WINNIPEG – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are responding to an extensive series of misunderstandings and misrepresentations made by media in the last number of days following the historic gathering of First Nations in Ottawa to meet with each other. Many First Nations leaders and supporters have been deeply concerned over how issues presented in the media have been portrayed. The Manitoba Chiefs have also issued a draft position paper outlining exactly where they stand.
Grand Chief Nepinak’s statement is as follows;
“The people of our communities embedded in the land throughout and to the four corners of the province of Manitoba need to know that the Manitoba Chiefs stood in solidarity with a great number of Chiefs this past week in taking a stand against the paternalistic and controlling mechanisms of government. The media has suggested that the regions of Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Ontario were the only regions that did not endorse the meeting. The truth is, even those regions that did send representation to the Prime Minister’s meeting were highly split on whether to attend the meeting. Many of the Chiefs from across Canada marched in solidarity with the people on Friday, choosing not to endorse the Prime Minister’s agenda and policy management exercise on the National Chief.
Before even participating in the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) planning meetings leading to the Prime Minister meeting, Manitoba Chiefs had their own set of intensive closed door discussions marked by brotherhood and unity under the Manitoba Chiefs pipe. We decided together that we were not going to subject ourselves to a coercive dictation of schedules, time limits and the Harper government agenda. We did things on our own time and when we were ready, we brought our messages to the Chiefs that were in attendance at this AFN Working Group meeting. When we did, Chiefs from across the country stood and applauded the Manitoba position. Our position was not influenced by any outside pressures from political advocates, Ottawa power brokers, nor the usual divide and conquer tactics that influence everything we do. We determined our path collectively and on our own, which represents a great victory for our people.
During our discussions, it was determined that it is time to start standing with our people and scale back the expectations and blind trust that so many of our people have had in a federal government that only applies policy on us, not a real and true relationship based in trust and nation-to-nation respect. This stand was solidified with a commitment to help try and save the lives of Chief Theresa Spence, Raymond Robinson and Jean Sock who decided that the watered down policy meeting between the Prime Minister and some Chiefs would result in more talk and nothing good for our grassroots people. We agreed with them.
Some well known media outlets who fight for the status quo and do not understand the great depth of tragedy and crisis in our communities have decided to stand with the established power structures in Ottawa. They are sending printed and social media network messages that the heroes in all of this are the National Chief and his followers. They will continue to say this as long as it maintains the power structure. The truth however is that the true heroes are those people who have broken free from the dictates of colonial policy schemes and refused to participate in trumped up meetings that lead to no tangible outcomes for the benefit of our communities and the all the families relying on us. A great catalyst of this is the Idle No More movement and the powerful women leaders that have guided and maintained the principles of peace, love, respect and kindness.
It is imperative that we continue to push the Harper government to step aside from his Indian Act policy management plan and engage with us on terms that include the Prime Minister, the Governor General and the people, as represented by our leadership and our grassroots people. Lastly, on behalf of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, I thank the many supporters First Nations and Canadian, who have contacted our office to show their support to the First Nations community, myself, leadership and the Idle No More movement.”