Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Vice Chief Bobby Cameron on Land and Resources at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation

April 2009. Mary Robillard, my former student, and Victoria Koops, my daughter had contacted each other through Facebook and Bibo. When Mary learned we were coming to Black Lake, she told Victoria that her father, Ted Robillard, was available for translating if I wanted to talk to any elders. Once we were in town, we ran into Mary on the Good Friday walk to the shrine, and she said her dad would phone me.  

Ted wondered what kind of stories I was interested in. I explained that I was writing a sequel to my first novel. In my first novel my main character meets an Archaeologist and her son who are researching in the main character’s valley, and who also happen to be Dene. In the sequel my main character travels North to a Dene community (just like I did) and learns about a whole new world. I told Ted I was interested in any stories, but when he pressured me for a little more detail, I said I was interested in stories about dog sleds, caring for dogs, dog sled races, winter carnival, caribou hunting, and I had written down “white people coming north” but I never told this last one to Ted.

In my first conversation with Ted he told me that he and all his brothers (six in total) all knew how to hunt and trap. Their parents had raised them on the trap line. He was telling me about the importance of dogs and how you were always getting food for them. He said, “Fish are like fuel.” He suggested we talk with people like Peter Nilghe, Moise and Mary Jane Yooya. He said they knew a good story about Leon Medal who passed away in the 90’s. A story about survival. He mentioned names, Pierre, Martin, Bonniface.

My first interview is with Ted's dad, Elder Simon Robillard.

Simon Robillard remembers in 1937 the influenza went through Fond Du Lac. There were 35 families gathered and they heard that some people had died. 15 people had died. They were north of Black Lake, Porcupine River, Fond Du Lac

Simon tells about taking two dog teams in 1942 with Grandpa to Waldal Lake. His grandparents raised him. They were very strong. He showed me a picture of his grandfather, Pierre Laban who has a wing in Father Porte Memorial Dene school named for him. In the picture was also his grandmother. They stand strong, side-by-side, with slightly sloped shoulders and they are elderly. His grandparents never saw a radio or a skidoo. His grandfather would go all the way to Buffalo Narrows and he went twice on business to Isle la Cross by dog sled. Once he went and the people in Isle La Cross wouldn’t buy his furs because he was bragging.

He tells me many more stories, and near the end of our interview he speaks of Treaty.

"In 1898 there was the treaty. They fooled us; lots of chiefs were sucked into signing treaties. They didn’t want to. If we didn’t have treaties, we would have self-government. There is pollution and the oil. What about the children? The Cree were treated very poorly like us.

"1940. Maybe earlier, Stony Rapids was our land, but the government took it away.

"Today the Cree are very educated. Some are lawyers. We need to help each other.

We exchange thank you’s and then Simon says that he should have shown me some hand games. I say that I thought women weren’t allowed to see hand games. Ted and his dad talk back and forth in Dene. Ted tells me that we must have been tricked, or someone was teasing. They tell of the different times that women win the hand game competitions at carnivals. I am floored by this. I’m sure I was told it wasn’t appropriate.  I'm still learning!!!

Simon gives Victoria a bag of dry meat and shows us a caribou heart on the table, raw, with a coil of sausage. We take some great pictures, especially the one with Simon, Victoria, and Ted, all smiling, Victoria holding up the bag of caribou meat. Victoria was raised for the first five years of her life on a steady diet of dry meat. The people tease that's why she's so tall.

Simon was so happy to have Victoria there, listening to the stories as well. He said a few times, "She is just like a granddaughter."

November, 2012. I am humbled listening to Vice Chief Bobby Cameron speak on Land and Resources. It really hits home (or hits my second home) when I hear that he was recently in Black Lake and is quoting Elder Simon Robillard.

-- Sheena

Elder Simon Robillard, Victoria Koops, Ted Robillard
April 11th, 2009

Lands and Resources

Vice Chief Bobby Cameron

Thank you to the Elders who raised the pipes for us this morning.  I am inspired by the powerful words of the presenters and participants at this Forum.

The rights and responsibilities respecting lands and resources is a topic that could have taken the entire past two days.  The protection and stewardship of the land was, and is, important to us.  We are taught by our Elders that we do not own the land.  It was loaned to us by the Creator.  We did not give up our rights to the land. We have inherent and Treaty rights to the lands and resources including the right to hunt, fish, trap and gather.  Our worldview shapes our concept of ecology and the living environment through natural law, gender responsibilities and care for the animals.  The Elders evidence is out there.  Elders have told us time and again that we did not give up our rights to the land.

Elder Simon Robillard of Black Lake said:
When did we give him permission to have a lease on our lakes?  I don’t know of any Elders who’ve basically consented to that and gave them that permission.  Why does he have so much power and ability to take over the resources?  So when we look at our young people here, what are they going to survive on in the future?  If the government treats us like that?  And they treat other people better than us.

Late Elder Hilliard Ermine of Sturgeon Lake, stated the following:
The time we made the Treaties they were told not to take everything – just the six inches for that use of that land on top.  The surface and that was all, just for the use of that.  They were told not to dig but just to use the water for the use of their families.

Another well-known Elder, late Gordon Oakes of Nekaneet, stated the following:
The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement of 1930 should never have happened.  The result of that is now the Province owns all the mines and minerals.  I have worked on land claims for many years and now we have concluded our claim.  This is where I had difficulty in our negotiations was with respect to minerals. The province claims that he owns them but where did he get it from?  These things, my relatives, we have to make good or correct.

That was 25 years ago and we still have the same problems.  Elder Jacob Pete said at Onion Lake that he has heard about this for 40 years.  It is time to take serious action.

On the Crown side, the Commissioner wrote about it in his book after he made Treaty out west.  At the time of Treaty, Commissioner Alexander Morris stated:
Understand me.  I do not want to interfere with your hunting and fishing.  I want you to pursue it through the country as you have heretofore done.

He continues on to say:
What I have offered does not take away your living, you will have it then as you have now, and what I offer now is put on top of it.  This I can tell you, the Queen’s Government will always take a deep interest in your living.

Some of our Leaders went to Geneva recently and perhaps we can do something to make Prince Charles aware of the injustices that Canada does to us through non-fulfillment of Treaty.  The Treaties in what is now Saskatchewan are considered sacred to us, the Creator was brought into and witnessed the process.  The foundational principles respecting lands and resources are what guides the way we view Treaties:
           No one can “own” the land, it was borrowed to us by the Creator.
           First Nations were put on this land.
           In entering into Treaty, First Nations were looking after their people, protecting their way of life, and looking ahead to their children’s future.

We have to think of what we want to see in 100 years for our children and our Treaties.  We will pass on to the spirit world but our children will still have Treaty rights.

The Lands and Resources Commission is guided by the following vision statement:
The First Nations in Saskatchewan through their Inherent and Treaty Rights will establish jurisdiction over the natural resources in their reserves and traditional territories and will ensure effective stewardship and sustainable development of those resources for the benefit of all their citizens, now and into the future.

I was a teacher back home and we had a bit of a fight with local farmers who were pasturing cattle on our traditional land.  They would burn our cabins and disturb our hunters.  We said no more and they came with the RCMP and SERM but we blockaded the pasture and that continues for the past three years.  We used busses and logs to block the roads. We have asserted jurisdiction over our traditional land.

The Secretariat has developed the First Nations Law and Procedure on Consultation and Accommodation as a template for First Nations to adapt and adopt.  We have also developed a Wildlife Law, modelled after the Touchwood Agency Tribal Councils wildlife law.

We still need to develop a sacred sites protection law and a shared territories law.  We have policies but we need them turned into laws.

The Treaty rights-based agenda is as follows:
          establishing access and jurisdiction for hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering in all Treaty territories;
          working with settler governments in interpreting and implementing our Treaty rights to a revenue share from resource development on our reserved and ancestral territories; and
          settling outstanding land claims based on breaches of Treaty or illegal acts committed pursuant to the Indian Act.

The Inherent rights-based agenda includes developing First Nations laws and regulatory systems that will ensure effective stewardship of lands and resources including:
          intergovernmental agreements to promote partnerships and co-management;
          set out proper protocols for all areas of natural resource management;
          promote cooperation;
          support harvesting that is designed to protect and preserve resources; and
          ensure sustainable development of resources.

The Secretariat is working in collaboration with the Environmental Youth Council and the Commission to develop a Protecting Our World strategy based on the “Health of our Air, the Health of our Lands and Resources, and the Health of our Water.”

There is continuous government legislation impacting our rights.  Federally, there has been the consultation and accommodation guidelines, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Fisheries Act, the Wildlife Management Act, the Parks Act and many others.

Provincially there has been the consultation policy framework, numerous provincial legislation, most recently the
Saskatchewan Environmental Code and many others.  The province is trying to create new provincial parks in our traditional territory at Emma Lake and Angling Lake.  If the province does not want to come to the table, other action must be taken.

We will continue to move forward with the following goals:
  • Obtaining compensation for government actions that have negatively impacted the reserve land base.
  • Ensuring land based Treaty obligations are fulfilled.
  • Implementation of full jurisdiction over reserve land base and its resources.
  • Extension of control, management and resource benefit rights to Treaty territories.
  • Respect for and recognition of Indigenous knowledge, values and belief systems relating to land and resource preservation, use and management.
  • Assisting in developing the capacity of First Nations in land and resource preservation, use and management.

We have to be clear about what we believe are our rights and responsibilities respecting lands and resources.

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