A letter from Attiwapiskat

Note from En Camino:

Attiwapiskat is a James Bay Cree community, neighbouring Fort Albany. The James Bay Cree have seen their lands used in hydroelectric megaprojects and mines, including a De Beers diamond mining project most recently. Unfortunately, the communities have not been the main beneficiaries of the resources from their lands, and indeed, they have suffered poverty, neglect, and worse. The most famous case in recent years has been Kashechewan, a community evacuated because of contaminated water (a problem that prevails in many reserves).

We attach this letter from Danny Metatawabin, the Education Administrator for Fort Albany Ontario. He is protesting the lack of government support to build an already promised new school in neighbouring Attiwapiskat (James Bay Ontario), where they are teaching hundreds of students out of portables. Attiwapiskat is the community where DeBeers mining activity centres currently. He is also pointing to the contradictions and problems with the 'revenue sharing' processes in the area that will not solve social problems created by the historical injustices that aboriginal communities have faced in this country.

Danny is planning to light a sacred fire if at least 500 signatures are gathered in protest of the governments current position, and in support of his neighbouring community, and it's an important solidarity effort for the region where too many have been divided.

Please send your signatures directly to him: danmetat@yahoo.com

-En Camino

* * *

LETTER BEGINS:

February 13, 2008

Open Address – Federal Government of Canada Inaction and lack of support through Indian & Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) for First Nations communities.

My name is Danny Metatawabin, I am the Education Administrator for the Mundo Peetabeck Education Authority in Fort Albany First Nations, situated along the shores of James Bay, and this is in response to Markus Schwabi’s interview with Tony Podorie – Indian & Northern Affairs official with respects to ‘No School’ for the Attawapiskat First Nation.

I am growing very impatient by the lack of commitment to be made by the Federal Government of Canada through the Indian & Northern Affairs Canada Department, on behalf of First Nations People of Canada, especially towards our Education system in Funding and Infrastructure.
Although, the Federal Government has proceeded to compensate First Nations individuals who had attended Residential Schools through the Common Experience Program (CEP) – This is still not enough for those First Nations individuals who have endured loss of Culture and Language within their own lives, or within our First Nations communities as a whole. More support and understanding needs to be provided to our First Nations for the injustices we have gone through. There needs to be more of a proactive action on the part of the Federal Government, through its program, Indian & Northern Affairs. Or, INAC needs to do more for the First Nations People of Canada, especially those that are isolated and remote.

It knowingly seems that INAC is trying to shift responsibilities to the Ontario Government for First Nations People. A new Department was created by Ontario to work with Ontario First Nations, but this has more to do with expediting the settling of Land Claims Negotiations, establishing a Revenue Sharing Process for Ontario First Nations, or providing for Impact Benefit Agreements with First Nations communities affected by the explorations, or implorations of non-Aboriginal groups, which would include the Ontario Government, into our territories. Our local Chiefs, including our Regional Chiefs, are been side-winded by this process. The Revenue Sharing Process, or the IBA’s, will not solve the social issues, including the Education system that are affecting and demoralizing our First Nations communities. They only provide for a Divide & Conquer system for our communities – there is no unity within our neighboring communities (and you can hear this through our local media stations).

To the point, I am deeply concerned and saddened by the lack of commitment made under the Treaty Obligations of Canada under the Education component. They (INAC) say the mandate, or the immediate concern is Health & Safety. But, what about the number one concern for a best Education system possible for our young First Nations. How can there be effective teaching happening when certain communities have to teach out of portables? How can we provide for best programs and practices when we are working with an out-dated funding formula?

Under Treaty Obligations, we are not treated with a fair and equitable status as provided for all other People of Canada. First Nations cannot move forward and we are continually left to ponder what our lives will be like in the next 100 years.

As a sign of protest for my fellow communities and fellow Education partners, and if I should receive 500 emails or more to support my protest for lack of action and commitment on the part of the Federal Government and INAC, I will shut down my School for four days and light a Traditional Sacred Fire for those four days. This is as per our traditional Teachings for Prayers and Cause. I will also hope to acquire Board support and approval from Chief & Council in order to proceed with this process, and if I am to receive 500 emails or more.
My email address is danmetat@yahoo.com

In advance, I would like to send my gratitude to those young Ontarians who have already shown their support by writing and/or Lobbying the Government on our behalf. It takes a united Nation to make for a better Nation.

Thank you-meeguetch for listening to my whole-hearted concern…

Danny Metatawabin
Education Administrator.