Northern chiefs offer support for Spence's hunger strike
Chiefs in northern Ontario are expressing their support for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence as she embarks on a hunger strike in Ottawa.
Spence said she will not stop her hunger strike until the prime minister and a representative of Queen Elizabeth II agree to meet with First Nations leaders to involve them in the legislative process that affects First Nations across Canada. She said she is “willing to die” unless her demands are met.
Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Stan Louttit said he and the seven other Mushkegowuk First Nations chiefs are united in their support of Spence. Mushkegowuk represents eight Cree communities in northeastern Ontario, including Attawapiskat.
Louttit said the communities signed Treaty 9 with the federal government in 1905 and 1906, and the Treaty recognized the continued usage of all Cree lands for hunting, fishing and trapping “as in the days of yore.” Yet the Harper government is in the process of passing Bill C-45, an omnibus bill that includes changes to the Indian Act and legislation affecting water and fisheries, areas which impact First Nations’ ability to exercise treaty rights, Louttit said.
“Canada continues to ignore the treaties as well as the provisions of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both of which have been endorsed by Canada,” Louttit said in a Dec. 13 media release. “Canada’s actions are unfair, paternalistic and extremely disrespectful of First Nations.
“This is why you will continue to see actions taken by First Nations leaders such as Chief Spence and others who are sick and tired of unilateral actions and decision making by government on matters that directly impact their people and communities.”
Grand Council Treaty #3, which represents 26 communities in northwestern Ontario and two in Manitoba, also acknowledged and announced support for the efforts of Spence.
Grand Chief Warren White said he and several chiefs met with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and Kenora MP Greg Rickford in August, where they wanted to establish a treaty table in an attempt to “reconcile outstanding treaty relationship issues.”
“Since then, there has been no response or willingness to engage on these matters which we consider to be of great importance,” White said in a statement.
“It is shameful that in order to get the attention of the federal government to deal honourably with outstanding issues…(Spence) is compelled to go on a hunger strike.”
Community members are also calling on for support for Spence.
Jingle dress dancers from Naotkamegwanning (Whitefish Bay), a Treat # 3 community, will be traveling to Ottawa to “dance the sacred jingle dress gifted to them” in support of Spence.
Rhonda and Jocelyn White are calling on other jingle dress dancers to join them at Victoria Island on Dec. 15 to perform the dance ceremony.
“The Sacred Jingle Dress Dance at Victoria Island will be an expression of the true meaning of the jingle dress, by dancing for healing for Ogimaa-kaan Spence and the healing of all Indigenous people at this time,” they said in a statement.
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