Friday, November 2, 2012

Chief Reginald Bellerose for Chiefs' Open Forum at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation

Report cards. Every school has them. Our first report card will go home on November 16th. Our marks are due into the "teacher logic" program by the 13th. I have had lots of angst over report cards in my career. What does an A mean anyway? What about a C or an F? Even better, or worse, are the numbers. You have a 67 in English, a 42 in Math, a 55 in Native Studies, a 90 in Wellness, a 65 in Cooking. Then there are those pass/fail classes.

In the following speech, Chief Bellerose of the Muskowekwan First Nation, says, "... I want to propose today... a Treaty report card. We need to fairly and honestly grade where we are at as First Nations, and our Treaty partner."

In Education it's pretty hip to talk about "Assessment for Learning" and "Assessment of Learning". In Assessment for Learning there is a focus on descriptive feedback with the expectation that the learner wants to learn and do something about it. This cycle of growth is based on informed reflection and purposeful action.

I admire Chief Bellerose's honesty and courage to invite assessment. I'm humbled and a little afraid of what the assessment will be for "the treaty partner" he refers to since "the treaty partner" is me and my people.

Just today, one of my students, Nathan Philp, handed in an overdue assignment called, "Think, Believe, Become" (which is our school motto). As one of his nine belief statements about education, Nathan wrote, "I believe if I fall behind I lose the will to work. I feel when I start to fall behind I think it's too late and I quit."

I have a few questions:
  1. Does the treaty partner know the content on which she is being assessed? (treaty implementation)
  2. Does the treaty partner have ears to hear the descriptive feedback? (from those who know the content)
  3. Does the treaty partner want to learn and grow?
  4. Does the treaty partner want to pass?
  5. What mark does the treaty partner want?
  6. Does the treaty partner feel she is too far behind and it's too late anyway, so she has already quit?
-- Sheena

Chiefs’ Open Forum

Reg Bellerose:  Chief, Muskowekwan First Nation

I would like to make some comments about what I, as a Chief, have to deal with on a daily basis.  I have listened to people talk about sovereignty, land, minerals, laws and self-government.  I want to focus on the people.  We need to re-awaken the people.  One of the first things we have to focus on is the effects of a welfare economy.  Elder Gerry Kayseas from Fishing Lake said it has been imposed on us, but our people have taken ownership of welfare.  That’s the outcome the imposers want to see.  Some of us are dealing with third or fourth generation families on welfare.  We come forward with jobs and opportunities and the first thing they ask is, "Will I have to pay my own power?”  And of course the answer is, yes.  Well, they don’t want that job if they have to pay their power bill.  This kind of attitude is an immediate and critical issue that we, as Leaders, have to look at.  The government is going to impose a policy that 18-24 year olds can’t be on welfare after April 1st.  I foresee a lot of problems in each First Nation as they try to deal with this.

The second thing we need to address is healing of our people and our communities.  We talk of sovereignty and different issues but we need to address healing and wellness.  We don’t need someone from outside the community telling us how to heal by proposing a clinical system.  We need our own system that we take ownership of through a balance of the spiritual, mental, social and economic needs.

We need to teach our parents how to be parents.  Those old ladies that help bring children into the world need to be utilized in terms of how you care for a child.  A result of that nasty education system that was imposed on us is a loss of parenting skills.  That affects education today.  You work with a child and when corrective action has to be taken, the parent thinks the best thing to do is to go in the school and fight for your kid, not fully understanding what’s in the child’s best interests.

The third area in terms of sovereignty is spiritual help.  The Elders that are here acknowledge our Creator.  I want to reach out to you and tell you that we do need you.  It’s a critical time.

So I look at the people and ask what steps we need to take.  We can achieve sovereignty through the land.  Those Indian Reserve pegs have done a lot of good in keeping us together.  Our reserved land is still there and so are we.  Recently we’ve been focusing on generating our own revenue.  We cannot continue to depend on contribution agreements to fuel our Nationhood.  There are some fiscal transfers that come from the Crown according to Treaty and fiduciary obligations, but we must accept responsibility for funding our governments as well.

We need law-making to assert Treaty and Inherent rights.  In Touchwood, we have hunting and wildlife laws but we need to build up the oral history component of our law-making process so it’s not written down by a judge or a court.  In this law-making process, we need to define our expert witnesses as the Elders and Chiefs because of our role in our communities.  We’re generating law but leaving it up to a judge to determine our expert witnesses.  In the Touchwood Wildlife Management Act, there’s only one small sentence saying it’s an oral-based law.  We need to be more aggressive in expanding our interpretation of oral testimony and oral law.

One of the things I want to propose today is a Treaty report card.  We need to fairly and honestly grade where we are at as First Nations, and our Treaty partner.  I hear about it when a Band member can’t pay for a prescription or if they get a generic drug, which is happening more and more.  They go to the dentist and can’t get a tooth fixed.  They may be having problems with their eye glasses and Health Canada won’t pay for new glasses.  This has to be reported and dealt with.  Our goal in the grading system is to get to an A+ but you can’t go from an F to and A+ in one year.  We have to work on it and the first step is to record the Treaty breach.  I propose to the Treaty 1 to 11 Movement that we develop a Treaty report card to track how Canada honours its Treaty obligations. 

For Treaty implementation, we must focus on reclaiming lands and resources and clarifying the underlying title as belonging to First Nations.  Self-determination begins with language and culture; I’m learning the language myself.  I am also re-thinking today whether I should be part of AFN or not.  I see the impact of the decisions we make as Chiefs and we’re the ones that have to live with that, not the AFN or the National Chief.

(Key lines bolded by Sheena)

page 40-41 , excerpt from
Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation

Dakota Dunes Casino and Conference Center
March 29 & 30, 2012

shared as public document with permission from
Dan Bellegarde, Executive Director, Treaty Governance Office

CD of Chiefs' Forum on treaty Implementation available for $5.00
or free transcript is available
by contacting Dan Bellegarde at

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