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!

    1 comment:

    1. There can be no electoral reform without indigenous input

      by Melissa Williams
      Special to The Globe and Mail
      Published Tuesday, Nov. 08, 2016 5:00AM EST
      Last updated Tuesday, Nov. 08, 2016 11:19AM EST