Onkwehonwe week in Review: August 17, 2016

Caldwell First Nation hosts first ever pow wow on rematriated lands


Last weekend, a unique celebration happened; a powwow on land that was rematriated through the settlement of a 200-year-old land claim. The federal government approved a $105 million settlement that provided the opportunity for Caldwell to purchase 200 acres of farmland in Leamington, Ontario.

“This means the world to us, this is what we are trying to do, this is our land, this is our home,” said Janne Peters, Caldwell First Nation councillor. “Our ancestors are in this area so having this today and tomorrow will give our ancestors a bit of closure. Our people were driven from Point Pelee. This is our home. This is where our ancestors chose to live and to raise their children. This is our home, this is where we belong and today will be the best day ever.”

“When you hear the music, when you hear the drumming, that is at the heart of our spirit and it will go through you and it will attach itself to you, it will be a whole different spiritual experience for anybody.  Our ancestors are in this area.”

The Anishnaabek of Caldwell First Nation have historically occupied the territories across Essex and Kent County, near Windsor, Ontario. “The pow wow represents coming back to the land,” said Assistant to the Powwow Co-ordinator Isabel Lewis. Approximately 6,000 people joined, including a Syrian refugee youth group.


Grandmothers stand up against natural gas pipeline in Walpole Island

Last Monday, a small group of grandmothers stood in front of machinery to stop a proposed natural gas pipeline from breaking ground in their community. “I was just on my way to say my prayers and then that motor started up and they were going to dig,” said Corrine Tooshkenig, one of the grandmothers. “I just went and grabbed onto that monster. That’s all I did. I started crying, waving, yelling. You chase unwanted spirits away from you.”

“When I saw the welcoming ceremony in front of the Water Treatment facility, and knowing the history of gas and oil extraction, and the fracking that goes behind it … it is not a friendly enterprise,” said Tooshkenig.

Walpole Island First Nation posted a press release on their website on July 27 announcing their partnership with Union Gas and the approval of the first phase of natural gas infrastructure expansion in the community. The press release goes on to speak of benefits to the Walpole Island community including “decreased overhead for economic development ventures and governance operations,” more affordable heating for homes and an increased ability to attract economic development.

They also announced that the project was funded in collaboration with Aboriginal Affairs and through Walpole Island First Nation band council.

They said that the first phase of the project would include the installation of a pipe underneath the Snye River and that the project would break ground on Monday, August 8. “We are looking out for the safety of our children, or the water, or Mother Earth,” said Grandmother Marie Short.  “All those things that were given to us as grandmothers. We have to watch out for our babies.

Where that line is running is right by the school too, so if anybody hits it … kaboom.”

The grandmothers insist that the work is being done without community consultation or consent.

Following the work disruption, Walpole Island First Nation band council hosted community meetings consecutively for two evenings. Upon hearing from both sides, the band council voted unanimously to continue with the project. The work is set to resume on August 15. Chief and Council refused the request tor a community vote and went so far as to change the time and location of the second meeting without prior notice.

Following the decision, the grandmothers went to St. Clair River to pray. “I can’t help but cry,” said Grandmother Marie Short. “All we can do now is sit back and watch … there’s nothing else we can do.”


Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says RCMP has fuelled racial tensions in Saskatchewan

Colton Boushie, 22, was murdered by 54-year-old Gerald Stanley on August 9 after the car he was in got a flat tire. The group of young indigenous people were approaching Stanley’s farm to ask for help. Stanley has since been charged with second-degree murder.

“The news release the RCMP issued the following day provided just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron. The group is calling for an immediate review of RCMP communication policies and writing guidelines. They are also demanding an assurance that “this tragedy will be investigated for what it is, a crime based on race.”

The Assembly of First Nations also released a statement calling out the racist comments being made online. “To see racist, derogatory comments about this young man and about First Nations people online and on social media in response to this tragedy is profoundly disturbing,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

RCMP Superintendent Rob Cameron read a response that said, “It is a priority for us to work to contribute to the long term wellness and safety of Saskatchewan communities and through an inclusive and culturally competent police service.” However, according to Cameron, “The RCMP news release kind of leads readers to believe a crime was about to be committed and therefore deserved retaliation that obviously resulted in the tragedy of a young man.”

Robert Innes, a University of Saskatchewan Indigenous Studies professor in Regina said, “You can see that the racial tension is basically a tinder box in Saskatchewan. There’s a real fear and contempt towards Indigenous men by many white people to the point that they will shoot before asking questions. A lot of people who are on social media are happy that this person was shot and believe it was justified. That, to me, is kind of disturbing in a lot of ways.”


Teenage sweethearts killed by trusted friend in Whitefish Lake First Nation

Cory Grey and Dylan Laboucan went missing on July 23 from the trailer where they lived with Laboucan’s parents. They were murdered by Edward Devin Boyce Gladue, a lifetime friend and cousin of Dylan. Laboucan’s body was found on July 25. Grey’s body was found the next day.  Both were found on different well sites on the reserve and had been shot to death.

Gladue called Becky Thunder, Laboucan’s mother, when her son went missing. The following day he came to the Laboucan’s residence. “He had the nerve to come to my residence and deny everything,” Thunder said. Before the young couple went missing, they hadn’t seen much of Gladue.

Thunder said friends of her son told her that Gladue was “obsessed” with Laboucan’s girlfriend and was jealous of their success. “Edward had nothing going for him. He was a drop out,” Thunder said. “We will be burying them together because they belong together.”

The young couple had dreams and ambitions. Both graduated from Grade 12 and had plans to leave the reserve to attend Northern Lakes College. “These students were taking advantage of every opportunity that was thrown their way,” said high school teacher Dave Hurley. “They were going to post secondary school. They had beat all kinds of odds.”

Gladue was arrested without incident in Peace River, Alberta.  A two day wake was held earlier this month followed by a joint funeral.


Another salmon festival cancelled because of lack of sockeye

Horsefly, British Columbia cancelled their annual festival due to a severe shortage of Fraser River sockeye salmon. “Basically, there’s not going to be any fish for anyone to look at,” said Maureen La Bourdais, chair of the Horsefly River Roundtable. The Horsefly River spawning ground in B.C.’s Interior usually sees more than 100,000 sockeye salmon, but this year only 3,000 arrived. “It’s frustrating because this is something we’ve seen coming. They haven’t just disappeared.”

Low salmon returns prompted the Cohen Commission, a report written in 2012, which made 75 recommendations on how to prevent the further decline of Fraser River sockeye.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has since promised to incorporate as many recommendations as possible after years of silence on the issue. Many concerns voiced by the Cohen Commission include the huge impact of the “salmon farming industry” on wild salmon, including Fraser River sockeye salmon.

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