Go ahead and skip the introduction blog entries I've written to each of the excerpts from the Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation linked below. Get to the good stuff. Listen to the keepers of treaty explain what we need to do going forward. I'm looking forward to walking in solidarity tomorrow in Fort Qu'Appelle in support of the historic meetings in Ottawa. -- Sheena
AJ Felix Opening Comments
"At the Treaty negotiations the white man sat there and our people, our grandfathers and grandmothers, sat there and they agreed that they would share the land. They knew they could not sell the land as they could not sell their Mom or a piece of their Mom. The agreement was of sharing the lands and resources, not selling or giving up our rights. That agreement made the Treaty Indian but also made the Treaty white man, both with equal responsibilities and benefits. The Creator was the third person at that Treaty-making that witnessed and heard the agreement."
Dan Bellegarde Overview of Forum
"We will look at how the Inherent right to self-determination, which includes self-government, impacts on Treaty implementation. As you know, the Indian Act has replaced self-government for 145 years and we may need to once again be self-governing peoples if we wish to implement Treaty to its fullest."
Interim Chief Morley Watson Welcoming Remarks
"Governments and First Nations Leadership must come together and agree on immediate steps for action. Reviewing the barriers, such as the Indian Act, that get in the way of First Nations governance and unlocking the economic potential of First Nations should be on the list. Phasing out the Indian Act without First Nations involvement is not our agenda. It is up to First Nations citizens to assess this obstacle to effective, prosperous governance, to provide us with an opportunity to renew our commitment, to reaffirm our sacred vows to the generations that came before us and to bravely dare to believe that “Treaty trumps policy.”
Bill McKnight Commissioner Office of the Treaty Commissioner
"The OTC is an independent body created by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (the FSIN) and the Government of Canada (the Crown) with the Government of Saskatchewan as an observer. Therefore, please note, the scope of the Office is limited to the Province of Saskatchewan. The Office of the Treaty Commissioner is about fostering dialogue, and promoting change and prosperity for First Nations people and all Canadians through Treaty implementation. Its mandate is to be an advocate of the Treaties.
Chief Wallace Fox History of Treaty Relations
"I heard these stories of the Treaty promises the Elders told me. As I get older it bothers me to have to face up to the things that could happen for our children and grandchildren. I have reached the age of conscientious-ness and I am worried about the future as I also had problems in my youth.
"I look at my grandchildren; the twins are three years old now. I wonder how they will be when they turn eighteen. I also raised a grandchild. I wonder if they will see the implementation of Treaty promises."
FSIN Senator Sol Sanderson on Structuring our Organizations
"Our challenge is not only implementing Treaty but also implementing our sovereignty. When we examine the Treaties we fail to talk about our Treaty-making powers that are just as valid today as when we made Treaties over 100 years ago with the Crown. When we examine those treaty-making powers, there are duties and responsibilities associated with them, including a duty and responsibility to implement and enforce those treaties."
Ovide Mercred on Current State of Treaty Implementation in Canada
"Prime Minister Harper said we will explore and find ways to implement Treaties. We don’t fully understand what he meant but it’s up to us to find out. A window is opening and it’s up to us to make it wide open and we’re not going to get there if we cannot work together in unity of purpose. If we look for perfection we might as well die and go to heaven because that’s the only place we’ll find perfection. So let’s not try to be perfect. We will make mistakes and we have made many mistakes but that shouldn’t work to our disadvantage. When a person falls we lift them up. When a person makes a mistake, we try to correct them. We do not destroy humanity but we find ways to uplift it."
Jim Sinclair, Treaty 4 Elders Council on Current State of Treaty Implementation in Saskatchewan
"I’ll tell you why we have to rebuild. When you look at the Indian Act that was passed shortly after Treaty was made, you will see that it was meant to destroy First Nations people. That was never the spirit and intent of the Treaties. We were meant to continue our way of life, which included self-government. That was taken away by the Indian Act, the Indian Agents and the North West Mounted Police. We must reclaim that right of self-government."
Sharon Venne, Lawyer, Expert in International Law Linking Inherent Rights to Self-Determination and Treaty
"Treaties with the British Crown were recognized in 1989 by the UN when they agreed to study Treaties between states and Indigenous peoples. That meant that our Treaties are international Treaties. The UN does not study domestic issues under international law, so our Treaties are viewed as international agreements. In the study, the UN was trying to determine how the UN could assist Indigenous peoples with the implementation of our Treaties. The study started in 1989 and was completed in 1999 but the work is ongoing as the UN is still trying to determine how they can assist us in implementing the recommendations from the study."
Chief Reginald Bellerose for Chiefs' Open Forum at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"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."
Chief Ian MacKay, Red Earth Cree Nation at the Chief's Forum on Treaty Implementation
"I see a rainbow at different times of the year, summer and fall. There are certain concepts in that rainbow. There are times when the rainbow is clear to us, such as in the context of Treaty discussions. I think that’s the time when our people are more focused and when the Treaty questions and Treaty issues are at their clearest. There are times when the rainbow is faded and those are the times when we lose focus.
"I go hunting on the lakes surrounding our reserve lands and there’s a park on that lake. You look out on the lake you see two parcels of land separated by water. At one time I saw the arc of the rainbow touch both parcels of land and I thought, "That is like the Treaties that link two Nations."
Chief Perry Bellegarde, Little Black Bear First Nation, at Chief's Forum on Treaty Implementation
"A month ago a number of Chiefs went to Geneva to make presentations to CERD. We lobbied the different countries of the world about Canada not implementing Treaties and the way they deal with Indigenous peoples. The UN slammed Canada on its treatment of First Nations peoples: “The United Nations calls for a comprehensive strategy to uphold the human rights of the Indigenous people in Canada.” So pressure is starting to happen at the UN level against Canada and this is the result of one meeting in Geneva. We have to continue to work the international arena."
Henry Lewis, Director, Treaty Governance, Onion Lake Cree Nation
"We have been establishing our own institutions within our Nation, much like Sol said yesterday. We have developed our own Constitution, which was ratified in 2005, and we are moving forward to assert jurisdiction based on that Constitution. We continue to move forward on building our institutions in the various sectors and moving forward toward full Treaty implementation.
"We started a process of law development in our community. It is a long process with many consultation meetings with membership, but we want to do it right with the support of our people. We will have a system in place to fall back on whenever they decide to take the Indian Act back because our framework is there already.
Vice Chief Dutch Lerat at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"Indigenous communities all across the world are beginning to exert control in the area of health. This is important for us too. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the Indigenous right to traditional and contemporary health and health care and practices. Our goal is to improve the lives of our people. First Nations philosophy and world view is one of holistic health and health care; that includes spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health and health care. In doing this we need new First Nations and Federal laws that respect and give legal effect to the implementation of the Inherent and Treaty rights to traditional and contemporary health and health care system.
Vice Chief Simon Bird on The Treaty Right to Education at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"Our Indigenous Governments have the right and responsibility to govern their Peoples and respective territories under their laws, customs and systems. They exercise the legislative, executive and judicial powers of government that include the administration of education."
Vice Chief Bobby Cameron on Land and Resources at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"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."
Senator Matilda Lewis of Onion Lake Cree Nation at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"When nōhkom talked about Treaty, she said, “Get to know yourself first. When you do that, you will know your role.” She talked about the Creator, the sun, moon, pipe, stem of the pipe, and sweetgrass. The government did not give those to us. They were given to us by the Creator."
Joyce Night, Executive Director of Saskatchewan First Nation Women's Commission at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"As women, we are always looking ahead to the safety of children and grandchildren. At the same time we must be aware of Treaty and Inherent rights. The Women’s Commission will be re-visiting the 10 Treaty principles that have been spoken of today and will come together with Tribal Councils and First Nations. We will work to implement Inherent and Treaty rights along with everyone else within the Federation of Nations."
Chief Darrel McCallum, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
"As a Chief, I look at myself as a Treaty protector first and foremost. I view Tribal Councils, FSIN and AFN as advocates and I utilize those organizations for lobbying purposes, especially FSIN, which was formed 65 years ago to protect Treaty people."