Anishinabek Nation moves forward with Constitution

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, March 5 /CNW/ - Citizens and leaders at the Anishinabek Nation Constitutional Convention 1 adopted a motion today approving a first final draft Anishinabek Nation Chi-Naaknigewin - the Anishinabek Nation Constitution.

Led by the Governance Working Group, a draft Anishinabek Nation Chi-Naaknigewin was presented article by article to over 90 convention delegates representing 26 First Nation communities.

"Our most important values and traditions, the very things that define our nationhood, are asserted and protected in our nation's constitution. This is a very historic day for Anishinabek," said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee in his closing remarks. "This constitution puts other governments on notice that they are not dealing with Aboriginal communities. They will be dealing with the Anishinabek, on a nation-to-nation basis."

The 13 articles of the Anishinabek Nation Constitution protect and advance Anishinaabe traditions and world view, language, and other inherent rights bestowed by the Creator, such as connection land, territorial imperative, and the rights of self-determination and self-government.

The toughest discussions during the three-day convention centered around citizenship and representation in the Anishinabek Nation Government.

"It was a decolonization exercise," says Madahbee. "Anishinaabe world views and values were being mixed up with the Indian Act. But in the end we came to consensus on 'This is who we are, this is what we have, and this is where we're going."

"This document represents a 30-year process that began with our Anishinabek Declaration in 1980. In the last decade, over 4000 Anishinaabe people have lent their voices to this document," the Grand Council Chief continued.

Prior to the convention, the Chiefs Committee on Governance recommended to the convention that the Grand Council Chief take the Anishinabek Nation Constitution to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples.

"We have to get some traction, some results. We need to change how we do business. Former National Chief Matthew Coon Come said, 'It's a form of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over, and expect different results'. We have to get rid of the colonial mentality," said Madahbee.

Under the Indian Act, Chiefs and councils are responsible to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. With an Anishinabek Nation government, Chiefs and councils will be responsible to the people.

Deputy Grand Council Chief and Commissioner on Governance, Glen Hare, added, "Our people want to go forward and see some movement on the recognition of Anishinabek rights and government. We have to do this for ourselves. We can't wait for Canada or Ontario. We need to do this for our children, it is a sacred responsibility."

The Anishinabek Nation draft constitution will now go in front of the Grand Council Assembly in June. A second Anishinabek Nation Constitutional Convention will take place in March 2011 for ratification by delegates appointed by the First Nations.

The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 40 member communities across Ontario, representing approximately 55,000 people. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

SOURCE Anishinabek Nation

For further information: For further information: Marci Becking, Communications Officer, Union of Ontario Indians, Phone: (705) 497-9127 (ext. 2290), Cell: (705) 494-0735, E-mail: becmar@anishinabek.ca, www.facebook.com - add Anishinabek Nation as a "friend"

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