Natives take stand in Coldwater 0
The Coldwater-Narrows land claim settlement goes against original First Nations treaties, say two Anishinabe men.
"This goes beyond our four communities," Memeskwaniniisi, who would only provide his spirit name -- which means red-tailed hawk -- said Friday.
On April 14, the Chippewa Tri- Council: Rama, Georgina Island and Beausoleil First Nations along with the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation voted on the federal government's offer of $307 million for their 20-year-old Coldwater-Narrows land claim.
The largest land-claim settlement offer in Canadian history has been stalled by Nawash, whose low voter turnout failed to garner the minimum number of votes required by the federal government.
Memeskwaniniisi and Greg King are from one of the four First Nations involved in the settlement.
"We're against it," King said. "We didn't even vote."
The men, who didn't want to specify which First Nation they're from, refused to vote because it would mean they agreed with the Indian Act and Specific Land Claims Policy, they said.
"These policies that have been imposed upon us breach the original agreement," King said.
Memeskwaniniisi and King, who are both 32, have set up an indigenous solidarity camp just of Highway 12 in Coldwater to raise awareness of the Covenant Belt made with the British Crown and 24 nations in 1764.
"All 24 First Nations that are involved in the 24 nations belt should have been consulted," Memeskwaniniisi said.
The men would like to see the wampum belt, which they called Canada's original constitution, recognized along with other First Nation belts. They all represent peace, co-existence and noninterference.
One dish, one spoon is an intertribal belt signifying that all First Nations would share the Great Lakes lands for hunting, fishing and survival, King said.
"We wouldn't interfere with each other, or govern each other, or be at war," he said.
The belt also tells the First Nations to come together to make decisions on land changes around the Great Lakes, King said.
All land claims around the Great Lakes should be discussed with all 24 First Nations. The nations are now located throughout Canada and in the U.S.
Rama First Nation Chief Sharon Stinson Henry says the 10-year negotiation process only involved the Coldwater-Narrows treaty.
"No other treaty was discussed at the table," she said. "It was the Coldwater-Narrows land treaty and so it is called the Coldwater- Narrows land settlement agreement."
Asked if the 24 First Nations should have been involved in the settlement process, Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton said claims are rigourously examined by the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
"They find all the documents they can to not only establish there was an invalid surrender, but that also includes the parties who were the damaged," he said.
Through government investigation, Nawash First Nation was added into the deal in 2008.
"... in the course of their examinations of this claim it was the department... that came across the linkages of Beausoleil First Nation. Some of their community had moved to Nawash," Stanton said. "That's why they got added in."
The four First Nations have agreed with the Government of Canada's research on who should be in on the claim, he said.
"... These communities have agreed this is in fact what happened and (they) turned their attentions to how they would rectify it," Stanton said.
When the vote occurred last Saturday, Rama, Georgina Island and Beausoleil First Nations voted 98%, 93% and 97%, respectively, in favour of the landmark deal.
Stinson Henry said the four First Nations had "extensive consultation" with their communities before the vote.
"What it seems is being protested is in contrast to what over 90% of all of the community members (who voted) voted for," she said.
By discussing all land claims separately, the nations are being divided and the wampum treaty belts superseded, King countered.
"It would be something to see all our nations come together and be able to talk about this," he said. "Politically speaking, I don't think Canada wants that to happen."
Their cause isn't about the millions of dollars. If the First Nations agree to the settlement, $307 million will be dispersed amongst them.
"It's about the brotherhood," King said. "We all have inherent rights to this land. We all agreed to take care of it."
Coming to a settlement is the only course of action Canada can take, Stanton said.
"(All we can do is)... provide compensation in lieu of damages that were laid on the shoulders of the community," he said.
The settlement offer states the four First Nations involved in the claim would be responsible for future suits or claims on the Cold-water-Narrows land and not the Government of Canada.
"That to me, says Canada knows there are other nations involved in this that aren't being included," King said.
Stanton said it is a standard part of any claim settlement.
"...No one should read into the fact that this somehow means there is some hidden knowledge of some other invalid transaction of some sort," he said. "On that particular point they're really reaching."
Stanton said it is to ensure the communities can't come back and try to negotiate for more money on the same claim.
Memeskwaniniisi, King and their partner Kaikaikons, who was out spreading the word on Friday, have been camping in a teepee and tent near the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum for one week.
"We want (First Nations people) to know there is another way," King said. "We can do this all together."