Attawapiskat Chief Spence says not “afraid to die” as she launches hunger strike

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence stood at the steps leading up to the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Monday and said she was “willing to die” if the federal government ignored her call for a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Queen Elizabeth II or a representative and First Nations leaders.

APTN National News
OTTAWA--Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence stood at the steps leading up to the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Monday and said she was “willing to die” if the federal government ignored her call for a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Queen Elizabeth II and First Nations leaders.

Spence plans to begin her hunger strike Tuesday morning after a sunrise ceremony on Victoria Island, just up the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

“I am willing to die for my people, the pain is too much,” said Spence. “Somebody asked me if I was afraid to die. No, I am not afraid to die, it’s a journey we have to go on and I will go and I am looking forward to it.”

Spence told reporters who had gathered for her small press conference that the Canadian government was ignoring the treaties and that the Crown, in whose name the treaties were signed, is ignoring the breakdown of the relationship. She wants the prime minister, the Queen, or a representative, to sit down with First Nations leaders and reestablish the treaty relationship.

“I want the Crown, the prime minister and all the leaders to sit down and rebuild that relationship and honour and protect the treaty,” said Spence.

The British, and later Canada, signed numerous treaties across the country and First Nations hold those treaties as defining their relationship with the Crown that predates the creation of Canada.

A meeting was held last January dubbed the Crown-First Nations gathering and it was attended by the prime minister and Gov.-Gen. David Johnston along with First Nations leaders.

Spence said the meeting was a failure because the Harper government didn’t change its approach to First Nations.

Spence’s community of Attawapiskat burst onto the national consciousness last fall after images of the community’s deplorable housing flashed across the country’s television screens.

The Harper government, however, attacked the community, blaming the band for its housing situation. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan took away the band’s control over its finances and imposed a third-party manager.

Spence said her community was still in a housing crisis with people living in sheds and trailers.

In an open letter released early Monday, Spence said she decided to go on a hunger strike after “months” of consideration and meetings with elders.

“After a long period of reflection, the time is at hand for a clear statement,” wrote Spence.

Spence wrote that the Canadian government was trying to “isolate” and “assimilate” First Nations people.

“This process of marginalizing our political leadership, along with the enforced segregation of our people is part of a deliberate (attempt) to isolate our people, marginalize our people and ultimately assimilate our people so that our rich heritage can be wiped out and the great bounty contained in our traditional lands be made available for exploitation by large multi-national companies,” wrote Spence.

Spence plans to spend her days during the hunger strike on Parliament Hill and her evenings on nearby Victoria Island where she will sleep inside a structure there.

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19 thoughts on “Attawapiskat Chief Spence says not “afraid to die” as she launches hunger strike

  1. I admire her for standing up for what she believes in, so many always jump to criticism,we need to stop it, our People are fighting to stay alive, we are the first people’s of this country, but we are the poorest…weakest in economy, the unhealthy ones bc of all the additives in the food we consume, the list goes on, I have lived outside Canada, and experienced no racism, equality, no one cared bc the color of my skin was brown, coming back,to Canada, the same old racism slaps me in the face, everyday, but I stand up for myself, i fight back with words, I do not tolerate abuse from anyone. The DOMINATE society does NOT have a clue what’s it like to be First Nation, our Cultural, Spirituality, Language are the heartbeat of our Nation….these are who makes us First Nation, my Father said the only way your going to be able to fight back is through Education, there are many FN that are educated…time to wake up white folks, water, is a need for all humans, what are you going to do when it’s no longer drinkable…you going to drink your almighty DOLLAR? is the PM going to share HIS water with you? NOT! Margaret Roper is my name….and I’m a proud Sautleaux Woman….

  2. Ms. Spence a hunger strike is not the way to go , I would if I were you gather all First Nations leaders and peoples together add the news media in one giant conference to get the support of the entire world. One person on a demonstration won’t get anyone’s attention in fact the authorities may even lock you up, the force of one may get the attention of a few but the voice of millions will get the support of everyone

  3. This is what you call a strong woman die for her people, to die for her

    community and to die with honour..
    my smudge burns for you Theresa and sending you prayers.

  4. The people of Attawapiskat should be ashamed of themselves for letting their community get to where it is now. Poor leadership and lack of self-pride is the cause not federal government. Housing is not free as this band assumes. They also built a huge beautiful community centre instead of addressing the””housing crisis” they claimed.

  5. APTN News and the rest of us must keep this story going, share it, inquire about it, talk about it, look for it everyday, share it everyday, share it with the media of canada

  6. Gandhi did this for his people and the world to bring message of peace and fairness. I will think of you Cheif Spence. I believe there is a level of frustration that this country or the Canadian people do not understand. All the power to you and I send you all the strength I can. May the ancestors guide you and protect you. Many people fight for the rights of their people and are not understood. We can not judge this woman for her attempts to fight for her people.

  7. I think that if one Indian, Gandhi, can do it and become an icon of peace, why cant one of ours? If we sit back and say, who cares?, and she wont last 2 days, then what is that saying about US
    Maybe we have become cynical and complacent as a People and that is probably the worst injustice by far

    1. Gandhi supported the caste system (a system that supports people born into slavery). He also physically abused his wife. Great man !

  8. The name “Kitchikesik” became used in the signing of Adhesion to Treaty
    Number Five (5) for the people inhabiting the lands on the Nelson River
    near the Hudson Bay in Northern Manitoba.
    The traditional Chief, who made his mark on the Treaty documents was
    given the name, Chief/Headman William Ketchi – Kesik. . I suspect his
    traditional name was simply “Kitchikesik” which is a
    traditional language (Cree) and means: “Great Sky”, “Great
    Day” or “Heaven”. It
    could also mean: “Grand Sky” and “Grand
    Day”! No, it would not mean “Happy
    Hunting Ground” as per Hollywood!

    This signature was used to give up interest or ownership in
    the lands in question in 1908 which had already been confiscated by the
    Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) when it purchased all of the shares in the
    Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) which had been trading furs with the Indians on
    lands known as Rupertsland and the North West Territory. How and when was this accomplished?

    It was completed prior to 1870, or 38 years earlier, but
    because of the Red River Rebellion the deal was not official until 1870
    and three (3) years after the adoption of the British North America Act
    (BNA Act) (which is now called the Canadian Constitution of 1867 and 1982.) The Royal Proclamation of 1763 (Proclamation)
    was a prohibition of anyone to purchase Indian lands or otherwise to gain
    control of such lands and only the British Government was allowed to do

    However, there was a big exception and that was in the lands
    and waters flowing into Hudson Bay or Rupertsland and the North West
    Territory. The Proclamation applied to
    all of North America except to the lands granted to the HBC in 1670! Lands which the HBC was granted the monopoly
    to trade but not to acquire the lands of the people they were trading with. There is no record of Great Britain buying or
    otherwise obtaining the lands in question and there is no record of the HBC
    acquiring the lands of the Indians prior to 1870!

    So, the parties involved in this major land swindle (Canada
    calls it the largest land sale in America!) and which was against the BNA
    Act at section 91(24) which also triggered section 53 of the same British legislation. This action by Great Britain actually moved
    Indians from the citizenship section of section 92 before moving them to
    section 91.

    Section 92 provides for the Canadians the right to vote for
    the federal government, the provincial government, and the municipal and school
    boards in Canada. The removal of Indians
    from this section also removed their right to vote for members of parliament,
    members of the legislatures, municipal councils and school boards throughout
    Canada. This fact is virtually unknown
    by the Canadian legal system including the Justices of the Supreme Court of

    Removing Indians from the right to vote via the Constitution
    cannot be remedied by subsequent legislation such as the Elections Acts
    of the provinces and the federal government.
    The Constitution must be amended first and it has not been amended to

    The attempt to give Indians the “right to vote” for
    “democratic reason” may not be for democratic reasons but to enable Canada and
    provinces to impose taxation upon a people who cannot vote for their MP’s,
    MLA’s, City Councils and School Boards contrary to another section of the
    Constitution which is section 53.

    Section 53 is a USA “Boston
    Tea Party” ruling which provides for “No
    taxation without representation”, so Indians who cannot vote are also
    exempt from all taxation including import duties and all hidden taxes while in

    So, the reason for the foregoing discussion is to demonstrate Great Britain and
    Canada acquired a BNA Act “duty” or Constitutional Act “obligation”
    towards Indians in 1867 as per section 91(24).

    Some argue that transferring Indians from section 92 to 91
    created a Trust Obligation to Great Britain and its successors, the
    Dominion of Canada and Canada.
    Therefore, the interest of the Indians as per section 91(24) and the
    Proclamation was already operational when Great Britain, the Dominion of
    Canada, and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) owned HBC formed a conspiracy to
    keep Indians from the benefits of their lands and resources and this conspiracy
    carried over to the making of the Eleven Treaties regarding the lands of
    Rupertsland and the North West Territories.

    The first of the Eleven Treaties was signed at Lower Fort
    Gary in 1871 and there were no lawyers, financial planners, legal interpreters,
    business persons to insure the Indians were provided with lands to not only
    sustain individuals and families but communities of Indians now known as Indian
    Bands or First Nation Governments in Canada.
    There were no experts or advisors provided to the Indians to insure
    their immediate and long term needs were recognized and affirmed by Great
    Britain and the Dominion of Canada.

    This oversight has carried over to the present day and has
    resulted in the “extreme poverty” of individuals and families of Indians. Needless to say, the communities or Indian
    Bands or First Nations government are also in “extreme poverty” living off a
    department of the federal government set up for Indians and lands reserved for
    the Indians.

    When Great Britain decided to remove Indians from section 92
    and relocate them under section 91 of the BNA Act, they were also to take the
    services they were to receive as section 92 citizens as per provincial, municipal
    and school boards. But, this was
    actually not done in spite of the Treaty Promise in Treaty No. 8 Report which

    We assured them that the treaty would not lead to any forced interference with their mode of life, that it did not open the way to the imposition of any tax, and that there was no fear of
    enforced military service. (p3)

    Indeed, the Indians were generally averse to being placed on reserves. It would have been impossible to have made a treaty if we had not assured them that there was no intention of confining them to reserves. We had to very clearly explain to them that the provision for reserves and allotments of land were made for their protection, and to secure to them in perpetuity a fair portion of the land ceded, in the event of settlement advancing.

    So, this section actually states the government of Great Britain and Canada guarantees Indians and Indian Bands: “… and to secure to them in perpetuity a fair portion of the land ceded, in the event of settlement advancing.

    So, Indians and Indian Bands can
    secure a fair portion of the land ceded
    for social and economic sustainability, which is common sense and also in view
    of the lands being held by Canada as an Indian reserve.

    This is critical because an
    Indian Band with a land base restricted to 160 acres for a family of five
    cannot sustain many individuals, families and especially Indian Bands or First
    Nations Governments. This promise by
    Great Britain and the Dominion of Canada and Canada has got to be a real Treaty
    Benefit at this time in history where Indian must earn royalties and a share of
    their natural resources.

    So, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) of 1670 has ALL OF ITS SHARES
    purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The CPR owned HBC then sells all the lands of
    the HBC to Great Britain and the Dominion of Canada for 300,000 Pound Sterling
    plus 20% of the same lands for its use and sale as the railroad is
    developed. The HBC continues to operate
    without missing a stroke under the ownership of the CPR who had a Conservative
    Prime Minister by the name of Sir John A. McDonald as heading the Dominion AND
    who was also “LEGAL COUNCIL” for the CPR at the same time! The CPR bought the lands from the HBC and the
    ROYAL FAMILY for 300,000 Pound Sterling and then immediately flipped the same
    lands to Great Britain and the Dominion for 300,000 Pound Sterling plus 20% of
    the largest sale of land in North America.
    All this was finished in 1870.
    One year before the first of the eleven Indian Treaties which was signed
    at Lower Fort Gary in 1871 and three (3) years after the BNA Act was functional
    in the area.

    So, the CPR owned HBC signed the first treaty with Great Britain
    and the Dominion of Canada for money and for millions of square miles.

    Indians from what is now Edmonton, AB met with a Canadian
    official and asked why their lands had been sold by the HBC because they did
    not want to sell their lands. The official
    by the name of Christie denied the sale of land and the transaction as I have
    outlined it has been kept a secret by Canada, the provinces and the municipalities
    and the result has been engineered poverty of Indians and Indian Bands. Indian bands have not received a fair portion of the land ceded for
    social and economic sustainability and have watched provinces and municipalities
    enjoy vast amounts of lands for their tax base.
    This has to change and your HUNGER
    STRIKE is going to change this as Canadians are gently being moved to a
    higher level of understanding. When Canadians
    get it, Prime Minister will be forced to “get it” too. Power
    to our women!

  9. I don’t think that we should be encouraging this kind of method to get a point across, what kind of a message are you giving our young people, that this is the only way to be heard?! they already think that ending their lives is the solution and this is another extremity of self infliction. And to be publickly portraying herself to be some kind of martyr, get serious!

    1. When we have a government doesn’t listen — correction, they pretend to listen but then turn their backs — what is a citizen to do? It’s hard enough for us new Canadians to see and feel the abuse by Harper and his ministers, but aboriginals have been mistreated for centuries! This is the last resort for a desperate woman. I admire her bravery.

    2. And what would YOU suggest??? Sit back and let the Harper Government ignore treaty rights to adequate educational funding, adequate housing, proper compensation for resources that the colonizers have exploited since they arrived on this continent? Sit back and nothing will change, ever. And Chief Spence is not a martyr and won’t be unless Harper makes her one.

  10. it will take more than one Nish to accomplish and be heard, not her alone. Think about it..would Harper consider doing the same, NOT. however, good luck, Spence…u make all the rest, look like a child who can’t get their way. It’s not the way to go about it. more pressure to the government needs to be applied by all leaders and the natives of Canada!

    1. You’re right. Something tells me the Chief knows the Gov will have to intervene because her trying to pretend to “die for her people” is bad PR. Way to pretend to kill yourself there Chief.

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