'It's up to us to assert rights': Madahbee

SERPENT RIVER FN, May 31, 2013 /CNW/ - Anishinabek Nation leaders are launching a concerted effort to engage community members and citizens in discussions about the treaty relationship.

"If we are going to assert our jurisdiction in relation to our treaty rights then we must coordinate our efforts and develop a greater understanding of our responsibilities to our water and our land," said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, Wedaseh, during a two-day gathering in Serpent River First Nation." Governments refuse to live up to their end of the bargain so it's up to us to assert our own rights. Treaty gatherings like this are important in giving citizens a voice and creating awareness."

The two-day event, called the 1850 Huron Treaty Gathering and Women's Water Commission Meeting,  was preceded by ceremonies and songs, and included discussions by a panel of Anishinabek elders, women and youth on the relevance of treaty to current issues faced by First Nations communities, including environmental, economic and social concerns.

Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare acknowledged the importance of ceremonies throughout the two-day event.

"Every time the Anishinaabe meet for important events like this we acknowledge the ancestors and we acknowledge our women, our elders, our youth, our land and our water. We always remember our ceremonies. That's what sets us apart from Canada and Ontario. We know that our treaties are not only about us, they're about sustaining life for the next seven generations.

"Our youth of tomorrow will remember our actions of today. Exercising our treaty rights begins with us; we have to do it because talking about it doesn't work."

Lake Huron Regional Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini, hosted the event in his community, and created an agenda based on a "Citizens Speak" theme.

"It's up to all Anishinabek - not just elected leaders - to understand that when our ancestors entered into treaties they did not give up anything," said Chief Day. "They agreed to share the use of the lands with settlers, but treaties affirmed that we are Nations of peoples who possess the same rights and responsibilities as all Nations."

The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949.  The UOI is a political advocate for 39 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:

Marci Becking, Communications Officer
Phone: 705-497-9127 ext. 2290
Cell: 705-494-0735
E-mail: becmar@anishinabek.ca
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