I watched the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly. This is what I saw
✎ Wayne K. Spear | December 7, 2017 • Current Events
IF YOU FOLLOWED THE Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly this week, like I did, you heard two federal cabinet ministers (and omg one of them is Indigenous) say that Canada did some very no good very bad things in the past—but the Trudeau Liberal government is a new and different government altogether. And on account of this differentlyness very good great things are going to happen to us very soon because. WAIT shouted the chiefs WE HAVE SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT but the Ministers had to leave the moment their speeches were over. Just like pretty much every Minister at an AFN gathering ever but different.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde said much the same things the government people did—almost as if his speaking notes were coordinated with those of Ministers Carolyn Bennett and Jody Wilson-Raybould, who omg is Indigenous just like the rest of us. NatCheef B-Garde enjoys one of the warmest Crown-Chief relationships of the AFN’s history, so it was no surprise when his leather went all buttery-soft and he said dreamily that we are “in the midst of a tremendous opportunity” and that federal money is about to rain down upon us from the sky, along with big bucketsful of inherent Indigenous rights, no strings attached. The dangers, said Ency BeauGardz, are acrimony and division. Also, totally unrelated, there’s a National Chief election next year. The takeaway is that we must re-elect NC PeeBee (don’t get all dividey now, Chiefs!) and then also PeeEMJayT, so the wonderful things we have been promised will happen. In their second terms, for sure. Because.
Who Wants an Eagle Staff, Yo!
No Indigenous person outside of Ottawa actually knows what the AFN has been up to over the past few years. There’s an UNDRIP which sounds like a plumbing issue (if you’re fortunate enough to have actual plumbing) but isn’t. Also the AFN wants to close The Gap, which is fine because no Indian shops there anyway. None of us can point to a single improvement in our lives and say “Thank-you, National Chief, for this wonderful [fill in the blank]” but most of us can point to something that really sucks, like undrinkable water and moldy schools, and say ruefully that nothing appears to be changing. Fortunately that is all going to change lickety-split, because there’s a new Prime Minister in town who loves us, and we know this because tears fall from his dreamy bedroom eyes when he apologizes. He cares so much that, for the first time in Canada’s history, a federal government has a plan for the Indigenous people that is going to be great for them. We are going to love it! And it’s going to be different from the past because in the past governments never came up with ideas to make the Indians better-off.
For some reason there are Indigenous people who don’t trust the government or the AFN. (No, really.) These people say silly things like “Well what’s the plan exactly?” And by people I mean, of course, dangerous radicals. One of these unhinged extremists, the AFN’s Anishinabe Elder, Elmer Courchene, suggested that the AFN Chiefs were guilty of collaboration, which he defined as traitorous cooperation with the enemy. Whoa there, cultural Marxist SJW Elder Courchene! Not only that, he accused the AFN of disrespecting elders, then brought up National Chief Bellegarde’s gifting of an eagle staff to Marc-Andre Blanchard, Canada’s representative to the United Nations. I mean, what has the world come to when a Chief gets grief simply for handing sacred Indigenous objects over to random white guys?
Then other radicals jumped in and all hell broke loose. Even the youth took shots at poor nc/pErRyB. Mark Hill, Co-Chair of the AFN’s Youth Council, accused the AFN executive of centralizing power and authority, and he reminded everyone that the AFN is a lobby group and not a government elected to negotiate on our behalf. “The nation-to-nation relationship is between our peoples and the Crown,” he shouted, while setting his hair on fire. (Not really. I made that part up to sound more radical.) NatchyCheef PeBellGeGard didn’t look very happy about any of this, but later on he reminded everyone that this is a pivotal moment for a legacy so we are moving forward with much work to do it’s the grassroots let me tell you the youth they are our future. This didn’t convince anyone, so he pulled an 11.8-billion-dollar bill out of his headdress and waved it around until it was time for everyone to go to the casino.
HOWDY, and welcome to the End-of Month-Roundup—which for the month of July is coming to you at the beginning of August. That’s because this was a busy and exciting month. Let’s review.
If you’ve been watching this site, you know that two books of mine were released this month. One of them, the 20th Anniversary Edition of Real Things Real People Are Really Doing, is available as a download here. Copies of the other, Full Circle: the Aboriginal Healing Foundation & the unfinished work of hope, healing & reconciliation, can be had by contacting me.
THE ASSEMBLY of First Nations 35th Annual General Assembly, held last week in Halifax, was remarkable more for what wasn’t said than what was. The name of the former national chief was seldom spoken, and the consensus appeared to be for a reconstitution of the leadership as quickly as possible, better to put behind the recent—and unprecedented—disruption.
LAST WEEK I WAS interviewed for a CBC program on the topic of Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. The name of the program is immaterial. If you look it up, you won’t find me. That interview was tossed, and another guest was found.
The former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, may now be realizing that the inspirational and aspirational modes are insufficent.
I‘VE MET EVERY Assembly of First Nations National Chief going back to the late 1980s, when Georges Erasmus was the leader. Taken as a group, they cover a broad range of personality and disposition. I’ve gotten to know Georges the best, having written for him across a decade and more, but Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is probably the AFN chief who put me most at comfort, right from our first conversation, in a North Bay restaurant.
OVER A LUNCH with the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, I had a conversation last week in North Bay about Idle No More and social media. A thread which ran throughout our discussion was anger — in particular the anger of native people, much of which is directed toward the federal government of Canada.
• Podcast 005 | Week of 07.21.2012
“THERE ARE MOMENTS,” says the Annual General Assembly Co-Chair, Harold Tarbell, and he’s right. It will turn out to be the most emotional scene of the Assembly of First Nations’ three-day Toronto gathering: a cheerful and wholesome-looking, blonde-haired and blue-eyed thirteen year-old from Niagara Falls, brought to the podium at the behest of child-rights advocate Cindy Blackstock, has just delivered the week’s shortest but perhaps most eloquent speech, and the audience is on their feet:
Hello everybody, my name is Wes Prankard. For the past three years I have been trying to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. What I’ve been doing started three years ago, when I saw pictures of the community Attawapiskat. Just seeing these conditions the children were living in, I just knew it wasn’t fair. And so I decided to do something.
It’s been more than a few years now since my afternoon Calgary chat with a Kainai (Blood) acquaintance, but I do remember a bit of the history lesson I received that day. One thing I recall above all else is a sensation of correspondence: the Haudenosaunee have the largest population within Canada’s borders, the Kainai the largest land base; the Haudenosaunee are known to be of an independent cast of mind, so too I gathered from my interlocutor the Kainai. (The name is pronounced “Ken-Eye,” and fittingly means something like Many Chiefs.) I left the conversation that day rather feeling a sense of kinship, which is unusual for me in most any social encounter.