Words have power, many cultures believe that a person's word is what defines them more than any of their possessions or titles. Religious texts such as The Bible agree, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1. Yet today we have lawyers, lawsuits, treaties, and contracts to validate what used to be an issue of individual honor born of honest and virtuous actions. Since the trees, the waterways, and the air we breathe have an eternal quality, any agreements to protect them should not expire over time or be assimilated into the passing ideologies of ages. First Nations People have known this since the original settlers arrived from the east. Though the current passing ideology that allows for the exploitation of nature for mineral, oil, and gas is more powerful than most institutions on the planet, it is unable to bend truths that are self-evident and of an eternal quality. The Idle No More Movement is here to remind us. To the leaders who have sold themselves to the false and passing ideology of infinite resource exploitation for short-term monetary or political gain, it is time to awaken and join your fellow humans for the sake of honoring the life that sustains us all.
Before we get to the beautiful unfolding drama that includes a letter to The Queen of England, let's take a moment to understand a little bit of background thanks to information compiled by Lawyers Rights Watch Canada:
From 1876 -- 1951 Indians were excluded by the Indian Act from the definition of a person. Until 1960 under the Elections Act Indians could not vote without losing their status and their treaty rights. In 1927, Canada amended the Indian Act to prevent "Indians" from hiring lawyers, thereby thwarting attempts by Indigenous peoples to surmount these formal legal obstacles and obtain redress by using Canadian and international tribunals to assert their rights. Until 2008, Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, enacted in 1977 excluded "Indian" people living on reserves from filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, making them the only people in Canada unable to seek rights protection under the legislation. In 2006, The United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that section 67 allowed "...discrimination to be practiced as long as it can be justified under the Indian Act," and recommended the section be repealed. Section 67 was finally repealed in 2008.
There is enough information like this to fill hundreds of blogs, but this gives you an idea of the conditions that First Nations People have endured for a long while. You can also learn more about human rights issues by reading the statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples in Canada.
It is very important to note that the founding principles of The United States Government, modeled in Canada and The United Nations, are borrowed from The First Nations Haudenosaunee's (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, which is the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. This is very important because natives signed treaties as allies to the Crown, not as subjects or conquered people. The historic relationship with the Crown accounts for native people fighting and dying as allies in the wars leading to the formation of Canada including the Seven Years War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812.
In my previous article, Idle No More: Hints of a Global Super-Movement, I closed with a powerful and eloquent speech by an 11 year-old Sliammon girl named Ta'Kaiya Blaney. Elders of The Sliammon Nation have written a letter to The Queen of England asking her to act honorably where The Canadian Government has fallen short.
Colonial culture has brought many great things to the world, yet it has also left a path of destruction and dishonor. Imperial forces may take lives and land by force, but honorable respect can only be gained through virtuous action. We have an opportunity to understand this history through a lens of knowledge and compassion to heal historical wounds and restore honor. To own our shortcomings as a people is also to own power to make them right. Below are a few excerpts from the letter with some portions left out as they are meant only for The Queens eyes.
Her Majesty The Queen
London SW1A 1AA
We, the Tla'Amin (Sliammon) Elders, are writing to you regarding a grave injustice committed by the Canadian government against the Sliammon (Tla'Amin) people.
Your Majesty's authorization was not received, therefore, according to the statutes made clear in the Royal Proclamation, 1763, we are requesting the Canadian courts consider the Sliammon Final Agreement invalid.
This request is significant in light of the current rate resources are being extracted unsustainably and without environmental review from our lands, and on Indian lands all across BC. The devastation of the last remaining environmental spaces affects all people in this world through toxic contamination and climate change. We, the Tla'Amin Elders, are the original stewards of this land.
We would also like to point out that the Sliammon Final Agreement did not meet modern-day standards agreed upon by the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, 2007, upon which Canada was a signatory.
We will bring our evidence to the Canadian courts of a fraudulent 18 year modern-day Treaty-making process during which the Sliammon Treaty Society borrowed $26 million dollars. This flawed "Treaty" process was overseen by the watchful eye of the BC Treaty Commission, the Federal Government, and a private elections company hired to oversee the vote. We will bring affidavits of alleged bribery, an enrolment (voting) list containing deceased people, statutes of the Final Agreement ignored and violated, and third-party agreements (available in the media) with corporations allegedly signed before the Final Agreement 'Effective Date.' It is our claim that the Sliammon Treaty be declared invalid also on this basis and we are taking this claim to the Canadian court.
We would also like to point out that the Sliammon people were improperly consulted about the Treaty in a process that did not maintain free, prior, informed consent. Facts and opinions were presented from one side only and in a manner that did not take into account education levels of the community. To the Elders, English is their second language and many were denied the opportunity to receive higher than an elementary education. Other adults attended residential school and received a substandard education. The information presented in the Final Agreement would be difficult for a student at a Law School to comprehend. The information was presented in a manner where the Sliammon people do not understand the gravity of the situation.
We, the Tla'Amin Elders, are requesting Her Majesty to oversee a Treaty process that takes place within an impartial international court. This court would reflect the human rights standard of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights, 2007, upon which Canada was a signatory.
Emot (Thank you),
The Tla'Amin Elders.
Idle No More has continued to be a non-violent movement called forth by grandmothers with a deep love of the land and their culture. It has spread across Canada, The United States, and the world, drawing support from individuals who are native and non-native. In the end, all beings must realize that we are native to the Earth and we have a responsibility to preserve and protect nature while engaging in sustainable practices that allow us to live together with mutual respect, honor, and integrity. We stand at a historic crossroads that could be the seeds of a beautiful future, or a moment that foreshadows the destruction of life and natural systems as we have known them since the beginning of time. The choice is ours...