(Photo courtesy Ben Powless)
APTN National News
TORONTO–Canada will never be a whole country until the relationship is repaired with Indigenous people, says Joan Jack, a candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
“Canada will never fly without us, because we are the other wing, we are the Indigenous people, we have nowhere else to go. We are all here to stay,” said Jack, a lawyer from Berens River First Nation in Manitoba.
Jack, an Ojibway lawyer, is one of eight candidates vying for the position of national chief of the AFN. She was speaking during the candidate’s forum during the AFN gathering in Toronto where chiefs will vote for national chief on Wednesday.
Jack said she didn’t believe any of First Nations that agreed to treaties ever meant to give up their territory.
“I wanted to start by telling you that Treaty 5 was signed in Berens River on Sept. 20, 1867, it was a Monday…I looked it up…And that Monday after 10 hours of discussions my ancestors decided to cede and surrender the better part of Manitoba,” said Jack. “I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone in Berens River said ‘come on, let’s sign this treaty for five bucks and some lard, it’s a good idea.’ I don’t think anyone said that, anywhere in treaty country.”
Jack said First Nations should also focus internally by strengthening languages through teaching in the home and through on-reserve schools.
“Our languages are the most important. I am not fluent in my language because of what happened in the residential and day school system. My mother cried and apologized to me and admitted she was ashamed and didn’t teach me,” said Jack.
Jack said First Nations people should also be trying to heal the relationship between each other.
“The thing that bothers me is our love for each other. In residential schools we were taught to hate each other, we were taught to be violent to each other,” said Jack. “What that translates in our communities is a lot of domestic violence, a lot of addiction, confusion, a lot of self hate.”
Jack said it was time for First Nations to move beyond being victims.
“I am so done being Canada’s victim, I am done being anybody’s victim and I am also done being anybody’s tyrant,” she said. “We need to move to a situation of truly mutual respect, where we come to the table with dignity and we have them treat us with dignity. That is the only thing that is going to change this country.”