The Times Are Changing – Under the Northern Skies

Llorens, one of the world’s best acro-paragliders, has long craved to combine his passion for flying with the famed Northern Lights but the eerie lightshow at the magnetic poles had until now proved an unwilling partner
Llorens, one of the world’s best acro-paragliders, has long craved to combine his passion for flying with the famed Northern Lights but the eerie lightshow at the magnetic poles had until now proved an unwilling partner

THUNDER BAY – Many people do not realize that a very big change has happened for First Nation people on a national and provincial level when it comes to political commitments and more positive relationships from the government of Canada and province of Ontario.

We have come from an environment full of conflict, mistrust and oppression under former governments to a time of healing in an atmosphere that has more to do with fairness and understanding. That is a very big deal for us as First Nation people. On a federal level for so many years there was far too much conflict and a lack of trust between the government and Aboriginal people. Negative laws were passed that took away much of the protection for our waters and lands and an environment of hate and mistrust reigned. In the mid 90s we experienced a provincial Ontario government that often was at odds with our First Nation leaders.

In fact in 1995, during a protest at Ipperwash Provincial Park in southern Ontario, Dudley George was killed by police gunfire as violence erupted due to a strong armed atmosphere that was created by government leaders at the time. The protest concerned land that belonged to the First Nations which had been expropriated during the second world war. That land was never returned and it was a critical issue for the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation as the area had been used traditionally and housed a burial site.

I am happy to report that an inquiry into the violent incident resulted in the province, under the Liberal government, committing to return the land to the First Nations. In fact, recently under the newly elected Federal Liberal government, a settlement was finalized on April 14, 2016. The land was signed over to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation by Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan and Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Dr. Carolyn Bennett along with a $95 million payment. Chief of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, Tom Bressette was involved in the resulting settlement on behalf of his community. It took so long for this wrong to be dealt with and regretfully it had to be done with the loss of the life of Dudley George. His life should never have been taken. We all must remember him and with the realization that it really does matter who is running our federal and provincial governments. When policies and procedures are put in place that create conflict and mistrust bad things happen.

I was happy to hear that recently Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized on behalf of the Government of Ontario for the brutalities committed for generations at residential schools and the continued harm this abuse has caused to Indigenous cultures, communities, families and individuals. Premier Wynne made her Statement of Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the Legislative Assembly, with residential school survivors and First Nation, MÈtis and Inuit leaders in attendance. She apologized for the policies and practices supported by past Ontario governments, and the harm they caused; for the province’s silence in the face of abuse and death at residential schools; and for residential schools being only one example of systemic inter-generational abuses and injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities throughout Canada.
Premiere Wynne outlined that Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples plans to invest more than $250 million over three years in new initiatives in five areas that include: understanding the legacy of residential schools, closing gaps and removing barriers, creating a culturally relevant and responsive justice system, supporting Indigenous culture and reconciling relationships with Indigenous peoples.

My father Marius and my mother Susan both went through the residential school system so I have a first hand understanding of the huge wrong the government of the day committed on my people. The one thing that consoled me as being the witness of so much pain and suffering is that at the very least now we have governments in place at the federal and provincial levels that are striving to work with First Nations and they have been righting many of the wrongs we as Native peoples have suffered over so many years. We must be mindful of who we put in power when it comes to electing governments. Governments that get elected on hate, bigotry and intolerance only bring us all a lot of pain.

Xavier Kataquapit

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.