We contend that the Treaties are nation to nation agreements between Canada and First Nations who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. In this spirit we must go forward together, all nations here on Turtle Island, to create a future that is just and peaceful and beneficial to everyone living on this land.
Niigaan: In conversation is opportunity for settler Canadians to hear and respond to what Indigenous Peoples have been saying: Canada has not committed itself to addressing the colonial relationship it still has with indigenous peoples. Canada is in denial about that relationship. It is fair to say that most Canadians believe that kind of relationship no longer exists. We are trying to tell you that that is wrong.
The results of our work will be another step towards the continual positive development of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and non-native Canadians. The main end result will be to provide an engaging and focused space to encourage discussion, learn our collective history and to move forward to the future.
The Niigaan organizing committee is made up of a group of concerned people living currently in Odawa on Algonquin territory. The members bring a diversity of experiences and strengths to the teach-in: traditional elders, First Nation chiefs, artists, musicians, environmentalists, academics, parents, grandparents, students social workers and business owners. All share a commitment to Idle No More and the Indigenous Nation Movement; all are dedicated to fighting for justice on Turtle Island.
Anishinaabe tradition declares that now is the time for Indigenous peoples and the settler community to come together and build the ‘Eighth Fire’ of justice and harmony. The shared future that Niigaan: In Conversation wants to create means a Canada that values the contribution and participation of the sovereign Indigenous Nations and respects the treaty relationships that formed the modern Canadian state. To create our vision we encourage discussion and conversation between settler Canadians and Indigenous Peoples through public events, educational materials and partnerships with other organizations to recreate the modern treaty relationship.
Anishinaabe stories tell of a time when two nations will join to make a mighty nation. These two nations are the original people of Turtle Island (today known as North America) and the settlers of this land. However, it is warned that this mighty peaceful nation will only be built if both nations choose the right path. We all must understand the history behind the current political and social relationship before we can begin the process of decolonization. The legal history includes the treaties of peace and friendship, the British North America Acts, Section 35 of the Canadian constitution, the Indian Act, and the legal duty to consult First Nations; all these agreements and legal documents influence our ability to go forward together on the right path. Our history is littered with forgotten events, either deliberately overlooked, or rationalized away somehow.
Truthfully, Indigenous Peoples have never been idle; there is a long and complex history of resistance to European imperialism. Indigenous peoples have engaged in every dialogue Canada has been willing to enter into since before Canada was even a nation and talk, and meet, and submit hundreds of thousands of reports each year. Settler society has obliviously ignored this work and sometimes outright refused to participate. However, timing is critical. As blogger and academic Chelsea Vowel recently wrote:
“We have been backed into a corner and we are literally fighting for our lives. We are literally dying, in so many preventable and unacceptable ways. I’m not being poetic or hyperbolic here and I don’t just mean culturally. We are dying.”