To the Expositor:
Aanii, hello, to all my non-aboriginal relations. Greetings from your neighbors at Whitefish River First Nation. I am Chief Shining Turtle of the Sturgeon clan of Whitefish River First Nation of the Anishinabe.
My heart is filled with excitement, pride and heaviness these days. I am proud of our people, and the peaceful way that round dance drums are beating across this country to bring a message of cultural pride and the determination to stand up for aboriginal rights. I am excited to see youth in my own community raise their voices and move their feet to lead this call for change. And I am happy to see some non-aboriginal neighbors dancing beside us.
But my heart is also heavy, hearing misunderstandings about my people and what we seek. I taste the bitterness of angry and poisonous words, raised to discount what is happening with the Idle No More movement and the current protests. So I speak to you to try to bring understanding to heal this wound between us.
These Idle No More drums are not just for us: they beat for you because the legislation we are protesting does not just harm us—it hurts you and your children and your grandchildren. This is not about your aboriginal neighbours, it is about ‘justice’ for you, too. The omnibus budget bills change the law in ways that will forever harm the water and earth that we all rely on for life.
I cannot tell you what path to follow. I cannot tell you to join our protest. But I can tell you the story of what we know of these legislative changes and how they will forever change our relationship with the land and water. So I ask you to take this story to heart, then it is up to you to decide what to do.
• The federal government passed Bill C-45, changing 44 laws that removed many fish habitat protections and fails to recognize aboriginal commercial fisheries.
• The new Navigation Protection Act removed the environmental assessment requirement for all but one percent of Canada’s waterways, including key rivers in British Columbia along the path of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
• Bill C-38 affected more than 70 federal laws without proper Parliamentary debate and changed Canada’s federal environmental legislation and protections for water, fish, and the environment.
• Bill C-27 requires First Nation-owned businesses (unlike non-aboriginal businesses) to publicly report income and expenses, thus undermining competitiveness.
I can tell you, though, what most concerns me the most about all the changes. Put together they dramatically change how we in Canada will be able to protect and respect the water, the fish, and our Whitefish River First Nation fellow creatures. These bills take power away from the public—both aboriginal and non-aboriginal—to review and understand and speak out about projects which could harm the environment. Your children and grandchildren, and my grandchildren, will live in an unhealthier and, as a result, poorer world because of it. These bills already took away the power of the normal Parliamentary process for proper review, rolling massive changes to over 100 laws into one bill without proper hearings and consultation.
We, your aboriginal neighbours, have been working to channel that energy and anger into positive resistance. The round dances you see in your malls or blocking your roads are both a call for change and a celebration of our culture. They are organized by our youth, and I am proud to watch them find new and visionary ways to combine new technologies with aboriginal culture and a commitment to self-determination.
These are also dances for life: they are call-outs to remind us all to respect the earth and our relationship with each other.
So I invite you to make our campaign yours:
• Email Prime Minister Stephen Harper (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let him know that enough is enough!
• Learn more about how we can work together by following the news on Twitter (#IdleNoMore).
The circle of those dances is not complete until you join us. I know that it is up to you to know your own journey. I know, however, that many of you have hearts open to hear this call, and so I speak these words into the circle between us:
Let us work together, to ensure respect for earth, the water and our fellow creatures.
Let us work together to honour the sacred treaty relationship we have with one another.
Let us work together to creatively, peacefully and firmly push our government to repeal or amend the recently-passed laws which will harm the earth and us all.
Let us join together in the circle dance of respect for each other and the earth.Miigwetch, Chief Shining Turtle (Franklin Paibomsai) Whitefish River First Nation