Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Indigenous Inclusion at the Alberta Boundaries Commission Public Outreach

Ric McIver presenting on behalf of the PC Caucus on changes, including renaming Calgary-Greenway to Calgary-Bhullar.
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/780048998799701/

Feb, 21, 2017

Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

-Welcome to Treaty 7 Territory, the land of the Blackfoot Confederacy.

This land, known as Calgary, Alberta, Canada is known to Indigenous as an place of Treaty and equality because of the 1877, Treaty 7 signing :
-  Kainai Nation (Blood)
-  Pikani First Nation (Peigan)
-  Siksika Nation (Blackfoot)
-  Tsuu T'ina Nation (Sarcee)
-  Stoney Nakota First Nation - Bearspaw, Chiniki, Wesley Nations

I also acknowledge the mixed, the non-status, the Metis, the visiting Nations of Turtle Island and the new Canadians from all around the globe. The Crown signed the Treaties on behalf of those that are considered Canadians, making us all Treaty people.

I proposed, in the spirit of reconciliation, consideration to any boundary changes the following:
-look at the Treaty 4, 6, 7, 8 & 10 boundaries. Design the new boundaries with respect to the Treaty boundaries.
-look at the Indian Act bands boundaries. Design the new boundaries without cutting any of the bands in two.
-look at the Metis Settlement boundaries. Also look at the boundaries without cutting any of the settlements in two.

When renaming the electoral boundaries, consider the names of Indigenous peoples’ that have contributed to the province. An example would be Charlotte Small, the Metis wife of David Thompson. Small spoke Blackfoot, Cree, French and English and Thompson credits her to his ability to be able to survey Alberta. Another example would be living Elder, Doreen Spence. She is one of the co-founders of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’.

There are 444 recommendations in the Royal Commission of Aboriginal People, 94 calls to action in The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and 43 articles to implement in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’. In the spirit of reconciliation, I would recommend looking at those documents and use them as an opportunity to have Indigenous inclusion.

Lastly, although not related to Indigenous issues, I want to advocate for the renaming of Calgary-Greenway to be Calgary-Bhullar. Although I identify as a Liberal both federally and provincially, Manmeet Bhullar worked regardless of party affiliation. He helped complete my daughter’s birth story by getting midwifery funded so other moms, like myself, who wanted a midwife but couldn’t afford it, now have access to one. Also, he was a male advocate to stop family violence, including sexual abuse. He left a family violence prevention meeting when he traveled to Edmonton on the day of his death. So as a resident of Calgary-Greenway, I hope Calgary-Bhullar is considered a legacy for a wonderful man.

Mahsi cho,

Michelle Robinson
Slavey Dene, born in Calgary

Saturday, February 11, 2017

#ERRE #CdnPoli #PerformOnReform #Resistance150 #Canada150 a rebuttal from an Indigenous woman on settlers splitting hairs on Cdn democracy...

#ERRE #CdnPoli #PerformOnReform #Resistance150 #Canada150 a rebuttal from an Indigenous woman on settlers splitting hairs on Cdn democracy...

Take a long look at this list of people in the caption. How many Indigenous people do you see? That's my point. Canada is an imposed country with imposed democracy. The Indigenous people did not consent to this. They were imprisoned for not conforming under the many imposed laws that came with Canada. They aren't included in the concept of democratic reforms.

Many people are saying Justin Trudeau lied. Did he? If he wants a renewed relationship with Indigenous, implement UN Declaration of Rights of the Indigenous Peoples' (UNDRIP) and allow for more self governance the Indian Act does not allow, by not imposing yet another change that purposely excluded Indigenous, progress? Sadly, it is. Look at this well thought out research analysis.. http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/christophermajka/2017/02/electoral-reform-reversal-shows-justin-trudeau-takes-canadia <--- Do you see the Indigenous inclusion? I didn't either.

I do wish we could, as a country, work on democratic reform. I grew up in Alberta, hearing about Senate reform for as long as I can remember. Seeing Justin Trudeau, in third party status, do more for Senate reform by making the Liberal Senate independents, was more than Harper, who campaigned on it for 10 years, then was in office for 10 more. I've seen old footage of a young Justin Trudeau in University during the time Quebec wanted to vote to separate, passionately try to explain to the Francophone community, a united Canada is in everyone's best interest.

I didn't take the promise of electoral reform lightly. In fact, I had hope a new system with promises of change to Indigenous could be an amazing opportunity to strike down aspects of the Indian Act, knowing at no point would we open the constitution to make overhauling change to democracy or the Indian Act. I worked with the Liberals in Montreal talking about changing the democratic progress. I formed alliances with FairVote Canada. Here in Calgary, to all citizens with all party backgrounds, I submitted ideas, gave a presentation of Indigenous inclusion in Canada's democratic system with UNDRIP articles as points of reference.. Again, for all the settlers who talk a big talk about reconciliation with Indigenous, listening to my points here or there, their speeches on democratic reform and documents STILL do not reflect that at all with Indigenous inclusion in their lectures. Only one man locally advocated for Indigenous at Fairvote.. he had a heart attack. I tried to convert my presentation into a blog but it's not the same. http://redneckgirlthatcould.blogspot.ca/2016/06/electoral-reform-in-canada-forum-april.html

Of course this is all not including the new change we just witnessed in the US. While I don't want to complicate the issue of democratic reform, Indigenous peoples' at Standing Rock are on the wrong side of loaded barrels. I can't separate the fact the colonialism allows violence against Indigenous peoples' of Turtle Island. The colonial boundary separated many Indigenous Nations.. from settlers that ignore Indigenous Nation boundaries.

So as I watch today's day of action with Cdn's angry at the so-called broken promise after so much outreach, out reach I have never seen in my lifetime which I was grateful to be just a regular citizen to participate in, I wonder how they can talk about reconciliation without acknowledgement of the land they are on? I wonder how can they talk about broken promises when there was so much outreach? I wonder how they can talk about a strong democracy while the Indian Act is embedded in the constitution? Point blank, how many Indigenous speakers are at these marches, talking about Cdn democracy? While I was approached to speak, there were many expectations on my ability to be there. I was expected at last minute to travel downtown Calgary, to come to a crowd of people that have seen the information I have shared for years, literally. I wonder how they can talk about Canada without including Indigenous.. I don't think people understand how lucky Indigenous in Canada were to dodge this bullet of "democratic change" that would have just furthered Indigenous from the table by settlers, who have no idea the issues Indigenous face and yet would have claimed this a win for Canada. Before we have democratic change, we need settlers to educate themselves on the land they are on, the issues Indigenous face, UNDRIP, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, RCAP, previous studies that all say the same thing, allow Indigenous self governance and see democratic reform as part of reconciliation with Indigenous with equality as a key principle. (That's the intent the Treaties were signed with.) Do the settlers that actually realize that by continuing to ignore Indigenous they are reinforcing the colonialism?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Alberta Government led Family Gathering for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)

#MMIW #YEG Aug. 13/16
Thank you Treaty 6 for welcoming all peoples' within Alberta. Metis were also acknowledged as keepers of the land. Thank you Jodi Stonehouse for honouring us with your bundle and the Pipe Ceremony. Thank you Corky LarsenJonasson, Charlie and Martha Letendre, Charles Letendre Jr. and Summersky Letendre for your wisdom and guidance. Thank you to the three women drummers for sharing your songs from the Women's Water Song to the Strong Woman's song. Thank you Stephanie Evans again for that beautiful ribbon skirt that I am honoured to wear. (So many people still comment on how beautiful it is. Josie and I matched thanks to you! Her skirt is amazing!)

Today I witnessed something very historically significant. I seen two levels of government come together along side Indigenous families, instead of against them. To have the Alberta Government, Indigenous Relations Minister, Richard Feehan - MLA Edmonton Rutherford, and the Federal Government, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, representative Jolene Head, work together FOR the betterment of Indigenous has literally NEVER been done before in Alberta's history. (Only since 1905 has Alberta been around.) Today's purpose was to have Jolene Head, who is Cree from Manitoba, explain the scope of the inquiry coming. There was a Q & A session, lunch, then a sharing circle.

Watching, feelings, hearing the wounds reopen time and time again needs to stop. I pray, there is only one more time many family members have to do it, at the actual inquiry. There were many important issues raised, the RCMP and other police forces lack of representation was noted.

I shared a bit of my personal story to highlight the racism of the day back in the eighties before Awo Taan Healing Lodge existed at the policing level, the Alberta Health level, the mental health level and the justice system level. I reminded everyone of the trauma residential school left, not even allowing full blood Indigenous be proud to call themselves Indigenous. I spoke about the need for Indigenous shelters nationally and the need for training for all public servants on Indigenous knowledge. We need a "Stop Racism" program nationally and the diversity training is the wrong terminology being used. We need it as just part of the training, not as special training because every group in the fabric of "Canada" matters. I didn't want sex workers or the Two Spirit to be forgotten in the inquiry. I talked about how residential schools taught homophobia and because the Pride/LGBTQ+ doesn't understand Indigenous, they don't accept Indigenous, leaving our Two Spirit incredibly vulnerable. Lastly, I focused on the need for the people in the room to run for office, specifically municipal because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the recommendations that come out of the MMIW inquiry will need leadership at the municipal level to have implementation of any calls to action or recommendations. I met one person who said they were running municipally and other for school trustee. I was so elated to know that more see the need and are stepping up to the plate.

There was also mentions of the media portrayal of situations Indigenous face. I wished I had talked more about how the terminology of "at-risk behavior" is part of the colonial narrative of "right" and "wrong." The Indian Act creates systemic poverty which should be the "at-risk" narrative, not the result of the situation systemic poverty imposes. Sex work is criminalized, creating the "at-risk" environment. When there are Indigenous women who are sex workers, their lives are not worth less. Their basic human rights aren't worth less. These are still many of whom are mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, and therefore loved, valued and missed. Not all missing and murdered girls, women and Two-Spirit are sex workers. The ones that may used it, shouldn't be seen as less though.

Other families and speakers spoke of their loved ones, problems they seen in the scope of the inquiry and their endless pain of their loss and injustice. (I respect their privacy and how difficult the day was.)

The sharing circle had people leaving tobacco with the bundle from everyone, myself included. Corky spoke about us leaving our hurt and pain there and ask the Creator for love to replace that hole. Her words and the drummers helped leave the area with hope. Then the Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations, Richard Feehan and his wife, along side with two other staffers, shook our hands, gave us polished rocks with a word and a white rose. When I spoke with him, he talked about having another event like this one in Calgary next. I really felt he was genuine and I can't tell you enough what a hopeful change that is as an Albertan to see such a change in social policy. I couldn't believe I just filled out a form right there for mileage and they would take care of that. (They also covered lunch which was wonderful. I love tuna sandwiches and olives!) Thank you Alberta! Both governments gave a sheet of support resources which I thought was perfect. There were many support staff on hand as well as a room for kids.

I traveled with my friends Stacey and Nancy on the way home from Edmonton. We stopped to see the site from across the river where the Red Deer Industrial School was that killed the highest amount of kids and was promptly shut down as a result. (The pic above.)

I also want to mention today was a long day on social media because an Indigenous man was killed by a farmer in Biggar, Sk and the media, RCMP and farmers are rallying behind the man who shot and killed the Indigenous man, Colten. Screen shots of the farmers saying the most racist things were going around. Indigenous are all hoping this farmer and his supporters will be charged with hate crimes. It was unfortunately the perfect day to highlight the systemic racism we are still facing in Canada.

It was a long day but a great day to move forward. I never thought a year ago we'd be here and I'm so grateful we are moving forward. I'm really proud of the Notley and Trudeau governments.

Mahsi cho for reading.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

My View from Here on the Indian Act: corruption in Indigenous politics

I have been honoured by Tito Gomez and Pamela Beebe to join Red Time Podcast, an urban Indigenous perspective on daily issues here in Calgary. Our latest podcast: http://www.podbean.com/media/player/embed/postId/6334315

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak is trying to educate all Indigenous on tradition governance, Treaties and how Indian Act is a legal fiction. My perspective you can read along at the end:

Red Time Podcast June 29, 2016 View from Here:

Welcome to Treaty 7 – Siksika Nation, Kainai Nation, Piikinni Nation, Tsuu Tiina, Stoney Nakota – Chiniki, Wesley, Bearspaw
My name is Michelle Robinson, a Yellowknife Dene on my mother’s side and Cdn on my father’s side, for real, all the way to the Mayflower!
-acknowledge Aboriginal Awareness Month

Last week, us at Red Time Podcast were honoured to have Retired Judge, John Reilly here in the greater Forest Lawn area to launch our book club, Chapters and Chat through 12 Community Safety Initiative. From that conversation came a conversation about corruption in Indigenous politics so I’m going to add my voice to the discussion with my view from here.

Warning.. we play a game on Red Time Pod cast that encourages drinking water every single time I utter the word Indian Act or colonialism. You can not keep up this time. Don’t even attempt this at home. Red Time podcast is not responsible for your consumption for this view from here, LOL!

Technically, Indian Affairs does allow band members to see any financial records related to the band. A simple google and I immediately came up to my own band, Yellowknives Dene First Nation Consolidated Financial Statements dated Mar. 31, 2014. If a band member cannot see their band’s most recent financials, Indigenous Affairs has the responsibility to guide a band member there. Most people get too frustrated with Indigenous Affairs to get there.

To tell a bit of my own story in the colonial context, one just has to google Yellowknives Dene. In May 2012 as reported by Northern News Services, my aunt, Barbara Powless-Labelle was removed from by the residential school surviving Indian Act trained, council and "banished" from the community on the advice from Yellowknives elders. She said the reason for her banishment was that she was asking too many embarrassing questions about band finances. When my auntie launched a lawsuit in early 2007 to fight her banishment, former Dettah chief Peter Liske filed an affidavit accusing her of being confrontational and angry in her dealings with chiefs and other politicians. Her membership to the First Nation was later restored after the band settled out of court. She felt council had created a culture of fear by bullying and discrediting any members who voice concerns. The intimidation continues still, she said. The band member who asked not be named and a man with the last name, Beaulieu both said council had tried to discredit them for bringing concerns forward. "The integrity, the values, the vision, the ethics, the morals, the human standards and rights are gone," said Powless-Labelle. "We have lost all confidence because (the council) doesn't keep us abreast of what's going on." All of this stems from Impact Benefit Agreements with the diamond mines.
IBAs are key agreements outlining a developer's (usually mining companies) commitment to offer jobs, business contracts, training, scholarship funding and undisclosed payments to aboriginal groups considered by the company to be "impacted" communities. Of course there is no real accountability in those agreements as in the case of Yellowknife where the water is damaged and the mining clean up not complete, much like abandoned wells here in Alberta.

So why is this happening? Why is the Indian Act to blame? I will acknowledge in Canada, there is zero curriculum of the Indian from kindergarten to grade 12. Worse than that, it is NOT covered in law school either. In fact most education institutions don’t have any mandatory courses in Indigenous studies at all. The educational institutions purposely withhold the information to perpetuate colonialism. So let’s dive a bit in the history of the Indian Act. 

Canada’s First Nations: A Legacy of Institutional Racism By Claire Hutchings
The Indian Act was, and is, a powerful tool in the hands of the federal
government, giving federal civil servants the authority to manage band affairs, supervise Indigenous lands and trust funds, direct the personal and family lives of individual Aboriginal people, and deny basic Canadian civil and personal rights to hundreds of thousands of “wards” of the federal state.”

“The Indian Act gave the Department of Indian Affairs and its officials control over reserve lands and resources and authorized them to regulate commerce and trade with Aboriginal people. The Act became the primary means of adapting federal policy to changing expectations and concerns about Aboriginal people.”

“amendments to the Indian Act in 1951 removed some of the more offensive elements of Indian Act, but prohibitions on voting and alcohol consumption remained until the 1960s.”

“The Indian Act, by itself, was simply a tool used by the Government of Canada to exercise near-total control over First Nations people. Unlike almost all other Canadians,

First Nations people had significantly fewer rights and political privileges. The government exercised comprehensive control over Aboriginal life, determining where and when they went to school, the management of their land and economic resources, prohibiting them from entering key professions, attempting to shape Indigenous cultures, and dominating daily affairs through the often aggressive hand of federally-appointed Indian Agents.

It is difficult to categorize and describe the social and cultural consequences of this wide-ranging government intervention. Dependency, cultural loss, dispiritedness, and a profound sense of disengagement from the national political system are all logical outgrowths from a system that provided little room for individualism, collective action or a positive Indigenous agenda.”

“the Indian Act makes the federal government’s legal and fiduciary responsibilities quite clear and re-enforces historical commitments to the Indigenous peoples in Canada. Harold Cardinal captured these sentiments when he wrote in 1969: “

If people know the difference between right and wrong, then clearly knowing the LAW of the Indian Act has not changed! It is written not in right or wrong terms but in us verses them language, us being Colonial British-soon to be Canada and them being Indigenous. Indigenous peoples in Canada still are forced to live under the Indian Act. The irony is, people don’t understand the Indian despite it’s long history, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The framework of government control has not changed. The rights were given from Indian Act agents to Indian Agent approved families with the title of Chiefs. No one can deny the nepotism the Indian Act has created. Fear, control and disenrollment is government instituted historical fact masked as “Chiefs.” (It’s actually a great example of cultural appropriation for colonial Canada to use the term Chief when they immediately misused the term without cultural understanding.)

Court of public opinion can’t hold Chief and Council accountability because Canadians don’t understand Indian politics, the Indian Act, their own politics and this cultural appropriated term of chief. It’s easy to point fingers at the small minority of who appear corrupt. The three fingers pointed back should be understanding in the Indian Act’s history, governance and how corruption continues because of the imposed structure.

Job rate is so low because of the Indian Act has historically stopped people. Wards of the State is the basic principal of the Indian Act. Historically, look to books like “Clearing the Plains” that show the systemic ways the dept of Indian Affairs stopped Indigenous from thriving. That cycle has caused intergenerational trauma and intergenerational dependence, just as the Indian Act designed it for. Don’t take my word for on why the job rate is so low if historical facts aren’t your cup of tea,  take the studies published that tell it.

Speech to First Nations Resource Development Conference -- Whitehorse, Yukon, March 2010 - published in March 2007 in a report entitled “Sharing Canada’s Prosperity, a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out.” There are over a hundred First Nations across Canada who are succeeding at business. Many like Squamish, West Bank, Osoyoos in British Columbia, Millbrook near Truro in Nova Scotia are close to large cities while others like Lac LaRonge, the Cree in Northern Qu├ębec are in remote areas. The report found a number of things. Even if you have strong leadership and good governance, Aboriginal communities face a lot of challenges.  The three biggest of these are:

1.      The Indian Act and Indian Affairs
2.      Access to capital (systemic poverty which the Indian Act created)
3.      Capacity (hard to have educated Indigenous when because of the Indian Act, those barriers of unequal funding to education, infrastructure, etc are allocated under the Indian act.)
The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development agreed with these findings.

Ken Coates from the incredibly Conservative Laurier-Macdonald Institute published extensively on the modern day treaties that allow for prosperity – all away from the Indian Act framework.

The assumption that Idle No More should be able to stop all of this poverty is expecting the oppressed to change the system within the Indian Act.
There is no accountability to the Canadian government when Auditor General’s numerous findings related to inequitable funding in housing, water and education to Indigenous peoples’ are pointed out. Despite C51 being in violation of the United Nations Human Rights Committee after reviewing Canada’s adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights found that sweeping powers contained in the new anti-terror bill, C-51, does not contain enough legal safeguards to protect people’s rights and there is no recourse because NO colonial news agency will write about that ruling specific to Indigenous rights because media doesn’t understand Indigenous rights or the Indian Act. Those that benefit directly from withholding that information will continue to do so they continue with their colonial agenda. No current Cdn politician will discuss these issues openly because they directly benefit from the system to perpetuate it. The colonial, capital system has always oppressed Indigenous peoples’ and that includes the Indian Act as the most direct tool of oppression.

Let’s address First Nations Financial Transparency Act. Alan Freeman published a piece, The Transparency Act is one Harper law Trudeau should have left alone in ipolitics. The law, enacted in 2013, prompted an outcry from leaders of the First Nations who claimed their sovereignty was being threatened. What the law did do was expose a scattering of tiny, often impoverished communities across the country where chiefs were paying themselves fat salaries, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Despite the protests, most communities have abided by the law. According to published reports, only 38 of 581 bands were offside as the time of the article.
Ms. Bennett claims she’s in favour of transparency and will work in conjunction with First Nations leaders to create a new regime — but in the meantime, they can breathe easy and forget about the requirements imposed under the existing law. Any court actions taken to force disclosure will also be halted and the stopping of the blocking millions of dollars that had been withheld from First Nations that had failed to comply with the law. Sean Jones, a Vancouver lawyer practicing aboriginal law, argued in a recent op-ed for The Globe and Mail that the Transparency Act was unnecessary because band members “already had the right to go to court to force the band to disclose its finances, including the remuneration of chief, councillors and employees.”
So any band member with the tens of thousands of dollars needed to pay a high-priced lawyer can go to court and spend months or years trying to extract basic financial information thanks to the Indian Act structure. Until there is understanding how structurally deep the Indian Act affects these decisions, the lack of will to look at the traditional forms of governance prior to colonialism that existed and exists in some communities today will continue. Finger pointing is so much easier than finding the solutions and pushing community understanding. Again, don’t take my word for it. Dr. Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq lawyer and an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University, said the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA) “violates the constitution because their consent is required. It violates the Privacy Act because it’s third-party information that’s not entitled to be distributed to the Canadian public – and there’s no need for it,” she said. “There is no chief in Canada, ever, in the history of Canada that has earned a million dollars a year off of federal dollars that were transferred to the First Nation,” Palmater explained.
“And if there ever was, it would be completely condoned by the federal government because the federal government goes through it.” And I will add, through the Indian Act to emphasis the systemic issue of the Indian Act.
When Aboriginal Affairs did what is the equivalent of sanctions against a band, Palmater decried the government’s threat as unnecessary retributive action.
“It’s absolutely criminal. Have you ever heard of a modern democratic country threatening any of its people with no food and water if you don’t comply with our legislation?” she said. And I will emphasis, completely in the jurisdiction of the Indian Act.
Lastly, AFN Alberta regional Chief Cameron Alexis commented on the act in a written statement to HuffPost Canada, calling the government’s “colonial” approach “heavy-handed and onerous” for First Nations “already over-burdened by audit requirements.”

Alexis questioned the why the government is making a priority of FNFTA, adding Ottawa “should stop lecturing First Nations and abide by their own principles of accountability and transparency.”
“MPs and Senators should be held to the same standard, including full public disclosure of all business interests and share holdings‎; all CEOs and major companies need to fully disclose all business dealings so they're on a level playing field with First Nations,” he said

And again, *I* will emphasize no MP, Senator, or CEO lives under the Indian Act structure. In fact they all live under the same colonial system that the Indian Act originated from. To blame Indigenous leadership for surviving in an imposed colonial system shows how well colonial politics continue to work today by dividing us while they conquer. Quit blaming Indigenous leadership and look at the bigger picture, the structure of the laws in place designed to oppress us. These are historical facts, in current law and legislation. Don’t be an Indian-Act-fact Denier!

If we went back to traditional governance, there would be accountability as there were existing structures not confided to the Indian Act. But we are stuck under the Indian Act, still. So if Idle No More can educate the people on the transitional ways, THEN we would see change. I would argue that Grand Chief Nepinak has been doing that education by the Treaty  Caravan in June of 2013 “to remind our people that we are born free and with full liberties as the Indigenous peoples of these lands,” Right now, as we speak, the Road to Niagara is being executed by Grand Chief Nepinak. a journey from Winnipeg to Niagara Falls to raise awareness about the importance of returning to the spirit and intent of our treaties.

I would also argue that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action on the implementation of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous peoples’ was an election promise of the federal government. Under that declaration, we have the right to traditional governance. So the only thing holding Indigenous peoples’ from the goal to go to this transition is the knowledge they can do it.

Rise. Rise and learn your traditional form of governance. Listen to Grand Chief Nepinak’s teaching on the Treaties. Look to the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ to see the framework of the transition from Indian Act back to traditional governance. Look to the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples to see more framework on how traditional Indigenous governance looks like. Get Elders on side with this so we can start the process.
That is my view from here.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Electoral Reform in Canada Forum April 9, 2016

I was honoured to be on this panel to talk about Indigenous inclusion in electoral reform. This is my presentation:

April 9, 2016

ndigenous inclusion in governance

Acknowledged Treaty 7 land, Stoney Nakota, Tsuu t’inna, Siksika, Piikani, Kainai Nations
as this took place in Calgary.

On my mom's side, according to my Indian Act imposed status card, I'm Yellowknife Dene. My spirit name is Red Thunder Woman and Dad is Cdn. I live under the Cdn imposed Indian Act. This card does not allow for self-governance. Period. The election system from the Indian Act was imposed by the Cdn government. Not all live under the Indian Act either. We have pre-confederate treaties, numbered treaties and modern day treaties in Canada today. The Indian Act is part of our constitution today too.

I hope by the end of this presentation, we look at democratic reform in a much bigger context with a reframing of what Indigenous Inclusion looks like in Canadian governance.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Call to Action 57:
Professional Development and

Training for Public Servants


We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and

municipal governments to provide education to public

servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including

the history and legacy of residential schools, the

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and

Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-

based training in intercultural competency, conflict

resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

So how can we honestly talk about democratic reform with Indigenous inclusion when up to this point there has been no discussion of Indigenous input?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’
Article 27

States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indige-

nous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and

transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’

laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and

adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands,

territories and resources, including those which were traditionally

owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have

the right to participate in this process.Let’s break down what Nation to Nation means to Indigenous.

This was a better idea of the boundaries of Canada of Turtle Island prior to contact with the newcomers. This isn't even likely that accurate but at least it's a start and no where close what we are teaching in in our schools. (Regardless, a conversation for another day.) So now we ask ourselves how did all these people get along? The colonial narrative tells you Indigenous fought all the time. My goal is to show the Indigenous narrative which includes self-governance, treaties and respect which not only allowed us to live together but also with respect to the land. This is why it's critical for any conversation about democratic reform to have Indigenous perspective included.


Blue and White: are the colours of the national Metis flag. It has a white infinity symbol with a blue background and has two meanings:

  • The joining of two cultures
  • The existence of a people forever
The blue infinity flag is a Metis national flag and represented the political and military force of the Metis as early as 1816.
This flag was flown on June 19, 1816 at the Battle of Seven Oaks under the leadership of Cuthbert Grant. He led a Metis brigade on the Assiniboine River and seized the Company post at Brandon House. They then set off to the Red River Fough, the skirmish of Seven Oaks, in which Governor Semple and 21 of his men were killed for the cost of one Metis life.

Red and White: are the colours of the Metis hunting flag. It has a white infinity symbol with a red background. During a hunting expedition, the camp flag belonged to the guide of the day. He was therefore standard-bearer by virtue of his office. In some of these hunting expeditions, great battles occurred, like the Battle of Grand Coteau.
Black: symbolizes the dark period after 1870 in which the Metis people had to endure dispossession, and suppression, at the hands of the Canadians. In the years that followed, the Metis were shot and beaten on the streets of Winnipeg. Bounties were issued on those who had collaborated with Louis Riel. Many left their land and headed west; those who stayed behind moved north. Those who remained were forced off their land and became squatters, living mostly on road allowances.
Green and Gold: signifies fertility, growth and prosperity for the Metis Nation. Green and gold also mean we must move forward and reclaim our rightful place in Canadian history.

Cdn flag - February 15, 1965 – Indigenous getting the right to vote in the 1960’s.
Alberta flag created in 1905 -
1 June 1968

So I ask, if the Metis flag is over 200 years old, the Cdn and Alberta Flag not that old, which flag should Canada even be using? This isn't even including the modern flags each First Nation is using. It's an issue of Cdn identity we don't seem to be ready to have but it's Indigenous perspective to show the LONG history of governance, trying to work with the new governments, resisting the new imposed government and also shows exclusion of Indigenous voices.

1876 – Indian Act
-before the creation of Alberta, let alone a flag, let alone nation to nation Treaties. This is imposed legislation that today the United Nations shames us on. That is why the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples' is critical if we are going to move towards reconciliation and Indigenous inclusion.

The image of Lynn Gehl’s book - a Wampam Belt, it being an original Treaty

This is the book that I encourage people to read in relation to understanding a Wampum belt, it's purpose in positive treaties and how that is where Indigenous brokered relationships between nations and with the newcomers. Canadians need to understand the purpose of the Wampum and how the colonial narrative that Indigenous were warring nations, is false with Wampums as proof of ways to live in peace. The Symbol of the two lines on that picture show two peoples' living side by side.
Remember the Wampum was a form of treaty. 

Photo credit to Google, Content about Wetaskiwin Credit to: Engaging in Indigenous Laws and Darcy Lindberg of April 1, 2016

    Therein lies the many meanings of witiskiwin

    WITISKIWIN AND RECONCILIATION Included in the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (“TRC”) are significant obligations for the legal profession. The TRC calls for the recognition and implementation of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in all areas of work we do as legal practitioners. Indigenous legal principles offer us a guide into how such reconciliation can be approached. Take the place-name of the area where I grew up, Wetaskiwin, Alberta. A variation of the Cree word witiskiwin, it translates into “the place where peace is made,” or “the place where we live on the land together.” A close variation is the word witiscasau, “the place where we become friends.”More than just a name, witiskiwin is living Cree legal principle. This area is witiskiwin because it is a place where Blackfoot peoples and Cree peoples came together and set out legal obligations on how to live on the land together. It is a place of treaty. Committing to look closely at the story of witiskiwin, there is much to learn about the disputative and resolution legal processes that still exist within Cree and Blackfoot legal orders. This simple act of looking is a small form of reconciliation that opens the imagination to how to further engage in this work.

    International relations between these two is socially acceptable. We need an understanding on what Nation to Nation means if here in Treaty 7 we have 5 Nations alone. We need to respect the Indigenous have ways of Nation to Nation building that is as respectable as the picture we see above with two Nations, the US and Canada.

    Obviously a bit of a joke at what sort of International attention we get on political issues but he did try to acknowledge Indigenous peoples' on a platform we don't have access to.
    He is an ally to try to give Indigenous issues a spotlight. He outright told society and the governments at the award acceptance speech that a lack of Indigenous inclusion is now unacceptable. Also that because our Earth is at a tipping point, the people we should be including to help get the Earth back on course is Indigenous. If it takes a cute Hollywood actor for people to listen to Indigenous, that's a shame. It shows our bias to not include Indigenous thoughts and voices.

    So let's be honest about Indigenous having solutions. The solutions have always existed. They are in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples' in Canada from 1995. It's constitutionally protected in Sec. 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The solutions are also in the newest commission:

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action:
    Newcomers to Canada


    We call upon the federal government, in collaboration

    with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise

    the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its

    citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of

    the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including

    information about the Treaties and the history of

    residential schools.


    We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the

    Oath of Citizenship with the following:

    I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true

    allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen

    of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I

    will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including

    Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my

    duties as a Canadian citizen.
    So simple to include, yet no outreach or conversation about this inclusion. If we do not start including Indigenous, it's just more imposed colonial governance.

    United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples'
    Article 4

    Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination,

    have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to
    their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financ-

    ing their autonomous functions.

    Article 5

    Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their

    distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions,

    while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in

    the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

    Article 6

    Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality
    Article 18

    Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making

    in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives

    chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures,

    as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-

    making institutions.

    Article 19

    States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous

    peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in

    order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopt-

    ing and implementing legislative or administrative measures that

    may affect them.

    Article 27

    States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indige-

    nous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and

    transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’

    laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and

    adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands,

    territories and resources, including those which were traditionally

    owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have

    the right to participate in this process.

    Founding mothers Few Canadians are aware than many Indigenous nations were led by women, the Clanmothers. The moment of contact Indigenous women were marginalized with the assumption women can't be in charge. That has the foundation of disrepect to Indigenous women and contributing to the long standing, historical issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in colonial Canada. Imagine a Canada in a newly reformed democratic system that institutionizes not just UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples' and the Truth and Reconcilation Commission's calls to actions, but also recognizes the Clanmothers along side with the Founding Fathers.

    Who is Charlotte Small of David Thompson?

    Most Albertans know who David Thompson is. He is the man who mapped much of Alberta. What people are not taught is that he married a Metis woman, Charlotte Small, who spoke Blackfoot, Cree, French and English giving the ability to negotiate through the land. That is why David Thompson was able to map Alberta. Her abilities were why people would see their boat on the river and not attack.

    The need to acknowledge our founding Clanmothers as part of the foundation of Canada. In Alberta, Charlotte Small should be a symbol of this history.

    Here we have the Edmonton Mayor in a ribbon shirt and the Premier being wrapped in a starblanket. We are moving forward in the right direction, arguably for the first time since the start of contact. A star blanket has many significant teachings and history, from marriage, to coming of reproductive age, to respect, to immortality, and more depending which nation you are getting a star blanket from. It is a way of respect of understanding. We are all Treaty people and there needs to be an understanding that means rights that come with that. We are starting to see that leadership right here in Alberta. Now we need it nationally as part of the democratic reform we are in the middle of.

    The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau was honoured with a head dress and name from Tsuu T'ina Nation,
    “Gumistiyi,” which in the Tsuu T’ina dialect of the Dene language means “the one who keeps on trying.”

    There are many teachings behind each head dress, and vary from nation to nation. Chief Isadore Day says this well:

    "When you're given a headdress, there's a responsibility that comes with that, and often those responsibilities are a direct tie and connection to who you are, your identity, your place within the context of nationhood."
    Day has one headdress that he refers to as his treaty advocacy headdress. He is a descendant of Shingwauk, and Wiindawtegowinini, who were signatories of the Robinson-Huron Treaties, and he takes the role of being a treaty advocate seriously.
    The headdress he wears right now has floral designs, a wampum belt, and golden eagle feathers. Day says, "It doesn't belong to me. It represents all of the people in the community." (source)

    So consider the gravity of the symbol of the head dress and how Canadians who are all Treaty People and how our heads of states are gifted with them in relation to nation to nation governance and nation building.

    Solutions: We need education from kindergarten and grade 12 to university and beyond on Indigenous issues across this nation. Specifically through democratic reform, we can reference the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples', instituting the Clanmothers with the Founding Fathers. We need to undo the barriers that were put in place by the previous government's "democratic reform" that actually made voting for Indigenous harder. Imagine bannock, bingo and proportional representation. The only thing I want to see over represented by Indigenous in Canada is in healthy governance. I hope you see part of the solutions in this blog too. Mahsi cho for reading!