Attached and pasted below you will find the text of an open letter from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to her fellow chiefs and grand chiefs.
I'm glad she has released this letter and I'm glad to be able to read (and to share) her words directly, unfiltered by the corporate media. I find it very helpful and moving to read what she has to say.
John Bird, Program Coordinator
Aboriginal Justice and Right Relations
United Church of Canada
Victoria Island, Ottawa, January 15, 2013
Att.: All First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs
Re: Status of Hunger Strike and National Leadership Situation
Dear Chiefs and Grand Chiefs;
Today marks the 36th day of my hunger strike, 35th day for Mr. Raymond Robinson of Manitoba and yesterday Mr. Jean Sock from New Brunswick was his 28th day and his last. We owe a great depth of gratitude to Jean for his support by joining me and Raymond in our protest. In return we extend our full support and we respect his decision to end his hunger strike to attend to his ailing mother, and also to be with his youth who are struggling to comprehend our cause. We pray for his complete recovery and we send prayers to his mother, his family and to have a safe journey home.
With this letter, I want to make it clear once again the purpose of our hunger strike as well as to inform all of you the state of my health and Raymond. We also wanted to take this opportunity to express our position of the events leading to the meeting of January 11, 2013 and the current situation we are in.
As I stated from the beginning, something had to be done to bring our Nations immediate needs, treaty implementation issues among many other issues to the brought attention of the PM along with the Crown in meeting on Nation to Nation basis at the earliest time possible.
Now, that the meetings with the PM and the Governor General have taken place, despite the fact that the Chiefs met with them separately, like many of you the confusion has yet to subside as I continue to wait for the details in what was actually achieved. It is without a doubt, the events leading up to the meeting of January 11, 2013 with the PM and the evening with the Governor General, as well as the communication breakdown that day and into that night truly tested our unity once again.
Along with Mr. Raymond Robinson, Mr. Jean Sock and I, we call on all of you not to waste any more energy on determining the future of our National Chief - for what took place for the past month is beyond us all as individuals. We all began with a purpose, we had a plan, we need now to refocus and stick to the original plan to propose and follow our own agenda. This is our best chance to settle the struggles our Nations have had to endure for far too long.
We need the National Chief as much as we need each other. With the challenges ahead, we need to spend less energy fighting amongst ourselves; instead we must focus on finding a common ground, a common understanding and respecting each other’s goals and objectives. We must stand united, strengthen our unity and agree on an agenda that works for all of us and not just the few. The politics within our camp can wait and work itself out on its own time.
What we have endured here at the island is a small price to pay compared to what our ancestors, our own mothers and fathers endured. Putting aside the real purpose of our hunger strike, this was our way to pay tribute to our ancestors who have forgone some of the harshest periods in our history, to honor those among our Nations who continue to struggle for the basic standard of living to this day, as well as to raise new hope among our youth and to protect our future generations.
From the beginning, the support and prayers from all of you, from our grassroots, elders, women and particularly the youth brought us comfort and assurance that we are all in this together. This must continue.
Many of you have asked me directly or called on us indirectly to stop our hunger strike, but as we stated before, our exit or to end this hunger strike will be on our own terms. We ask all of you to respect that and ask you to refocus on the spirit and the intent of this movement.
Together, meaning the Idle No More movement, as hunger strikers, others who are fasting for the same cause with the support of our grassroots, our protesters, you the leaders, we have all been part of something historic which brought in all of us a sense of pride; our people have come together in solidarity for a common cause. The citizens of this country have also taken notice and we have their attention. Soon the rest of the world must to be informed and this Government along with the Crown must accept that the only way forward in this country is a renewed relationship with First Nations, but that it must begin with in a meeting with both the PM and Governor General present.
We are honored to be able to contribute to raising awareness of our Nations pressing issues, past and current struggles, as well as the challenges ahead. As more protests are being scheduled, we hope that the peace be maintained and ask all of you to encourage your members to remain peaceful and respectful.
Furthermore, we acknowledge and respect the Idle No More movement, their founders and spokespeople for promoting awareness of the controversial omnibus bills recently passed in the Senate. Our fights may be different, but our dreams and hopes for our people are common.
We will assess carefully our next steps in the coming days and will continue to remain optimistic. Our spirits are up, but we are growing weaker by the day but we do our best to maintain our health. We ask you to respect our choices and to leave us the decision when and if this hunger strike should end.
My fellow Chiefs, on behalf of Mr. Robinson and Mr. Sock, we thank you for your continued prayers and support. We ask you now to focus on the task at hand and please do not to worry about us; our people and our youth deserve real change and nothing more. May the Creator guide us through the challenges up ahead.
Chief Theresa Spence
Attawapiskat First Nation
Cc: Shawn Atleo, AFN National Chief
All AFN Regional Chiefs