decline that occurred upon European contact,” according to The Independent Journal.

 

Nadine Caron – First Female First Nations Surgeon

by Frank Larue

Doctor Nadine Caron is Sagamok Anishnawbe, and she is the first female First Nations surgeon. Graduating from UBC’s medical school, she completed post-graduate fellowship training in endocrine surgeon oncology, earning her a master’s degree in public health.

Traditional Indigenous healing practices and Western medicine can co-exist, says UBC’s Dr. Nadine Caron. (Courtesy of Dr. Caron)

Traditional Indigenous healing practices and Western medicine can co-exist, says UBC’s Dr. Nadine Caron. (Courtesy of Dr. Caron)

“I’m often asked what it feels like to be the first female First Nations graduate from UBC School of Medicine, and that means a lot,” says Caron. “I was the first not because I was special, but because of where we are as a society in Canada. I think it’s made a lot of people reflect on the fact that we need to focus on increasing the numbers not only of First Nations female physicians and surgeons, but of the representation of indigenous peoples in Canadian health-care professions across the board.”

Caron has dealt with stereotypes, but it has never prevented her from completing her courses or doing her work.

“I remember this one time,” she recalls, “it was many years ago. A surgeon came in [who] had just finished a long case. He sat down and was like, ‘phew, if I never operate on another Indian, it’ll be too soon.” Even though Caron has attained her career goals, she still experiences instances such as this. “Sometimes I’m so optimistic, and then on other days I experience things in the hallways, or I hear things that are unintended to be heard, and you just hang your head.” She continued to express that the only way stereotyping will decline is if people, indigenous or of any other race, continue to challenge such instances.

Caron’s interest’s go beyond her surgeon talents. When asked what could be done to improve the public health system, she uses an analogy. “As a surgeon, you’re sometimes the person pulling someone else out of the river who’s drowning. You might save that person, and that’s great, but eventually someone has to go upstream to figure out why everyone’s falling in. I realized that if I could step out of that clinical spectrum and divide my time into other areas of public health – and in mentoring and teaching – that I could start to understand a bit more about why we are falling-in as a society, and start to fill those gaps.”

A medical profession is a difficult journey, but Caron has been successful with a combination of intelligence, determination, and willpower. As mentioned previously, Caron would like to see more First Nation students in the medical profession.

“When I’m asked what advice I would give to an indigenous youth right now in Canada, there’s much, but above-and-beyond any other would be believe in yourself. Don’t let what other people say sway you from your beliefs, sway you from your dreams, sway you away from what you want to do. There are enough people in the world who will tell you that it’s going to be too hard, that you won’t be able to make it. Don’t ever let your voice be one of those who you hear saying that.”

Caron was also the recipient of the Indigenous Health Award for 2016. The award established in 2014 in honour of Dr. Thomas Dignan, whose advocacy was towards eradicating disparities in the care of Canada’s indigenous people.

“I have followed his accomplishments with great interest over the years,” expresses Caron. “This national award honours physicians who mirror Dr. Dignan’s zeal, devotion, and dogged pursuit of justice for Canada’s Indigenous population.”