SEPT-ILES, QC, March 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Following the last two weeks of turbulent media flurries, the Innu Strategic Alliance wish to clarify certain points to avoid further confusion.
The hunt that occurred February 19 to 24, last month, was to provide traditional food for the members of the five communities while exercising traditional rights to hunt on Nitassinan (Innu territory which purposely overlooks borders imposed upon by governments). As well, this action targeted the particularly suspicious hunting ban set forth by the Newfoundland government and its overzealous wildlife officers, according to non-scientific observations correlated by the protectors of the territory, that is to say, the Innu elder, has no merit and that the Innu are no longer willing to seize every occasion. "We will accept the lawsuits if Prime Minister Williams puts his threats into effect and we will forever fight to assert our rights on Nitassinan," said strongly the Chief of the Ekuanitshit community, Mr. Jean-Charles Piétacho.
We, the Innu Strategic Alliance, call for justice and compensation for all the wrongs that have pillaged our lands and hunting grounds in Labrador, during the construction of the hydroelectric project in Lower Churchill. Again, governments have not fulfilled their constitutional obligations to consult with all communities with Aboriginal rights to the affected territories. "First, they fail to meet their legal obligations, and when the projects they fund have tragic and irreversible impacts on fauna and flora, in February they threaten to sue us for hunting caribou in abundance on our territory. It's plain for all to see that the governments are merely sidestepping the real legal and constitutional issues, "said Chief Georges-Ernest Grégoire of the Uashat Mak Mani Utenam community. Therefore, the Innu Strategic Alliance seek that justice be done in relation to the proposed Lower Churchill. Please note that this is a matter of justice and not, as some media have suggested, to win over funding.
Innu Strategic Alliance are concerned mainly with the imminent signing of a treaty between the Innu Nation (Tribal Council grouping the two Innu communities in Labrador), the Government of Newfoundland and the Government of Canada). The treaty, in its current form, would extinguish the rights of the Innu people of Quebec on Nitassinan in Labrador. "It's that simple; we have never ceded our rights in Labrador, and we demand to be consulted. We have proposed a meeting with the government of Newfoundland in the coming weeks." said the Chief of the Matimekush Lac-John community, Réal McKenzie.
The New Dawn Agreement, a.k.a. Tshash Petapen, signed a few months ago by the Innu Nation and the Government of Newfoundland, is a legitimate agreement by the Innu of Labrador. Innu Strategic Alliance regret not having been consulted in this Agreement, but its actions are not directed against this agreement. As Chief of Pessamit, Raphael Picard, said, "our hunting action was not directed against our Innu brothers and sisters in Labrador, but against governments that have refused to recognize our rights and imposed absurd boundaries." The division of the Innu Nation is the result of colonial policies of governments, including the infamous and highly discriminatory Indian Act.
A little culture
The Innu have been living in the territory since time immemorial, millennia before the first European was to come and settle down permanently. Chief George Bacon, of Unamen Shipu, said, "the land was to be our survival as a people. We were the territory, and it was us. Every move made by the Innu of nature had its reasons, its functions; although everything has changed today because of colonization and industrialization, the Innu, when in the forest, proudly reproduce gestures solely designed by their ancestors."
The Innu Strategic Alliance
The Innu Strategic Alliance brings together the Chiefs of the Innu communities of Ekuanitshit, Matimekush-Lac John Pessamit, Uashat mak Mani Utenam and Unamen Shipu, representing about 12, 000 people and representing 70% of the members of the Innu Nation living in Quebec. The Strategic Alliance's mandate is to enable parties to defend their rights and convergent interests, and to initiate joint actions of all kinds in order to achieve political, economic and judicial results.
SOURCE ALLIANCE STRATEGIQUE INNUE
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