Newly Found Diaries shed Essential Light on Oral Promises Made during Treaty Making in James Bay Territory

FORT ALBANY FIRST NATION, ON, Feb. 3 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, AFN Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse and Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Stan Louttit expressed satisfaction and appreciation for a successful event today at the closing of the "Conference on the James Bay Treaty - Treaty No. 9", held at the Peetabeck Academy in Fort Albany First Nation.

The Conference examined James Bay Treaty - Treaty 9 and the negotiations that led to the Treaty, including diaries kept by Treaty Commissioners.  The diaries of Government Treaty Commissioner Daniel MacMartin - hidden for 100 years and recently brought to light - reveal that the Crown promised First Nations the right to hunt, fish, trap and retain their traditional livelihood anywhere across the land and waters, as they had since time immemorial.

Grand Chief Louttit stated: "Our Elders have said this all along, and yet it remains a constant battle for our people today to exert their rights to hunt, trap and fish on the land in order to feed their families and communities. Our inherent rights must be respected."

The diaries include details on Treaty-making discussions, including oral promises made by the Treaty partners that are not explicit in the written Treaty. This is important because many First Nations at the time did not read English and entered into Treaty trusting that the text reflected the understanding of both parties.

"It is a reminder that Canada's governments and courts need to be cautious when interpreting Treaty rights," Regional Chief Toulouse said. "The spirit and intent of the oral promises are just as important and legally legitimate as the written promises.  We need to come back to the real intention of Treaty, which means getting our fair share of resource development and getting back what is rightfully ours since the signing of Treaty."

National Chief Atleo stated: "We need to stand firm on our Treaties and Treaty rights, just as our Elders stood firm when making these agreements. Our Elders tell us and we pass this message on to our youth: our people did not surrender our land or our rights.  This discussion has tremendous implications across the country in terms of the rightful sharing of resources.  Now is the time for Canadians to learn the truth about our peoples, our Treaties and our historic and sacred nation to nation relationship so we can move forward in partnership."

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

For further information:

Don Kelly, Assembly of First Nations A/Communications Director
613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or e-mail dkelly@afn.ca

Jenna Young, Assembly of First Nations Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or e-mail jyoung@afn.ca

Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613 292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca

Office of the Grand Chief Stan Louttit, Mushkegowuk Council
705-658-4222 or stanlouttit@muskegowuk.ca

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