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Win for ‘Rightful Stewards of the Land’: Canadian Court Sides With First Nations | Common Dreams

Win for ‘Rightful Stewards of the Land’: Canadian Court Sides With First Nations

Ruling marks first time Canadian Supreme Court grants aboriginal land title

– Max Ocean, editorial intern


A First Nations protest At Queen’s Park in Ontario (Credit: Rainforest Action Network/cc/flickr)In a landmark ruling on Thursday with potential implications for the planned Northern Gateway pipeline, Canada’s Supreme Court unanimously granted an aboriginal land title to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, giving them claim to more than 1,700 square kilometers in British Columbia.

“British Columbia breached its duty to consult owed to the Tsilhqot’in through its land use planning and forestry authorizations,” the 81-page decision (pdf) states.

“I didn’t think it would be so definitive,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “I was actually prepared for something much less.”

The decision rejected the narrow view of what qualified for protection under aboriginal rights from a 2012 ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal. While the lower court had said aboriginal groups must be able to prove intensive historical use of a specific site, Thursday’s decision accepts a broader set of criteria particularly important for the Tsilhqot’in, a historically “semi-nomadic” people. Indigenous groups must now prove a looser definition of occupation, continuity of habitation on the land, and exclusivity in an area in order to be granted a title.

“It only took 150 years, but we look forward to a much brighter future,” said Chief Phillip. “This without question will establish a solid platform for genuine reconciliation to take place in British Columbia.”

The ruling will potentially apply to any lands in the country that were never ceded to the crown, including lands which the Northern Gateway pipeline is slated to run through, and many others that have been the sites of development and resource extraction.

“They are the rightful stewards of their lands, and should be the ones to decide if and how they are developed,” said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians,which intervened in the case in support of the Tsilhqot’in, in a statement released by the group. She stated her optimism that the decision is a sign “that there is no blank cheque for the Northern Gateway project.”

While the Tsilhqot’in are overjoyed with the ruling, there may be some unforeseen negative aspects to it that will still allow for corporate exploitation of aboriginal lands. As the Toronto Starreports:

… [T]he ruling will also be welcomed by industry and governments because the high court says provincial and federal governments may regulate economic activity like forestry on title lands. Lawmakers can do so either by consulting and getting consent of the aboriginal group, or by establishing a pressing and substantial public purpose and ensuring the regulated activity fulfils the Crown’s “fiduciary” duty to act in good faith for the benefit of aboriginal peoples.


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A Plea to Save Wounded Knee

Guest Commentary

A Plea to Save Wounded Knee

Joseph Brings Plenty in Native Condition. Discussion »

The Lakota Sioux word “takini” means “to die and come back” but is usually translated more simply as “survivor.” It is a sacred word long associated with the killing of scores of unarmed Lakota men, women and children by soldiers of the United States Army’s Seventh Cavalry in the winter of 1890.

Wounded Knee Memorial GraveyardWounded Knee Memorial Graveyard

Wounded Knee was the so-called final battle of America’s war on its Native peoples. But what happened was hardly a battle. It was a massacre.

A band of several hundred Lakota led by Big Foot, a chief of the Mnicoujou Sioux, was intercepted and detained by troops as they made their way from the Cheyenne River Reservation to Pine Ridge for supplies and safety. After a night of drinking, the bluecoats were disarming warriors the next morning when a shot went off. Soldiers opened fire with their Hotchkiss machine guns. At least 150 but perhaps as many as 300 or more Lakota died.

Our fight to survive as a people continues today, a struggle to preserve not just our culture and our language but also our history and our land. Though I now live on the western reaches of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, I grew up in Pine Ridge, among my Oglala kin just a few miles from Wounded Knee. One member of my family survived the killing; others died.

The killing ground stirs great emotion in all of our people, memories of bodies frozen into twisted shapes, of those who were hunted down and murdered as they fled, and of those who escaped in bitter cold across wind-swept plains. These stories have been handed down to us and live within us.

One story I remember vividly was told to me when I was about 8 by a tribal elder, a very old woman whose mother had survived the bloodshed as a child. The old woman’s mother told her how her own mother had gathered her up when the bullets started flying. Just then, a young horse warrior galloped past and took the child up in his arms to help her escape. As she looked back, she saw her mother shot down, her chest torn open by bullets. She told her daughter that she remembered tasting the salt in her tears. The old woman told me all this after I had knocked over a saltshaker. Salt still reminded her of her mother.

There are many such stories. The spiritual power of the place explains why members of the American Indian Movement took it over in 1973 to call the nation’s attention to the economic and cultural injustices against our Native brothers and sisters.

Wounded Knee Memorial GraveyardChief Big Foot Frozen body after the Wounded Knee Massacre

Now, our heritage is in danger of becoming a real-estate transaction, another parcel of what once was our land auctioned off to the highest bidder. The cries of our murdered people still echo off the barren hills, the cries we remember in our hearts every day of our lives. But they may finally be drowned out by bulldozers and the ka-ching of commerce.

The Wounded Knee site passed from the Oglala into private hands through the process known as allotment, begun in the late 1800s, by which the federal government divided land among the Indians and gave other parcels to non-Indians. The idea was to shift control of our land from the collective to the individual and to teach the Lakota and other Native Americans the foreign notion of ownership. But to us, the policy was just another form of theft.

The private owner of the Wounded Knee site, who has held title to the 40 acre plot since 1968, wants to sell it for $3.9 million. If the Oglala of Pine Ridge don’t buy it by May 1, it will be sold at auction.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is one of the poorest places in the United States, and the Oglala, who are deeply in debt, would be hard pressed to meet the price. Many elders properly ask why any price should be paid at all. The federal government should buy this land and President Obama should then preserve it as a national monument, just as he did last month at five federally owned sites around the country, including one in Maryland honoring Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

The massacre site has great meaning not just for the Lakota but for all First Nations and every American. Wounded Knee should remain a sacred site where the voices of the Ghost Dancers, who more than a century ago danced for the return of our old way of life, still echo among the pines, where the spirits of our elders still walk the hills, and where “takini” still has meaning: the survival of our collective memory.

Joseph Brings Plenty, a former tribal chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, teaches Lakota culture at the Takini School on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

posted April 13, 2013 8:40 am edt


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Idle No More: Shawn Atleo announces return to helm of Assembly of First Nations, as Chief Theresa Spence agrees to end fast | Canada | News | National Post

Michel Comte / AFP / Getty Images Michel Comte / AFP / Getty Images A young girl and an elder gather on Victoria island for a march on Canada’s parliament in support of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s strike on January 11, 2013.

Shawn Atleo will return to the helm of the Assembly of First Nations just as Chief Theresa Spence is slated to end her fast on Thursday morning, signalling the next phase in a First Nations push to engage with the federal government on treaty implementation.

National Chief Atleo, who has been on doctor-ordered medical leave since Jan. 14, will resume his full duties following a ceremony at a special assembly of British Columbia chiefs in Vancouver at 9:15 a.m. local time Thursday morning.

According to a statement released by the AFN, which has been dogged by infighting and a battle of wills over how to deal with the Harper government, Mr. Atleo will address the assembly and emphasize the way forward and the need to maintain momentum now to achieve real progress and transformative change for First Nations citizens.

With the intensifying demand and opportunity to achieve justice, fairness and political, social and economic development for First Nations, National Chief Atleo will provide an update and set out expectations for next steps, the statement says.

Mr. Atleo will be joined by the assemblys B.C. regional chief and the man he appointed to carry out his duties in his stead, regional chief Roger Augustine, who represents New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. All three chiefs will address leaders gathered at a two-day assembly at a Vancouver recreation centre, which kicks off Thursday.

About an hour before Mr. Atleo officially resumes his duties, at 11 a.m. local time in Ottawa, Ms. Spence and Manitoba edler Raymond Robinson who have held off on solid foods since mid-December in a failed bid to secure a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and First Nations leaders will speak publicly about breaking their fast.

Negotiations to end the fast which began more than 40 days ago when she left her northern Ontario community to set up camp on Victoria Island had already ramped up earlier this week, but the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reported that Ms. Spence faced pressure from within her own council.

They are coming in tonight, a source close to Ms. Spence told APTN. Then it will end.

A statement released by Ms. Spences camp on Wednesday evening confirmed the Attawapiskat chief would end her high-profile liquid-diet protest now that opposition leaders and First Nations supporters have endorsed a Declaration of Commitment.

The 13-point declaration, which among other things promises to maintain pressure on the Harper government to launch a thorough review of its two omnibus budget bills, was endorsed by the AFN executive, the Native Womens Association of Canada, the NDP national caucus and the Liberal Party, the statement said.

Manitoba chiefs gathered in Winnipeg for a two-day assembly also threw their formal support behind the declaration, calling Ms. Spence a brave warrior and commending her for bringing global awareness of the issues impacting Indigenous people across the country.

The statement released jointly by three Manitoba chiefs organizations, with the support of visiting chiefs from Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan struck a stern tone, saying the sovereign Nation-Crown Relationship is severely impaired by the Government of Canada.

Mr. Atleo also expressed his appreciation for Ms. Spences protest.

Our shared goal is simple and clear: to guarantee that our children can achieve the brighter future that they deserve, he said in an AFN statement. This is what every Chief across this country, every member of the Assembly of First Nations, will continue to fight to achieve.

National Post, with a file from The Canadian Press

(This story is a repost from the link below-http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/01/23/theresa-spence-agrees-to-end-44-day-hunger-protest-as-atleo-returns-to-afn-leadership/)

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Attawapiskat chief launches hunger strike to force treaty meeting with PM, Queen

Attawapiskat chief launches hunger strike to force treaty meeting with PM, Queen

National News | 10. Dec, 2012 by APTN National News | 0 Comments
Attawapiskat chief launches hunger strike to force treaty meeting with PM, Queen

APTN National News
OTTAWA–Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence plans to begin a hunger strike in Ottawa this week and continue until Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Queen agree to a treaty meeting with First Nations in Canada or she meets her “ancestors.”

Spence was supposed to begin her hunger strike in Ottawa Monday morning but weather delayed her flight into the city from Toronto. Spence arrived in the city at about 11 a.m. and she planned to hold a press conference later in the day. She was also scheduled to have a conference call with former AFN candidate Pam Palmater and members from the Idle No More campaign, which also kicked off Monday.

Spence plans to begin her hunger strike on Tuesday morning.

Spence said in an open-letter she wouldn’t end her hunger strike until Harper and Queen Elizabeth II or one of her representatives agreed to the treaty meeting.

“I will return to my traditional territory after such a meeting is held, or return to spend time with my ancestors in the traditional lands of my people,” said Spence, in an open letter released early Monday morning.

In the open letter, Spence said she decided to go on a hunger strike after “months” of consideration and meetings with elders.

“After a long period of reflection, the time is at hand for a clear statement,” said Spence.

Spence said the Canadian government was trying to “isolate” and “assimilate” First Nations people.

“This process of marginalizing our political leadership, along with the enforced segregation of our people is part of a deliberate (attempt) to isolate our people, marginalize our people and ultimately assimilate our people so that our rich heritage can be wiped out and the great bounty contained in our traditional lands be made available for exploitation by large multi-national companies,” said Spence.

Spence plans to spend her days during the hunger strike on Parliament Hill and her evenings on nearby Victoria Island where she will sleep inside a cabin there.

The Attawapiskat chief will be meeting with Assembly of First Nations officials before beginning her hunger strike. The AFN is helping her with her protest, said Danny Metatawbin, from Attawapiskat. An AFN spokeswoman said Spence’s hunger strike was “a personal initiative.”

Spence’s community of Attawapiskat burst onto the national consciousness last fall after images of the community’s deplorable housing flashed across the country’s television screens.

The Harper government, however, attacked the community, blaming the band for its housing situation. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan took away the band’s control over its finances and imposed a third-party manager.



Native Rights Emergency in Canada RIGHT NOW- Bill C-428 (Please Share widely!)

I just received the text below in an email from my friend Harrison Friesen, who is a Native activist in Canada. I am going to do some research on C-428 and post articles as soon as I can. WordPress seems to hate my computer as it refuses to load 90% of the time so it may take me a bit to get things posted. Please feel free to share this, I think we are going to need some help and solidarity from people all over, both in Canada and other countries.
It appears to me that the cabal in their cornered rat phase are simply stepping up and making more obvious and severe all the horrid things they already do-so doing their utmost to disenfranchise and harm Native peoples is no surprise. It can’t be allowed to go forward tho-so please do whatever you can by sharing info, emailing leaders, protesting, praying etc and I will post more info as soon as I am able.

“The Harper Govt’s attempt to extinguish first nations rights is part of a plan not only to take away what our people have today but also what belongs to our children in the future.. If this bill C-428 passes the XL pipeline and the Enbridge pipeline will go through without hesitation and so will Bill C 45.
They will destroy the lands and poison the waters that belong to our children and our grandchildren..Under Bill C-428 without our treaties we can no longer fight as a first nation. We will become municipalities and will no longer have our reserves.. Those reserves that are not ready for self governence today will be most effected.. The people in those communites will suffer as their own people will have no choice but to head to urban cities to surive. Therefore breaking the circle that keeps us alive..

The threat is so serious that own Chiefs yesterday tried to storm the Parliament building in Ottawa… In the past I have stood amongst warriors and I have participated in blockades, occupations, stand offs and many protests across this country.. I have seen the fucking fear in their eyes first hand and I have seen them retreat right in front of me.. They are not invincible..
Today we must fight and make stand like no other in our history.. I myself am not afraid to be imprisoned or to give my life to defend our nations, mother earth or the future of my children and grandchildren.. We are about to be wiped out!! And in the words of sitting bull, if we are going to die, we are going defending our rights. What happened in Oka in 1990 will be nothing compared to what is about to take place. Creator protect us all.” Harrison Friesen December 5, 2012