By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A new First Nations alliance is expected to take form during a gathering in Onion Lake Cree Nation slated for the same July week when the Assembly of First Nations holds its annual general meeting in the Yukon, according to a draft agenda obtained by APTN National News.
While talk of creating a new alliance separate from the AFN has been swirling since last fall, the planned meeting in Onion Lake will solidify the split.
The Onion Lake gathering is scheduled to begin on July 15 and run until July 18 and is expected to feature an appearance by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on Indigenous issues and Gov. Gen. David Johnston, according to a draft agenda.
APTN National News could not immediately confirm whether Anaya or Johnston would appear at the meeting.
The planned new alliance stems from long-running tensions between the AFN and a number of chiefs in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan over the direction of the organization and a perceived lack of focus on treaties.
The new group, tentatively named the National Treaty Alliance, is based on a pre-existing Treaty 1 to 11 organization and the draft agenda is titled “Treaties 1 to 11 National Gathering, Our Future Depends on Unity.”
Tensions within the AFN burst to the surface this past January in the lead up to a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations leaders.
Chiefs from Manitoba, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan boycotted the meeting. They wanted a larger gathering including Harper, Johnston and First Nations chiefs.
Onion Lake Nation Chief Wallace Fox issued an emotional plea to National Chief Shawn Atleo and First Nations chiefs to snub Harper on the eve before the Jan. 11 meeting which was held at Langevin Block while a large Idle No More protest swirled on the streets outside.
Fox and Nepinak rallied around Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who had embarked on a protest fast to force a meeting between Harper, Johnston and First Nations chiefs.
Johnston met with First Nations leaders separately following the Jan. 11 meeting.
According to the draft agenda, discussions during the gathering are expected to focus on the creation of the National Treaty Alliance.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak is scheduled to give a presentation on the creation of the new alliance and present “foundational documents.”
Discussions are also expected to touch on the “mission statement” for the alliance, its principles, membership and jurisdictional matters.
AFN regional chief for Saskatchewan and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde is also expected to speak at the meeting.
Bellegarde once ran against Atleo and is expected to again vie for the AFN’s top job.