The Assembly of First Nations and the newly divided department of Indigenous services DISC formerly Indian and Northern affairs have attempted to reduce the treaty or inherent right to education to a policy matter. Indian country in Canada has seen rapid changes in three months.
The Assembly of First Nations with task forces, joint committees, and high-level meetings has been hard at work securing their involvement in the devolution of Treaty and Inherent rights for the First Peoples in Canada.
First Nation organizations across Canada owe their allegiance to the acts of the Chiefs who responded to Trudeau the elder’s, 1969 White Paper. The resounding stance taken by the Treaty Chiefs with a unified voice signaled that the paternalistic and assimilation policies or proposed legislation would no longer be tolerated. In defeat, Trudeau the elder responded with funding national and regional organizations including the National Indian Brotherhood now called the Assembly of First Nations.
The Treaty Chiefs did not hesitate. Without cellphones or social media they banded together to stand against mainstream federal oppression. These Chiefs were glorious in their journey to Ottawa. They stood for the communal rights and protections of the sacred covenant that were passed to them as leadership. Following ceremony, protocol and transparent communications, these Chiefs were successful because they had spiritual power. Their actions signaled to the Federal Liberal party that we still hold the warrior mentality of our ancestors.
These same Treaty Chiefs took it upon themselves to visit the United Kingdom prior to the patriation of the Canadian constitution. Armed with spiritual guidance, travelling with elders and clear vision these Chiefs successfully lobbied the Great Britain Crown, so that fiduciary duty to uphold the treaties and inherent rights of the original peoples of this land would continue for time immemorial, and in the oppressor’s own document.
The actions of current “leadership” today December 4, 2017 are comic and tragic compared to our leaders in the past. Four years ago in 2013, a national chief was forced to resign for making deals with the Prime Minister behind closed doors.
This same event has recurred. The only difference is that the regional chiefs have been complicit in the treacherous action. What will be said of this day? Our chiefs are lost and powerless. They have been going from positions of leadership to positions of administration for years. Countless traditional people, elders and prophecies foretold that “leadership” would drift and sell out the communal rights of the people.
That day is here.
It is upon us. At the Special Chiefs Assembly on Education, Perry Bellegarde began his rehearsed speech by stating his commitment to work with Trudeau the younger. Perry spouted his usual rhetoric and his words are powerless. They do not hold the spiritual strength and conviction of former Chiefs. Perry’s words ring hollow. The gifting of an eagle staff was a unilateral move of Perry in September 2017. He left an elders meeting in Alberta to run to hand over the symbol of our sovereignty to colonized, capitalist countries. This is not a slight that has passed the notice of our ancestors.
At the AFN meeting, their own youth council stated that they no longer agree with the governance schemes of the AFN Executive, which includes Perry’s actions. The Youth spoke sternly with one united voice to say they will no longer stand by, while this organization tries to confuse the first people across the land. The Youth spoke with power. They spoke with vision. They spoke with unity and with an elder to make their statement. If there is any hope left for the future of the original people, it happened in this moment.
Following this discussion, an elder spoke again about the improper protocol of passing an eagle staff to an unworthy candidate. Then he failed to shake Perry’s hand as he left the stage.
These slights foretell a greater message. The colonial constructs that pretend to represent our people are no longer acceptable. When there are recommendations to implement our languages and inherent ways then there will be spiritual forces that help guide the return to our original ways. This is the failure of the federal government and all colonial partners. They have always failed to address the spiritual component that speaks to the blood memory of our people. They do not know that we are armed beyond their petty words, resolutions and duplicitous actions.
In the Education area, the traditional people refer to the life-long learning concepts of our people. Education is more than the proposed K-12 programs of the federal government. Education embodies the teachings, language, vision and ceremonial strength that flow through our people from cradle to grave. It is very sad and disheartening to see the Indian Act chiefs stumbling through the crafty traps set by the federal government. We are not watching leaders. We are watching the remnants of a people after Indian Affairs has interfered in years of governance. We are watching “stand around the fort” confused leaders who have neither the capacity or the vision to get or see truth in the trickster lies of the federal government or their own “representative” organizations.
Tragically, their understanding only can see what they are told, and they can only see what they are told to see in dollar amounts. Confusion reigned at the national chiefs meeting as several drafts of the proposed “Transforming First Nation Education proposed policy” was put forth without the accompanying information that the first batch of INAC (DISC) dollars went to establishing school boards. How are school boards relatable to the life-long understanding of education?
The chiefs could stand on the fact that they may not have had all the information. They could have walked out of the AFN.
This is the solution.
If Trudeau the younger, the feds, INAC or the newly structured DISC and Crown relations arm, truly want “reconciliation”, and understand our indigenous ways of doing things they will live stream all future negotiations. AFN will participate, keeping their role as co-ordinators, bringing the information to the people. As AFN and the executive, say they follow our ways; they will have no problem with this transparency.
Perry was right about our people being in poverty. He failed to mention it is our leadership and it is spiritual poverty. The treaty and inherent rights holders are the people and there will be ancestors to answer to, for all of us.