National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo - July 17, 2012

Chu, siyaaks A-in-Chut histukshil Ahuusath.  Aatikshil sihl siihat hawilh hicksoo Mississaugas of New Credit, Machinaapsik maatik itsu. I bring greetings and thanks – thanks to the Mississaugas of New Credit on whose traditional territories we are gathered.

Elders, Chiefs, veterans and to all of you here – it has been my great honor and privilege to serve you these last 3 years.   It is SO good to see you all.

It has been an incredible journey – and it is absolutely fitting that today we are gathered here – remembering the role of First Nations in the War of 1812. 

It was under the leadership of Chief Pontiac who demanded recognition of our collective title of our lands – that the Crown issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

This led directly to 1812.  Our peoples – honouring their part in the military alliance with the Crown - rose up and united.  Two hundred years ago - it was Tecumseh fulfilling our commitments, understanding the dangers  - and pointing the way forward. 

“We must listen” – he said -  “to the voice of duty, of honor, of nature and of our endangered country. Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our parents.”

Words true then – as they are now.

Our peoples with great courage and honour stood firm fighting NOT as subjects but as allies and fighting for who we are and for our lands.

The fight continues – and our people remain steadfast.  Just as when mining was initiated without their consent over a century and a half ago– along the Great Lakes –under the leadership of the Anishinaabe Chief Shingwaukonce - they stood up and stood firm and declared – “these are OUR lands since time immemorial”. They demanded fairness and they insisted on Treaty.  Treaty that built on the Royal Proclamation and the Treaties of Peace and Friendship from the east. The numbered Treaties followed through the north and across the great plains – at every one - and in every case in all of our territories – our people acted on their inherent rights and were determined to drive a better future.

Out west, our people also fought and prevailed in similar conflict. The Tshilgot’in nations resistance is legendary and continues today.  In my own village – my great-great great grandfather – Chief Haw’il Nucmiis said to the newcomers   … “we will live as we are” … a simple yet powerful statement of connection to our territory, to balance and to our sovereignty. 

These struggles faced by the ancestors have continued…. Today we face some of the very same challenges. 

Just as they did,  we must listen to one another and to our sacred duties.  Just as they did, we must be ready to act AND just as they knew, our greatest strength will be achieved by uniting and supporting one another.

Through our work together – we have arrived at an important moment.  This is a moment of reckoning. The choices we make will determine our legacy – our contribution to the struggle. 

This moment demands our full attention and our full commitment to the work and to the challenge.

Through spending time and listening to all of you over the last 3 years and in the recent weeks, we have together forged a comprehensive and CLEAR PLAN.

It is a plan that builds on the effort of our ancestors, honours all of our citizens and looks to confirm a better day for our children. 

Our plan together has four interconnected elements:

  • One  – we must ACT on our Treaties and Inherent RIGHTS,
  • Two - we must BUILD our governments and economies while caring for our waters and our lands;
  • Three -  we must achieve CHANGE for our kids –delivering excellence in education and health - and
  • Four, we must support every First Nation to DELIVER safety security and healing

So – first, as led by you for decades - the very front of our Plan – is the need to take action with our rights. 

Just as the ancestors did, our people are standing up right across the country. The Innu in Quebec, the Cree, the Ojibway and Oji Cree from the ring of fire and right across the north and to the prairies, to the Carrier Sekani, the Heiltsuk – standing up for the sacred waters, the lands, the air …. that together provide our foods and medicines that give us life. And I stand firm with them…

Treaties and inherent rights must form the foundation of the relationship with the Crown, not the Indian Act. The Crown’s indication of a willingness to discuss implementation means we must together force this work forward in accordance with the spirit and intent of Treaty. 

Canada’s current comprehensive claims policy is a failure. Justice for our lands means achieving an approach based on recognition and affirmation of our rights not denial and extinguishment.

Through our work, we together made the endorsement of the UN Declaration our priority.  This achievement now relates directly to specific work on lands and resources – compelling respect for both our economic and our environmental interests.  Free, prior and informed consent is our standard and we will prevail.  The AFN must now help drive forward the issue of resource revenue sharing, to help equip every First Nation to engage on their own terms in the development and sustainability of their lands, territories and economies.

The second point - the AFN must support your efforts to BUILD your governments – it is an important forum to share and support strategies to achieve results for sustainable, successful development and the growth of your economies.

The Indian Act is a relic of the colonial past and violates treaties and inherent rights. We MUST overcome the Indian Act and a bureaucracy that costs over a billion dollars every year – money that should rightly be sent directly to you – the First Nation governments to serve your peoples.  All work that must be done at a rate and pace determined by you. 

Past or ongoing efforts by governments to tinker or replace the Indian Act unilaterally must end now. 

Moreover, we will support First Nations by building and supporting new solutions and new approaches on water, housing, energy and fiscal relations.

Point three - brings me to the priority of our children.

Our actions today will be our children’s direct inheritance.  It is up to us now to ensure our children see a better tomorrow. 

What compels us forward are the kids themselves - young ones you’ve heard me mention like 10 year old Jayden in a northern remote community – facing incredible challenges yet excited about the pride his Grampa has in his good marks and sharing with me dreams for his future. It leaders like the late Shannen Koostachin whose legacy now has created a powerful movement that is changing hearts and minds. You’ll recall we stood with her parents just last year to honour her.

There are tremendous successes emerging by and for our people – the Mi’kmaq – the First Nations education groups in Quebec, B.C., Treaty 8 and beyond…. But Now - so much more can, should and must be done.

In the next three years, we must continue to dramatically expand the conversation, fundamentally shift attitudes, and forever change the story that is told about First Nations education.  By working together – we will finally achieve the objectives set out in the 1970s for Indian control of Indian education.

We demand fairness and equity for our kids in every aspect of their lives and in every circumstance.  We will continue to use every avenue – just as we have through the Canadian Human Rights Commission and internationally – on child welfare, health and social services.And finally – our fourth point – we must support First Nations to deliver safety, healing and security for every family and within every home

This begins with supporting every residential school survivor seeking resolution, justice and healing.  It means advancing our own justice systems – using our laws and traditional practices overcoming disputes and restoring harmony.

And it also means,  and this is absolutely fundamental,   ending violence against women.

You the Chiefs in Assembly have called for a National Inquiry. 

We’ve taken this forward to Parliament and to the UN.  Now we will take the next step – we will link every Nation, region and organization and we will demand and achieve a full national inquiry to bring to full light this national tragedy, to achieve justice and healing. 

Together - today – let us make a personal commitment.  A commitment to end violence in our hearts and in our homes. This is necessary and it will strengthen us and lead us forward. 

Connected within every aspect of the work Chiefs are advancing, is the need to re-constitute our Nations.  Many Nations are well on their way to achieving this.  Every action at the national level must reinforce and support this – building on our efforts to achieve inclusion of all voices while respecting differences.

3 years ago I said to you …  It’s Our Time … our time to assert our rights and to realize our rightful place in Canada and around the world.  

It is Our Time – both because of the urgency we face and because of what has been achieved.  At every point in our history – we have made gains together when we have stood together. 

In the early days of our organization – we together successfully rejected the 69 whitepaper. Together we pressed for and achieved constitutional recognition of our rights; we’ve taken forward and won over 40 Supreme court cases; we’ve had the Royal Commission; and, now the UN Declaration - achievements that are a powerful testament of the determination of our peoples.    

NOW we face our part of this struggle and must make our contribution.

There is a clear way forward – every step is based solidly on our rights

We will take ACTION - with the full intention to do so in good faith with the Crown – as in the Treaty relationship – but make no mistake in the absence of the Honour of the Crown, we will stand together – we will never compromise.

We will BUILD our governments; we will achieve CHANGE for our kids and support every First Nation to DELIVER safe and secure communities. 

Just as our ancestors faced challenges in the past. We are stronger together!

I will stand with you and I am prepared to lead this effort.  Together we will succeed!

Assembly of First Nations