Ron Evans, the Grand Chief of Manitoba, will meet soon with First Nations leaders in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta to discuss reforming the way aboriginal people elect their officials, according to Jen Skerritt of the Winnipeg Free Press:
Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, centre, beams, as he, John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and Atlantic Policy Congress co-chair Chief Morley Googoo of Nova Scotia confer Friday on elections. (Canadian Press/Tim Krochak)
Evans said current rules under the Indian Act cause problems since chief and councils are elected for two-year terms, which he said is too short for the leadership to see any project through to completion. He said frequent elections limit progress, and unstable leadership can scare off potential investors and business development.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs last year began consulting the 37 Manitoba bands that follow electoral rules laid out under the Indian Act, and Evans said there’s been overwhelming support for new reforms.
The movement has the support of aboriginal chiefs in Atlantic Canada and also the federal government.
The Toronto Globe & Mail has Q&A with “Avatar” director James Cameron, who toured the oil sands in Alberta for three days this week and then joined First Nations leaders to ask Canada to protect the area from development.
The aboriginal community of Fort Chipewyan is downstream from the oil sands. The Lubicon Cree First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, Duncan Lake First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are among those directly affecged by development there.
Cameron’s actions weren’t universally welcomed. As the Globe & Mail points out, the Edmonton Sun ran Cameron’s photo under the headline “Dipstick!” and also wrote an editorial calling him a hypocrite.
And Montana’s governor, Brian Schweitzer, took a poke at Cameron, accusing him of “blowing smoke,” according to the Associated Press.
“Any of these people who say they don’t like the oil sands, you ought to ask them if they’ll invite you to their house, and unless they’re living naked in a cave and eating nuts, they are totally dependent on petrol,” Schweitzer said.
Stan Beardy, Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (WildlandsLeague.org photo)
Members of a group representing First Nations living in Ontario say the province’s proposed Far North Act to protect a vast swath of boreal forest north of the 50th Parallel will infringe upon their treaty rights.
If the measure, slated for final reading in the legislature this week, is approved, “there will be conflict in the north,” Stan Beardy, grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, told Canadian Press.
He says the main problem is that the act, which would apply to 42 percent of Ontario’s land, gives the government veto power.
“It imposes a massive, interconnected protected area over our homelands without compensation and without our consent,” he says. “We will oppose it by any means necessary. There will be no certainty for the government or for investors.”
New York tribes to rally tomorrow in protest of Bloomberg’s “cowboy” remark
It’s a shame it takes a subscription to read all of this Newsday story, but the two-paragraph tease is pretty clear: “Native American outrage over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s broadcast advice to Gov. David A. Paterson to ‘get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun’ [read full remarks in the New York Post] to collect Indian cigarette taxes will extend into next week with a rally at City Hall. Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation of Mastic, a frequent target of the mayor, said Friday he was organizing the rally Monday.” Rest assured, we’ll keep you posted. The tax is supposed to go into effect Sept. 1.
Group seeks justice for missing, murdered aboriginal women
Cherry Smiley of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network in Vancouver deals daily with the worst society dishes out to women – abuse, sexual exploitation, violence. And she has a pertinent question, especially on the issue of young girls finding themselves in these situations: “Why is society not horrified by what is happening here? This is not child labor, it’s child rape, yet the authorities have done little to deal with the pimps and perpetrators.” Valerie Talliman writes about it in Indian Country Today.
Assembly of First Nations seeks probe into police handling of serial killer case
And speaking of missing and murdered women – The Assembly of First Nations has joined other groups seeking a public probe into the way police in Vancouver, British Columbia, handled the caes of serial killer Robert Pickton. Many of Pickton’s victims were First Nations women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, said National Chief Shawn Atleo, who is a hereditary chief from Ahousaht. “A full and comprehensive public inquiry, with the participation of aboriginal people, is the only way to address the need for respect, justice and a better understanding of how we can prevent these tragedies in the future,” Atleo tells the Montreal Gazette here.
Las Vegas union makes contentious move to organize Navajo casino staff
Accusations and counter-accusations are flying as Culinary Workers Union Local 226, based in Las Vegas, attempts to unionize staff at the Fire Rock Navajo Casino. The union says casino management has been intimidating workers and trying to discourage them from signing up; management says it’s following the letter of the law. Bill Donovan, special to the Navajo Times, lays it all out.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to visit Inuit territories this week
Prime Minister Stephen Harper starts a five-day swing through all three northern territories starting tomorrow. The trip will kick off with a visit to Churchill, Man. Aug. 23. Harper will stop in Cambridge Bay Aug. 24, and then to to Resolute Bay on Aug. 25, the Nunatsiaq News reports here.
Cuthand recalls the start of his career, working for the Alberta Native Communications Society in Edmonton, whose president was a former Metis politician, Jim Ducharme. Cuthand writes that Ducharme became his mentor:
He told me our organization’s purpose was to provide First Nations and Metis people with the best information possible to enable them to make sound decisions on important issues that were looming on the horizon.
“People can only make the best decisions when they have the best information,” he told me. That incisive statement has remained with me.
All of this by way of criticizing the federal government’s decision to make the long form census voluntary, because the Conservative government finds it too intrusive. The result, he says, will be a loss of information about people in general and aboriginal people in particular.
He points out that the census helps show where government services are most urgently needed, and that such information is more important for First Nations and aboriginal people.
“This is not an esoteric argument,” he writes, “but a situation that affects the poorest Canadians the most.”
Judge’s ruling halts Seneca Nation mail-order cigarette sales
A federal judge ruled Friday that Seneca Indians in the mail-order cigarette business can no longer use the post office to ship cigarettes while they fight a new ban on the practice, according to this Associated Press story. As the AP writes: “In a mixed decision, Judge Richard Arcara upheld the mail-order ban contained in the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act but temporarily exempted more than 140 Seneca-owned businesses from a provision requiring them to comply with all taxing laws in the places they sell cigarettes.
Death of traditional singer in Glacier National Park prompts investigation
Authorities say Clinton Croff, 30, a well-known traditional Native American singer and dancer, died from from multiple wounds after becoming engaged in an altercation in Glacier National Park, according to this Associated Press report. Croff was from Browning, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.
First Nations women married to non-aboriginal men still fighting for rights
Aboriginal women on many First Nations reserves in Canada still are being denied their rights because they married non-tribal men, despite a 1985 law designed to address the issue. Canadian Press reports here about the legal struggle by some women who are even prevented from voting.
Turtle Island News publisher is about all-Native news, all the time
In the 16 years since Lynda Powless started the Turtle Island News on the Six Nations Reserve, she’s been arrested twice (at a band council meeting for refusing to leave), sued (unsuccessfully by then chief Roberta Jamieson) and lodged an Ontario Press Council complaint against another paper on the reserve after it ran a front-page story on Powless’s divorce, writes Denise Davy of the Hamilton Spectator. Powless tells Davy she started the paper because “people on the reserve had no clue what was going on in their own community.”
School can’t oust Lipan Apache boy over braids
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Needville (Texas) Independent School District can’t punish a Lipan Apache boy for wearing his hair in braids. Kenney Arocha and Michelle Betenbaugh had argued that their son’s hair, which has never been cut, conforms to their Native American religious beliefs, according to the Houston Chronicle, here.
Federal disaster declaration for Rocky Boy’s Reservation
President Barack Obama yesterday declared the Rocky Boy’s Reservation a disaster area, making it eligible for federal money for repairs. Flooding on the reservation broke water lines, leaving hundreds of members of the Chippewa Cree tribe without water for two weeks and causing millions of dollars in damage, according to this Associated Press story.
Navajo Nation Supreme Court says no third term for president
The Navajo Supreme Court has denied President Joe Shirley Jr.’s quest for a third consecutive term, the AP reports here. “I respect the decision of our Supreme Court justices,” Shirley said. “They had the final say. They decided and now I know that this is the end of it.”
Report details abuse of indigenous people in Peru
A report by the Missionary Indigenous Council takes a look at the treatment of indigenous people in Brazil. The report shows they are dealt abuse by police and landowners, lack proper nutrition and health care, and crowded out of their homelands by vast public works such as the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the state of Para. Read more in this Agence France-Presse story.
New Nez Perce National Historic Trail map released
A new map of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail is now available at Forest Service and National Park Service offices and online through Discover Your Northwest, the National Forest Store and the USGS Store, according to the Char-Koosta News, here. The map details locations along the 1,170 mile trail. Or, you can see it online here.
Aboriginal warrior’s remains, once displayed in museum, are reburied
A 19th century Aboriginal warrior named Yagan whose severed head once was displayed in British museum, has been reburied with proper ceremony in western Australia. The Associated Press reports here that the private ceremony was held yesterday by the Noongar Tribe, and coincides with the opening of the Yagan Memorial Park outside of Perth.
Oglala Lakota actor Tatanka Means to star in ‘Scoundrels’ episode
Rapid City native Tatanka Means (photo above, courtesy of Mihio Manus/Viewfinder Photography) will guest star in the second episode of the new ABC show “Scoundrels,” set to air tonight. Means, an Oglala Lakota tribal member, is the son American Indian Movement activist and actor Russell Means. The Rapid City (S.D.) Journal has the story here.
Seneca Nation – ‘We Are Not a Piggy Bank’
The Seneca Nation isn’t alone in protesting New York’s law, passed last week, that will tax cigarette purchases by non-Natives in Native-owned smoke shops. The Jamestown Post-Journal chronicles the opposition here. Tribal leader J.C. Senca says that “We are not a piggy bank the state can break open to grab extra cash.” Some New York assemblymen also object, saying the new law will drive business from their area.
Navajo Nation awaits decision on whether president can seek third term
Ballots won’t be printed for Navajo Nation elections until there’s a decision as to whether President Joe Shirley Jr. can seek a third term, the Navajo Times reports here. The Navajo Board of Election Commissioners had ruled Shirley’s run invalid, but Shirley has appealed.
Left-wing South American leaders back indigenous rights
The presidents of Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia have signed a declaration to promote indigenous rights. But even as the leaders met, Ecuador’s main indigenous organization protested, saying it had not been consulted, according to the BBC, here. The group, Conaie – the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador – represents about 40 percent of Ecuador’s population.
Australian indigenous group wants stripper deported
Desecration of sites sacred to indigenous people appears to be a problem the world over. According to ABC News, here, a powerful indigenous group in Australia is seeking the deportation of a French woman who was filmed stripping down to a bikini atop the sacred rock of Uluru. The woman described her actions as a “tribute” to aboriginal culture.
Canada’s federal government agreed late yesterday not to break 30 years of tradition and oppose a type of sales tax on First Nations, a proposal that had prompted widespread objections (See video above).
The action removes the threat by indigenous communities in Ontario to set up highway blockades on their reserves next week during the G8 and G20 summits, the CBC reports here.
Meanwhile, Ottawa criticized the provincial government’s handling of the issue.
The tax takes effect July 1, but the exemption for tribes won’t be in place until September. The government and First Nations are trying to work out a solution to that dilemma.
Last night’s action doesn’t mean an end to the issue. Aboriginal communities in other provinces want the same treatment, according to the CBC:
Rick Simon, the Assembly of First Nations’ regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, said this week that aboriginal leaders in the Atlantic provinces would use the deal in Ontario to try to get negotiations for their HST exemption started again with Ottawa.
A wildfire last year in Carrs Landing, British Columbia (AP)
As we move into the summer wildlife season, this story from the Toronto Globe and Mail is not exactly reassuring.
The head of the First Nations Forestry Council says there’s not enough money to clear brush around some remote aboriginal communities, despite the fact that British Columbia has just finished a $400 million commitment to deal with pine beetle-infested trees.
“It is completely frustrating that there is such a lack of resources,” Keith Atkinson tells the paper’s Wendy Stueck. “We were all on the edge of our seats last year as fires burned extremely close to communities. We just snuck through.” As Stueck writes:
Several native communities were among those evacuated or placed on evacuation alert in 2009, when hot, dry conditions created perfect wildfire conditions and helped push the provincial firefighting budget to a record-breaking $403-million.
The FNFC, formed in 2006 in response to a mountain pine beetle outbreak sweeping the province, identified fuel management as one of seven key initiatives for the group. Fuel management involves clearing brush and timber around homes and communities. Such precautions are considered especially important in areas where the pine beetle infestation has resulted in vast stretches of dead or dying trees.
The FNFC estimates less than 5 percent of the necessary fuel-reduction work has been done.
“It’s not a problem that’s going to be fixed overnight. Fuel builds up over many, many years,” says Brent Langlois, special operations co-ordinator for B.C.’s First Nations’ Emergency Services Society.
About half the 201 aboriginal communities in British Columbia have been hit by the pine beetle outbreak, which kills trees, leaving them dry and tindery, perfect fuel for fires.