An open letter to the Indigenous Peoples Movement

Dear Indigenous Peoples Movement,

We need to talk about a serious issue threatening our livelihood and our collective inherit and treaty rights known as corporate sponsorship and the “Red-washing” agenda facing our artistic and education institutions.

Last week the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards (APCA) happened in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba and some of our brightest artists and their work were recognized.

But the APCA show was sponsored by some of the biggest violators of Indigenous/Treaty Rights in this country. A short list of these corporate criminals includes:

  • Transcanada Pipeline Corporations (Grand Rapids Mother Pipeline-Alberta, KXL-USA, Energy East-Alberta to New Brunswick pipelines)
  • Enbridge (Northern Gateway, Great Lakes Pipelines, Line9-Ontario-Main, Alberta Clipper-Minnesota)
  • Manitoba Hydro (Mega Hydro Expansion-Northern Manitoba)
  • Royal Bank of Canada (biggest financier of destructive fossil fuel and mining development in Canada most notably tar sands and associated pipelines.)
  • The Northern Company (food monopoly in northern Canada, price gouging, exploiting food deserts in First Nations Metis and Inuit communities)

These companies and their investors are committing genocide and ecocide on Indigenous peoples and our sacred lands and waters. They do this through their operations and by funding the lobby effort to deconstruct and attack our collective rights via the termination tables agenda. And yet are still able to be corporate sponsors of events like the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards.

A year ago I wrote the following on the corporate sponsorship of another high profile event Indispire.

“For those of you that recently went to the Indispire Awards Show (formally National Aboriginal Achievement Awards). You should know they approached me a couple years ago about receiving their National Award for Environmental work.

I told them no thank you, and that the minor recognition I would receive to the work I do from the award ceremonies and its associated PR machine would not come anywhere close to the social capital their corporate sponsors would receive by green washing (or redwashing in this case) their operations with my personal name. I didn’t want to give them the social license to operate as usual in our Native Lands by being showcased in front of Canada as “Good” corporate neighbours to First Nations. The truth of the matter is that we as Native Peoples continue to suffer under colonial occupation. We must end corporate sponsorship of our arts institutions by these genocidal corporations. Having a major mining company or energy company sponsor these events is no different then having Du Maurier or Players (Imperial) tobacco company sponsor our head start programs, or having a porn company sponsor a teen age body image campaign. They bring death, cancer and destruction to our people, land and water in all places they operate.”

I know that many of our peoples have become dependent on the economic benefits of these artistic and educational operations and I am not attacking this. I am however pointing out that this kind of private sector incursion into our institutions like the APCA greatly supports the devolution and termination agenda of the Federal Government to devolve their legal and fiduciary obligations as defined by our inherent rights and treaties. The corporate sponsorship agenda is to ‘Redwash’ many of the front line impacts that their investments and operations externalize on local communities.

Corporations and their ‘redwashing’ corporate sponsorship agenda is designed to blind First Nations, Inuit and Metis as well as Canadians into thinking these companies are all good because hey, they give so much back…right?

No, the money these companies give to the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards and other awards groups is nothing compared to the costs our Sovereign Nations absorb in the form of human and ecological health impacts, Treaty and aboriginal rights violations, violence against our Women, assimilation of our youth to an inherently unsustainable world and cosmos vision that directly violates our natural laws or original instructions.

We must not be afraid to call out injustice, we must not be muted by the perceived social license that the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards lends to these corporations. We are in a fight that is about corporate power vs. the carrying capacity of our sacred Mother Earth and the communities that depend on her for their livelihood.

I challenge all the recipients of this year’s 2014 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards to post your thoughts about these companies and their operations in your homelands. I encourage you to speak for your people who are being harmed, to speak for our water, our air our sacred earth, the cosmos and for your children yet unborn. Speak out even if your voice shakes.

Ekosani Maha, Ki Na Na Skomitin
Clayton Thomas-Muller
Pukatawagan Cree, Treaty 6 Territory

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