Onkwehonwe Week in Review: Week of January 13

RCMP confiscate moose meat from hunters in Pine Creek FN

PINE CREEK FIRST NATION, SK – On Dec. 15, 2015, Indigenous hunters from Pine Creek First Nation were bullied and harassed by conservation officers who refused to recognize the hunter’s treaty right to hunt in their ancestral territory.

Two homes were raided, belonging to Chief Charlie Boucher and his cousin George Lamirande.

“The Creator gave me that authority to harvest and take,” says Chief Boucher.  “I beg for us to be understood. This is an age of reconciliation.”

In an ironic twist, the moose meat was confiscated on the same day that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their final report.

With a soaring diabetes rate in Indigenous communities, traditional food sources are becoming more important to the health and well-being of Indigenous nations.  Despite the fact that Saskatchewan hands out tags to sports hunters every year, warrants were issued for two counts of unlawfully possessing and transporting moose meat over provincial borders.  During the raid, conservation officers were looking for moose meat, hunting equipment and two rifles.

“It’s a clear and unjustified infringement by the province of Saskatchewan on these hunters’ Aboriginal and treaty rights,” says Christine Cook, the lawyer for the two hunters.


Indigenous inmates in Regina go on hunger strike over jail food

REGINA, SK – Kenneth Morrison and more than 100 other inmates, many of them indigenous, have signed a petition to join a hunger strike protesting the bad food that they are being fed in Regina Correctional Facility.

“The meat is either uncooked or smells,” says Morrison from Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan.

The recent privatization of food services in prisons has been a controversial decision, but one that Regina Correctional Facility stands by.

Compass Group has been given a $5 million contract to, “ensure high quality meals will be served across the province.”  However, the inmates have a different story to tell.

“I just think this is inhumane what they’re serving us.  I wouldn’t serve this to my dog and what they’re doing is wrong and enough is enough,” says inmate Forrest Pelletier.

Morrison agrees, “It’s constantly getting worse.  They were sending lettuce that was brown.  Nothing has been digestible.”

It seems that this is an institutional problem.  First Nations make up the majority of those in custody.  Alvin Fiddler, Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, toured the Thunder Bay district jail and described the living conditions as “deplorable.” He also said, ”I think just the current state of how it’s being operated is a concern.”

According to Statistics Canada, Aboriginals account for 24 per cent of those incarcerated, while making up only 3 per cent of the Canadian population.


Hollywood representations: Leonardo DiCaprio and the Revenant

HOLLYWOOD, CA – The Revenant, a film by Alejandro Inarritus, was recently nominated for three Golden Globe awards. Considering Hollywood’s long history of producing culturally inaccurate films, The Revenant was praised for its commitment to cultural accuracy.

Craig Falcon is a cultural education consultant who was hired to help the director achieve authentic representations. Most days, the set would be filled with smudge smoke.

At the Golden Globes award ceremony, Leonardo DiCaprio won for his role in the film, taking home the Best Actor in a Drama statue.

“It is time that we recognized your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out to exploit them,” said DiCaprio in his acceptance speech.


Three killed in house fire in Oxford House First Nation

OXFORD HOUSE, MB – In a recent house fire on the Oxford House reserve which sits 950 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, three lives were lost.

Many in the community feel that it is a tragedy that could have been avoided.

“Maybe if we had adequate fire fighters and adequate equipment and adequate infrastructure, it might have made a difference,” says Oxford House Councillor, Luke Muskego.

Half of First Nations have little to no fire protection and are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire, according to a recent report.

The fire truck in Oxford House reportedly ran out water several times during the battle with the fire.

“The community will be in mourning from some time,” says Chief Tim Muskego.

But the community has rallied together in support of each other.

“Last night, a young lady from the community organized a candle light vigil, where the turnout was very enormous and we appreciate her effort and it really touched the family”, Muskego added.

In a community of 3000 people, where everyone know everyone, the grief is heartfelt.  “They’re always hoping their loved ones will show up,” Muskego said.

The RCMP says that foul play is not suspected.


Trans Mountain pipeline not supported by British Columbia government

BURNABY, BC – British Columbia’s provincial government says that it can’t support the $6.8 billion expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, BC.

In 2012, the province laid out five conditions that the project would have to meet in order to be given the green light.

“Kinder Morgan has not provided enough information around its proposed spill prevention and response for the province to determine if it would use a world-leading spills regime,” a government statement said.

However, the province did indicate that if Kinder Morgan were to meet the five conditions, that approval would be granted.

Kinder Morgan says it can do it but needs support from “multiple parties” including Indigenous nations upon whose territory the pipeline crosses.

If approved, the Trans Mountain expansion project would match an existing, 60 year old, pipeline that stretches 1,150 kilometres from Alberta’s tar sands to a marine terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia. The expansion project would triple the pipeline’s carrying capacity.

The news that the province would not support the expansion was welcomed by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson who says, “A seven fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Vancouver’s local waters is simply not worth the immense risks posed to our economy and environment in the event of a major oil spill.”

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