People's patience is over, says chief.
First Nations, hundreds strong, marched to the steps of their legislatures demanding that the Saskatchewan and Alberta provincial governments honor treaty rights.
Our people are saying this injustice is no longer okay and we will step forward and we will even use tools of mainstream democracy, like rallies in front of legislatures, to make sure that our voices are going to be heard," said Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo. Atleo attended the rally in Edmonton.
Both rallies occurred in the provincial capitals on Sept. 26. That the events happened on the same day was a coincidence. The Saskatchewan rally, dubbed "the day of action,' was carried out through a resolution passed in July by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. In Alberta, the "day of awareness" was the result of a resolution passed by the Alberta Assembly of Treaty Chiefs in June.
That the rallies were staged at the same time speaks to the overall discontent of First Nations, not only in the West, but across the country, said Yellow Quill First Nation Chief Larry Cachene, who helped organize the Saskatchewan event.
"(These rallies are) just the tip of the iceberg," he said.
Atleo agreed. "It's a people's movement. It's the power of the people stepping forward and in some respects pushing the leaders to say we're going to stand up and not only are we going to support what it is that you're doing but we're going to push all of you."
Issues of concern were numerous and included those that face people living on reserves: Lack of education, lack of health care, lack of housing, lack of social programs, and lack of economic development.
"The minerals come out of the ground, come out of Saskatchewan. Every citizen from Saskatchewan benefits from those except the First Nations," said Cachene, speaking to more than 700 people, many of whom marched several blocks from the Cree Land Mini Mart to the legislature.
The erosion of treaty rights and the lack of consultation with First Nations also figured prominently.
"We've had enough," said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta. "We're standing up here because we're tired of being trampled on. We're tired of them suppressing us."
Adam informed the crowd of 500 that held signs and cheered loudly at the foot of the Alberta legislature steps that his council would be taking court action once more. This time the target is the province's Public Lands Act which severely limits the time First Nations can spend on the land.
The words of the leaders and the cry to action, which included demands for meetings with the provincial governments and the signing of petitions to back up the demands, were met with overwhelming support and a sense of restlessness.
The time is now, said Cachene.
"We have our Elders, who are leaders in our communities, the most patient people in our communities, and they're saying 'Enough is enough.' If the Elders are getting to the point where they're saying that then I think that everybody else is ready for it, too. They're saying, 'Why do we stand for that? Why do we allow this to happen?'"
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|Date:||Nov 1, 2011|
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