The Treaty 3 Grassroots Citizens Coalition, joined by off-reserve members of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen no.258, are walking to demand accountability from First Nations elected Chief and Council and to raise money for a legal fund. The walk began from the Treaty 3 east-end border at Lac des Milles Lacs First Nation and Saugeen First Nation, and is now passing through Dryden on the way to the Winnipeg Mint.
They are walking between 30km and 40km a day. Darlene Necan, spokesperson for the off-reserve members of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen no.258, says “It is hard because we’re trying to tough it out through rain and sun, and we have to scrounge for gas money (for the car following the walkers) along the way.”
The grassroots Peguis Accountability Coalition and other independent Anishinabec participants have also joined in supporting the Coalition’s walk.
The Coalition formed in 2008, and consists of 400 participants. It focuses on what it sees as a lack of accountability from First Nation leadership to its community members. The current campaign calls attention to the lack of federal funding reaching grassroots Anishinabec after being provided to the elected First Nations chief and councils.
The Coalition believes that the grassroots Anishinabec must hold their own elected leadership accountable. They see the Canadian court system as a possible avenue in this struggle, but are calling attention to the ways in which poor people cannot access the system. The Coalition is asking everyone in Canada to donate $2.00 to help them achieve their goals.
“We’re trying to develop a war chest so we can have something in place…Right now people are being threatened in their own communities when their own leadership tells them they’re going to take them to court for slandering them, or there are repercussions like your welfare check disappearing somehow,” says Kelvin Chicago, spokesperson for the Coalition.
“They’re very reluctant to do anything on reserves to tackle their chief and council. If there was something in place that they can be assured will protect them and could hire lawyers so we can tackle our chief and councils, that would balance it out.”
Darlene Necan states that “For me, joining the walk is about finding justice and seeking avenues for how we can pursue justice from our leadership.”
Kelvin Chicago states that some service providing groups are only starting to see the effects of Aboriginal services being cut back in funding. “When (their) wages and programs are in jeopardy only then do (they) want to do something. Now (they) know how the broke Anishinaba feels when they are not getting any benefits from the programs that are supposed to benefit them, ” says Chicago.
The Coalition believes in the journey toward healing and self-sufficiency for Anishinabec nations. Their walk for justice is but one stepping stone on this path.
Donations for the walk can be made directly to the account of the Coalition:
Treaty 3 Grassroots Citizens Coalition
Bank of Nova Scotia
Account # 902170097918