'Citizens Speak' at Serpent River on water and treaty issues

SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION , ON, May 31, 2013 /CNW/ - Robinson Huron Treaty leaders plan on holding more community meetings over the next year to bring the treaty discussion into their nation-building exercises.

That was one of the outcomes of a two-day gathering of Anishinabek Nation citizens in Serpent River First Nation to conduct "Citizens Speak" discussions on water and treaty issues.

"First Nations all across Canada continue to voice concerns about environmental issues with respect to industry and development in their treaty lands and the lack of recognition from other governments for First Nations to have a legitimate say as to what happens in their territories," said Anishinabek Nation Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini.. " This week's gathering was intended to focus on grassroots and citizen input toward solutions, to start gaining clarity and traction on jurisdiction in a number of sectors, ranging from child welfare, education, lands and environment -- as well as economic development."

On Day One, Anishinabek citizens agreed that their jurisdiction as land stewards in the treaty territories has never been relinquished and that the planet is in critical environmental times.  It is necessary to occupy the field and take on formal responsibility for the land. Their major concern is for the next generation and ensuring that rights are preserved for those yet unborn.

It was  emphasized that treaty citizens have bona fide authority and influence to enforce treaty obligations within their treaty territory.

"When our ancestors entered into treaties they did not give up anything," said Chief Day. "In fact, the treaty didn't give us rights; the treaty suggested rights and shared access for European settlers. Our inherent rights were affirmed, specific rights that existed prior to the agreement to share were acknowledged in the treaty. It's time for the truth to be upheld - we did not relinquish our sovereignty and jurisdiction by agreeing to share these lands. Canada and Ontario must address treaties from the standpoint of truth; this is the only way that the Honour of the Crown can be up held."

Day Two featured presentations by the Anishinabek Women's Water Commission, which pledged to work with Robinson Huron communities and leadership over the next six months to strengthen and modernize their mandate.

A panel of youth, elders and leaders made the treaty more relevant to current challenges faced by their communities. It was observed that treaty gatherings and discussions on First Nation rights and jurisdiction are occurring more frequently across Canada due to growing unrest and lack of confidence in the federal and provincial government approach to treaties. Leaders are growing more inclined to turn to their citizens, asking them for information and direction on their perspectives and vision of treaty implementation.

"Our women, elders, youth and all treaty citizens have a significant part in raising our communities up out of a controlled state where other jurisdictions have total control of our lands," added Chief Day. "Other jurisdictions must pay attention. We have an emerging youth who are educated, determined and  thirsty to claim their place as Indigenous leaders. They don't want rhetoric, nor will they accept the status quo."

SOURCE: Anishinabek Nation

For further information:

Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini

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Anishinabek Nation

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Union of Ontario Indians

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