Onkwehonwe Week in Review (March. 2 – March 9)

Chief confronted over medicine pouch by airport security

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is facing controversy over two separate debacles regarding sacred items belonging to Indigenous peoples.The latest incident involves Chief Arlen Dumas of Pukatawagan Mathias Colomb First Nation and the medicine pouch he was carrying around his neck. After entering the security screening area in Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, M.B., Dumas and his son were selected for a body scan. A security guard began to question his medicine pouch. Medicine pouches are common items carried by Indigenous peoples around their necks, usually filled with sacred medicines. Although Dumas explained the significance of his pouch, the guard remained suspicious. “He was very disrespectful and rude,” said Dumas. “And when Pam tried to tell him the cultural significance of the medicine pouch and that I was a chief, the guard said, ‘What’s a chief?’” Dumas was traveling alongside his partner Pam Palmater, a vocal Indigenous rights activist to attend a medical appointment regarding his son’s health. The security guard continued to rip open the broadcloth that held his medicines, a mix of tobacco, cedar and sage. According to Dumas, he kept saying, “This is obviously marijuana and smells like it too.” This is just weeks after Manitoba’s Regional Chief Derek Nepinak filed a complaint regarding the way his sacred items were unwrapped and handled by security guards during screening before a flight. “I don’t know what this man’s beliefs are but whatever they are, his job is to be professional. Security is supposed to be there for our protection, not to insult people,” said Dumas. Both Nepinak and Dumas are encouraging the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to implement Indigenous Cultural Sensitivity Training.

Climate talks between Chiefs and Federal government “fall apart”

Last week in Vancouver, Chiefs from across Turtle Island attended a Climate Talk hosted by Justin Trudeau. Some who attended were not invited, such as Athabasca Chipwayan Chief Allen Adams. Chief Adam’s community is three hours north of Alberta’s tarsands and faces increased rates of cancer and illness in both humans and animals. “I think Canada’s in a crisis and it ain’t going to get any better now. Canada failed terribly, the province’s failed terribly in regards to addressing this issue,” said Adams after storming out of the meetings early. He continued on to say that there were no talks of caring for Mother Earth, instead the focus was on economic development and transitioning to a green economy.

Ontario’s Regional Chief Isadore Day echoed Adam’s sentiment: “What it all boils down to is us going back to our communities and having to explain that we didn’t really have any say or input and that nothing was resolved.” Justin Trudeau and the Provincial Ministers convened their meeting until March 3 and issued a Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change. According to the Declaration, the government has plans to, “work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples across the country to ensure a more sustainable and prosperous future for Canada.” MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson continued on to say, “Our Indigenous leaders need to be respected and given the space to share our concerns. We shouldn’t have to beg for time with the Prime Minister. We should have time to speak with him on a nation to nation basis that he keeps talking about and we have yet to see that.”

“Non-Aboriginals” on list of Algonquins set to vote on modern treaty

According to a report commissioned by Kebaowek First Nation, a community with substantial territorial overlap in the Algonquins of Ontario comprehensive land claim, there are several individuals who are on the list because they claim to have an Algonquin ancestor “somewhere in the distant past.” The Algonquins of Ontario modern day treaty is a comprehensive land claim which covers 3.6 million hectares of land, including Algonquin Park. 72 individuals were flagged because they had the same “root ancestor”, a woman from Timiskaming First Nation born in 1822 and died in 1870. Toronto lawyer, Bob Potts who is the leading negotiator said the proposed modern treaty takes a “progressive view of Indigenous identity, not tied to blood, but whether culture and community ties were maintained over the last 200 years.” However, Hayden King, director for the Centre for Indigenous Governance and assistant professor of Politics at Ryerson University said the AOO claim’s standard for determining membership appeared to make it easier for the federal government to get its desired extinguishment for a large swath of territory. “This actually reminds me of the old Indian Act provisions designed to facilitate land surrenders.” Kebaowek First Nation Chief Lance Haymond agrees. “These non-Aboriginal people are being allowed to vote in a process of extinguishment and it is just wrong.”

Manitoba FN calls for help after four teens take their own lives

700 kilometres north of Winnipeg, Pimicikamak First Nation held a suicide prevention walk to find healing and to bring awareness to the issue of teenage suicide. In the past three months, four teenagers took their own lives, with two others sent to Winnipeg after they attempted the same. Last Thursday, the community gathered to find solace with each other and to let others know who were suffering that they weren’t alone. “Our town is invaded with drugs and alcohol. People get money, welfare, child tax. Some people don’t even give their kids their family allowance. They just go drink it up, slots, drugs, whatever they can get,” said Amber Muskego, 17. “That’s what’s taking over our town. Our young people are turning to drugs and alcohol.” Some community members feel that the lack of opportunity presents hopelessness for the youth as well. Mental health workers are in the schools talking with “high risk students.”


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