Archive for the ‘First Nations’ Category

A few stories this weekend on the issues of Native women’s safety around the world:

Canada’s Missing Women Inquiry faces renewed community boycott

Marlene George, with the Women's Memorial March Committee, addresses the April 10 press conference. (Photo by David P. Ball , courtesy of ICTMN)

Calling the British Columbian government’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry a sham, human rights and women’s advocates groups in Canada are making continued calls for government-led efforts that will bring real change.

David P. Ball of ICTMN has the story:

    Citing the province’s refusal to fund legal representation or extend the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry’s June deadline, 15 organizations rejected pleas to rejoin the hearings.

    “We get one shot at a public inquiry, and the way it’s being conducted right now, it’s turning out to be a sham,” women’s advocate Marlene George told a press conference on April 9 on behalf of the Women’s Memorial March Committee, which organizes an annual rally to honour Canada’s 600 missing or murdered aboriginal women, among them victims of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton.

. . .

    The inquiry “continues to lose relevance and credibility,” groups stated, vowing to support a United Nations investigation announced last December.

    “It has become painfully clear over the course of the inquiry’s proceedings that this inquiry is not a meaningful and inclusive process,” the groups wrote. “The commission appears woefully out of touch with how it may be replicating the exact exclusion and discrimination that led to this inquiry being called in the first place. The commission has lost all credibility among aboriginal, sex work, human rights and women’s organizations.”

Here’s an earlier story from ICTMN on the Assembly of First Nations has officially pulled out of the British Columbia Missing Women of Inquiry Commission’s hearing procedures.

Tribal health centers offer self-defense classes in oil boom areas
The recent violent death of a longtime teacher in northeast Montana has many women worried about the effects of the oil boom there will have on their safety. As more and more oil field workers are moving into the Fork Peck Reservation area, health agencies are coming together to offer self-defense classes for women, the Great Falls Tribune reports.

Several dozen women from the Poplar area practice self defense moves during a workshop Wednesday sponsored by Northeast Montana Health Services. (Photo courtesy of: TRIBUNE PHOTO/RICH PETERSON)

GFT reporter Richard Peterson has the story:

    The Fort Peck Tribal Health Department will hold self-defense courses Wednesday and Thursday in Brockton, and April 25 – 26 in Fort Kipp.

    Adrian Spotted Bird, injury prevention coordinator for the Tribal Health Department, said the workshops were organized after numerous women from the reservation communities of Brockton and Fort Kipp started asking for more police patrols in the area because of increased oilfield traffic. In the past five months, the tribes have started drilling for oil near both communities. More than a dozen more oil rigs are expected to go up there this summer.

    “People are noticing more and more new faces, and they’re getting concerned,” Spotted Bird said. Some oil industry workers, who have been blackballed at bars in Williston, come to area bars to drink, he said. That’s also cause for concern among local residents.

The classes are kept small, about 10 people each, and offer attendees a battle of mace and a whistle, Peterson’s story said.

Jenna Cederberg

John T. Williams (CTV photo)

From Steve Miletich and Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times staff reporters:

Ending one chapter of a shooting that jolted the Seattle Police Department, the city has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle claims brought by the family of John T. Williams, the First Nations woodcarver killed by a police officer.

The Aug. 30 shooting of Williams, a chronic street inebriate, was found to be unjustified by the Seattle Police Department’s Firearms Review Board and led to the resignation of the officer, Ian Birk, earlier this year.

The agreement, announced Friday by the City Attorney’s Office, followed a confidential mediation in which the city considered claims raised by Williams’ mother and representatives of his estate.

No formal claim or lawsuit was filed by the family, although the family was prepared to file a federal suit.

“This is one step toward justice, but it is only a step,” Rick Williams, a brother of John T. Williams and administrator of his estate, said in a prepared statement. “Nothing can make up for the loss of my brother.”

Williams’ mother, Ida Edward, of Vancouver, B.C., stands to collect the entire settlement. The city and Birk made no admissions of liability under the settlement, which releases both from further civil litigation.

Birk, 28, resigned Feb. 16, hours after the Police Department released the scathing findings of the firearms board, which concluded he acted outside the department’s “policy, tactics and training” when he shot Williams four times at the intersection of Boren Avenue and Howell Street near downtown.

After Birk resigned, Police Chief John Diaz formally fired him for misconduct.

On the day Birk quit, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced he would not bring criminal charges against Birk, who joined the department in 2008.

Read the rest of this entry »

County prosecutors in Seattle will announce Wednesday that no criminal charges will filed against a city police officer who shot and killed Native woodcarver John T. Williams, the Seattle Times reports.

Williams was crossing the street holding a small knife when Officer Ian Birk confronted then shot Williams.

An inquest jury was split on whether Birk gave Williams enough time to drop the knife. Three of eight jurors said it was unknown whether Birk faced a threat.

Internal investigations are ongoing in the Seattle Police Department.

    . . . Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is expected to disclose at a news conference (Wednesday) that the department’s Firearms Review Board has reached a final decision that the Aug. 30 shooting was not justified, say sources briefed on the finding.

    The board’s conclusion, reached in private deliberations a few days ago, allows the Police Department to begin internal proceedings that could lead to Birk’s firing or other discipline, the sources said. In October, the board reached a preliminary decision that the shooting was unjustified, sources said then.

Jenna Cederberg

The Nunavut Department of Education in Canada recently certified five Inuit elders as Innait Inuksiutilirijiit, or teachers.

The distinction gives the elders the ability to become active instructors in the schools, connecting their knowledge to the formal education, ICTMN reports.

The Education Act passed in 2008 allows the certification. Elders are incorporated into the system to help preserve the culture and values of the Inuit.

    “Today is a great day for learning in Nunavut,” said Premier Eva Aariak in a statement after the February 2 ceremony. “The certification and recognition of Elders and their expertise is an important step in creating a Nunavut education system that is founded in Inuit culture, language and traditions.”

    Mary Akumalik, Sinea Kownirk, Serapio Ittusardjuat, Letia Tikivik and Sheepa Ishulutaq, all from Iqaluit, were the first Elders to be awarded this certification under the new Education Act, which stipulates in Section 102 that District Education Authorities (DEAs) may employ Elders to assist in teaching about Inuit culture, tradition and knowledge, the release said.

    On a par with faculty as well as the principal, guidance counselors and student support assistants, certified elders may participate in instruction of school programs, in concert with teachers and other school personnel.

Jenna Cederberg

John T. Williams (CTV photo)

John T. Williams (CTV photo)

Seattle police given high marks for woodcarver shooting investigation
The Seattle Police Department did a thorough and unbiased investigation into the fatal shooting of woodcarver John T. Williams by Seattle officer Ian Birk, according to a review conducted by a San Diego Police Department homicide commander, according to a Seattle Time’s story.

Northern Alberta first nation loses oil sands appeal
From News 880 AM:
The Alberta Court of Appeal has sided with the Alberta government and against the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in a case involving oil and gas rights.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation argued that the Alberta Government through the Energy Minister can not grant resource rights in the form of long term oil sands leases without consultation. The Crown countered that the First Nation challenge was not filed within six months of a decision awarding a lease to Shell.

At issue was when did the clock start to count down…from the date of the government decision or from the date the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation was notified of the decision? A lower court agreed with the government that the challenge was filed too late. The First Nation launched an appeal

The Court of Appeal considered all of the arguments and Friday morning it dismissed the First Nation’s appeal.

Events to explore contemporary land issue in Indian Country

“Lessons of Our Land: The Indian Land Tenure Foundation Speaker Series” will take place during February and March at The University of Montana. The series will focus on contemporary land issues in Indian Country, casting a light on our relationship to the Earth and the management of Indian trust land.

Read the rest of this entry »

Former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, left, and current Canadiens goaltender Carey Price walk away as the banner is raised during a ceremony retiring  Roy's number 33 jersey before the team's NHL game against the Boston Bruins in Montreal on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008.  (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

Former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, left, and current Canadiens goaltender Carey Price walk away as the banner is raised during a ceremony retiring Roy's number 33 jersey before the team's NHL game against the Boston Bruins in Montreal on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

Globe and Mail piece on Carey Price (Ulkatch), via ICTMN:

MONTREAL — It’s said Ron Hextall used to lock himself in a room before big games to shriek at the top of his lungs.

Jeff Hackett would darkly warn teammates of the bloody consequences of fiddling with his goaltending gear.

To say nothing of the deeply bizarre Gilles Gratton, who claimed to be the reincarnation of a Spanish conquistador and once pulled himself from a game because the stars were improperly aligned.

Let’s face it: Those who don the tools of ignorance and willingly stand in the way of large men with sticks and airborne bits of vulcanized rubber are necessarily a little odd.
Former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, left, and current Canadiens goaltender Carey Price walk away as the banner is raised during a ceremony retiring Roy’s jersey.
Enlarge Image

Former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, left, and current Canadiens goaltender Carey Price walk away as the banner is raised during a ceremony retiring Roy’s jersey. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

But in the case of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, he of the Zen-like placidity and heavy-lidded languor, the weirdest thing is he’s not very weird at all.

There are no pregame rituals, no evident superstitions and no obvious quirks or zaniness.

The default expression on his broad, smooth-skinned face is a mix of bemusement and serenity as he sits in the far corner of the Habs’ opulent dressing room — his stall sits below a photo of Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy — large dark eyes taking in his surroundings.

That he can be so composed, level-headed and, well, normal in a city that eats its goaltenders raw makes it all the more remarkable.

He may be one of the few people on the planet who could use a prescription to increase his blood pressure.

“I don’t know,” Price said recently when asked about his demeanour. “I guess it’s because I grew up in the middle of nowhere. There’s not a lot to get excited about. And I think a lot of it comes from my parents and the way they raised me.”

Price was raised in Anahim Lake, B.C., a community in the northern Chilcotin wilderness so tiny it barely rates a dot on most road maps.

His mother, Lynda, is the chief of the Ulkatcho band and his non-native father, Jerry, a former minor-league goaltender who once bought a plane to fly Price to elite-level hockey in Williams Lake, B.C., 320 kilometres away, is a career consultant and part-time goalie coach with his son’s former junior team, the Tri-City Americans.

Read the rest of this entry »

A two-month-old girl is dead, despite a brave attempt to save her from a burning home on a northern Manitoba reserve. (Photo Credit: Island Lake RCMP Detachment)

A two-month-old girl is dead, despite a brave attempt to save her from a burning home on a northern Manitoba reserve. (Photo Credit: Island Lake RCMP Detachment)

Another tragic headline, just the latest in a string of disturbing fire deaths, telling of the loss of a two-month-old baby girl in Manitoba has First Nation leaders there calling for better fire fighting equipment.

The girl’s death was the second of babies in the region in just months. The Global Toronto reports that the fire killing the little girl had to be put out with snow. Now, tribal leaders want the federal governments help in securing better fire fighting equipment.

    Manitoba Grand Chief Ron Evan wants to know “how many more children have to die” before Indian and Northern Affairs Canada improve emergency response equipment in northern communities.

    Evans says that in the last five years, 29 people have been killed in fires on Manitoba reserves and 11 of them were children.

    INAC began a review of firefighting on Manitoba First Nations in May after a two-year-old boy died on the Long Plain First Nation.

    Federal government officials say there is no short-term fix for the problem and they’re still working on a long-term solution.

Jenna Cederberg

Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, uses Native American flute music to help others reconnect with the natural world. (Courtesy of

Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, uses Native American flute music to help others reconnect with the natural world. (Courtesy of

New holiday zen: Native traditions and yoga
Driving around the icy streets of Missoula today, my car low on oil, late for work and in search of one last Christmas gift I didn’t find, I really could have used Dennis Hawk.

You see, as reports, Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, combines the healing practices of yoga with Native American teachings as a way to help promote an overall sense of well-being and connection to the natural world.
Hawk holds regular conferences that combine yoga and a combination of music and Native American spiritualism. Music plays a large role as well.

Sounds so sweet.

    Last week’s workshops also featured simultaneous Reiki practice, a spiritual technique that seeks to transfer energy through the palms of practitioners’ hands.

    “It’s very interactive,” says Hawk. “It’s almost inducing a dream state to raise conscious awareness of the season changes and winter. Being indoors, we never really experience winter. My teachings ceremonially welcome in the winter in a process of rest and renewal.”

Final TNS10 recap
As a final note to last week’s Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C., here’s a video from NAPT’s Gemma Givens cataloging the issues touched on at the summit. Givens has some great footage and original interviews, including the thoughts of Jefferson Keel on positive steps he believes were take for Indian Country in 2010. See NAPT for blogs and more news.

Suicide workshops taking place across the country
You can’t get much braver than Natasha Singh. An Alaska Native, she suffers from depression. And she fought it. The Associated Press’ story last week chronicled Singh’s story of fighting taboos and getting help, as well as highlighted federal listening sessions being held during the next several months to address the problem of Native suicide.

    Singh, who suffers from anxiety, wants to remove the stigma of seeking help in Alaska Native communities. That’s why she decided to speak at one of 10 “listening sessions” being held nationwide by federal agencies through February.

    Federal officials say the sessions aim to explore ways to better address the disproportionate rate of suicides in Alaska Native and American Indian communities, most notably among the young.

Nicole Mason, 14, and her brother haul water to their trailer at St. Theresa Point last winter. (HELEN.FALLDING@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

Nicole Mason, 14, and her brother haul water to their trailer at St. Theresa Point last winter. (HELEN.FALLDING@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

Northern Manitoba aboriginal leaders want clean running water

More than 1,400 homes on northern Manitoba reserves have no running water. Native leaders are demanding the number be zero by 2012, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. The chiefs took their concerns to Parliament Hill in Ottawa last week – wondering why the money can’t be spent to bring the basic need of clean water to all on the reserve.

    The lack of running water has been blamed for health issues including skin problems and the easy spread of infections like flu. Without running water, even basic hygiene like handwashing is difficult.

    Last year, Manitoba’s Island Lake region, where half the homes have no running water, was hit hard by the H1N1 flu virus and this year two people have died there after getting seasonal flu, Harper said.

    Bringing running water to 1,448 northern Manitoba homes would require adding kitchen sinks, toilets and bathtubs to houses built without plumbing. In many cases, holding tanks would need to be installed for water delivered by truck. Most reserves have water-treatment plants capable of supplying water for the holding tanks.

Jenna Cederberg

The canoe will be on display in Falmouth from the end of January until September. (Courtesy of BBA business wire)

The canoe will be on display in Falmouth from the end of January until September. (Courtesy of BBA business wire)

What historians believe is the oldest birch bark canoe in existence was found in the barn of an English estate this year, having rested there for decades after traveling from Canada to Europe in the late 1700s.

BBC Cornwell
reports that the “unique survival from the 18th Century” is thought to have been brought from Canada by Lt John Enys, who fought in Quebec during the American War of Independence. The BBC reports that Enys discovered the canoe sometime during his personal travels in Canada.

It goes on display at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth early next year.

The canoe will then be returned to Canada. Exactly where the canoe originated and by which Canadian tribe it was crafted will then be investigated by the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Jenna Cederberg

Indigenous Environmental Network posted a news release today about its protest of tar sands and fossil fuel pollution at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico:

    Over twenty people with color-coded T-shirts that spelled out the words “Shut Down the Tar Sands” in both English and Spanish gathered in front of the Maya building to directly deliver their message to UNFCCC delegates. Participants included Indigenous community representatives from fossil fuel impacted community across Canada and the U.S., many carrying personal banners linking tar sands with the destruction of their territories.

    Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree comes from a community impacted by tar sands. “We have seen the destruction of our lands happen right before our eyes. Our water is being contaminated and we are seeing droughts throughout the region. My family used to be able to drink from our watershed, and now within my lifetime we can no longer do so.

    Young and old people alike have developed respiratory illnesses as neighboring plants emit noxious gases into the air. First Nations and farming communities have reported health effects to the wildlife and livestock. The area is drastically changing – I fear for the future of my homeland.”

    The tar sands are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in Canada. Unless Canada changes track emissions from the tar sands industry are set to triple to over 120 millions tones. Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, “Our communities demand real solutions to address the climate crisis and that means shutting down the tar sands and a moratorium on new fossil fuel development.”

    Read the rest of this entry »