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Neskonlith Indian Band, Secwepemc Nation January 13, 2013 CONSOLIDATING AROUND THE WEAKEST POSITION Dear Harsha & Russell: It is clear that the AFN again consolidated around the weakest again. Needless to say the stronger elements of the AFN, who did not want meet did not attend the meeting, but the ones who wanted to meet did meet. Decision making in the name of the AFN is not designed for fighting government but merely consulting with government. That is how the weak elements take control in a controversial situation we had in Ottawa last week. The National Chief obviously is responsible for what his Office does in these kinds of situations. One thing is clear is that certain Indigenous leaders only know how to meet with with government and not fight with government. In situations like yesterday they say that it is important to "engage" with government when they open the door to discussion. The real problem is that you get sucked into basically supporting the government's position unless you walk out. In this case it is just another "process" and not "change in policy" that the AFN left the room with. The "opportunists" will say that if we did not "engage" we would not have this "process" but the process does not offer any guarantee that Harper's unilateral policies will be reversed or replaced with policies supportive to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. There is basically a "fundamental change" that Harper must make before "engaging" with Harper could be useful. The Harper government does not recognize Aboriginal and Treaty Rights on the ground. Indigenous Peoples believe in Aboriginal and Treaty Rights on the ground. That is the "fundamental difference". Harper must recognize Aboriginal and Treaty Rights on the ground before we can engage. The engagement in this case will be based how do we divide up decision making regarding "access and benefits" to our Aboriginal and Treaty territories. To try and engage and negotiate with opposite differences on "recognition" and "extinguishment" is dangerous and will go no where. That is why the negotiation under the federal Comprehensive Land Claims Policy and
British Columbia Treaty Process has cost us 20 years of Go-No-Where negotiations plus those who negotiated taking crippling loans of about $500 million dollars. We need to always be careful when establishing "processes" with government, like the one initiated on Friday. The government has lots of time and money to negotiate. It is the Indigenous Peoples who get hurt by Go-No-Where and undermining processes. Some Indigenous Leaders actually just negotiate to "create processes" because processes equals getting a "jobs and money" because processes also "include government funding pots". These kinds of leaders I call "Opportunists" because they take advantage of "pressure created" by Chief Theresa Spence hunger strike and the "Idle No More" (INM) to get meetings with Harper on Friday. The Opportunist then push a process and get there pot of money. Kind like a political Slot-Machine for Indigenous politicians and consultants. In BC I think the INM has to seriously question the First Nations Leadership Council, First Nation Summit, the BC Assembly of First Nations and especially the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. I highlight the UBCIC because when the Union was under the leadership of my dad and brother it was for the people. I know that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC was not at the meeting but I think that he should be clear how this meeting will affect his participation in the BC First Nation Leadership Council and the First Nation Summit. I know that the small BC delegation of leaders at the AFN Ottawa session led the way to going to the PM meeting. That reflects on all us here in BC, even the grassroots. Indigenous Peoples at the INM have to let the leadership know who are in charge. I have been spending years trying to get the federal Comprehensive Land Claims Policy changed and the government's first line of defense are the Indigenous Peoples who are negotiating. I know when my father was president of the National Indian Brotherhood and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs our enemies where white bureaucrats in DIA. Now they are Indigenous leaders and groups that have decided to adopt federal policies, processes and take money from the government with strings attached. The INM is a means to reverse this kind of decision making system that has been imposed on us by the government funding programs. I know the media has the picture all mixed-up because they do not understand a lot of powerful forces are pulling at Indigenous Peoples, like Recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, EconomicRacism and Systemic-Poverty, Government Funded Programs and Services, Lack of Self-government and Human Rights. Nothing was agreed to in Ottawa but to drag out our frustrations on these matters at a higher level. No fundamental change was agreed to. INM therefore is still the only effective voice of the Indigenous Peoples. I thank all
you many - nameless - but very important, committed, thoughtful and helpful Indigenous Peoples and Supporters. My best regards. Arthur ps. please circulate this note if you want. ________________________________________ Arthur Manuel e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org cell: 1 (250) 319-0688