Spence’s resolve still strong in hunger strike
Brent Kaesler/Special to Wawatay News
On the eighth day of her hunger strike, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is still committed to her cause of fighting for First Nations rights.
“Theresa is feeling tired but her spirit is strong,” said Danny Metatawabin, Spence’s official spokesperson. “She’s thoroughly focused on what she needs to do: her hunger strike. She’s going to stay on Victoria Island for however long it takes to call a meeting with the prime minister and governor general.”
Spence began her hunger strike on Dec. 11 and said she would not end it until Stephen Harper and a representative of the Queen meets with her and First Nations leaders to discuss involving the First Nations in legislation affecting the communities. She stated she is willing to die in the process.
Chiefs and politicians have expressed concern for Spence’s health in her hunger strike. Metatawabin said other than tiredness, Spence is doing fine so far. She is coherent, mobile and sees a nurse practitioner every two days.
“Her mind is still strong” Metatwabin said. “We had a good chat this morning and she has high hopes for the people.”
During her hunger strike, Spence is staying in teepee on Victoria Island, just minutes away from Parliament Hill.
A spokesperson from the office of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada Minister John Duncan said the minister has offered to meet with her and has proposed a Jan. 3 meeting but has received no reply.
Metatawabin said Spence will only meet with Harper and Governor General David Johnston, both of whom have not yet responded to the request.
Spence’s hunger strike coincides with Idle No More, a grassroots movement that has grown internationally. Rallies have been held in cities across Canada, both to inform citizens of the legislation that is being unilaterally passed by the Harper government and to raise awareness of the issues. There are rallies being planned for some U.S. cities and even one in London, England.
Many participants of the rallies have expressed support for Spence on her hunger strike, and there are some chiefs and community members who fasted or started a hunger strike of their own in support of Spence.
“There’s a lot of prayers coming from across Canada and across the world, and she’s praying for us as well,” Metatawabin said. “That’s what’s keeping her going.”
On Dec. 15, a group of jingle dress dancers led by Naotkamegwanning (Whitefish Bay) dancers, including Chief Joyce White, performed a special dance for Spence at Victoria Island.
“It was very spiritual and uplifting and we’d like acknowledge the Elder who led the group and the jingle dress dancers,” Metatawabin said.
Spence has refused to speak to media during her strike. Metatawabin said he and her supporters are even discouraging visitors to Victoria Island because it uses up her energy.
“They just keep coming so at this point we’re going to put up a poster and designate a person to stand in front of the teepee because she needs to rest,” Metatawabin said.
A rally is planned for Parliament Hill on Dec. 21, but Metatawabin said Spence will likely not be there for it. But the Idle No More movement has her support.
“Because any change needs to happen at the grassroots level and we’re all asking for support from the chiefs across the nation,” Metatawabin said. “In order to be strong, we need to be unified in what we do for a good cause: to look after one another in the true spiritual intent of the Creator.”
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