Granted 15 minutes of face time with a United Nations representative, Prince Albert Grand Chief Ron Michel plans on getting straight to the point on Sunday.
© United Nations photo
The United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya.
“Our main focus is to make very clear that we are opposed to the imposed federal legislation,” Prince Albert Grand Council director of education Edward Mirasty said of Michel’s speaking notes.
As reported last month, the Prince Albert Grand Council’s 12 member bands are joining a group of 74 bands within the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in rejecting the federal government’s First Nations Education Act by creating their own acts, tailored to teach band’s cultural needs.
The federal government has stated that they plan on having the act in place by the 2014-15 school year.
"Through the development of our own education acts we are asserting our indigenous right and authority over our children's education, not only for this generation but for generations to come," Michel said at the time.
The United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, is currently touring Canada in order to prepare a report on the state of First Nations.
Anaya will be in Fort Qu’Appelle on Sunday afternoon. During his 15 minutes, Michel will point out Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which states that indigenous people should have the right to establish and control their own education systems.
During his time in Saskatchewan, Anaya is expected to get an earful from Saskatchewan First Nations about what some perceive to be the federal government not following the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
For the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation, Anaya’s visit will be about gaining attention about the band’s lack of treaty rights, Chief John Dorion said.
Having gone to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the federal government and even United States President Barack Obama, Dorion said that he hopes his band’s meeting with Anaya yields some results.
“I think our last hope is to go to the United Nations, because they’ve got quite a bit of clout, and they deal with nations --- and that’s what we are,” he said.
The Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation, located in northeastern Saskatchewan, is part of Treaty 5, which was signed on Sept. 20, 1875.
At that time, Dorion explained that band representative John Cochrane signed an adhesion to the treaty in the Cumberland House Region.
To fast track the treaty signing process, the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation was amalgamated with other smaller bands or nations in “super band” amalgamations.
Over the years, many of these bands were de-amalgamated and restored as individual territories that have been recognized as distinct First Nations.
Our main focus is to make very clear that we are opposed to the imposed federal legislation. Prince Albert Grand Council director of education Edward Mirasty
But, not the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation, Dorion said, noting that several other bands in Saskatchewan remain unrecognized.
“Everybody has, according to the United Nations, everybody has the right to a good education, a good standard of living, but in our case we … signed treaty with the crown and they made all kinds of promises to our people, but they never completed that business in the Cumberland House area,” he said.
“This is close to 140 years, eh? There are quite a few of us. It’s a matter of principle. Our ancestors were promised a lot of things and the government didn’t deliver. It’s important. It’s part of that continuing oppression … of our people.
There are currently more than 1,100 members of the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation whose lineage can be traced back to the signing of Treaty 5.
In August, the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation was one of a handful of unrecognized bands the Spruce River Folk Festival aimed to raise awareness about, Dorion said, adding that he’s hopeful Sunday’s meeting with Anaya results in an even greater audience.
“We want the United Nations to know that we’ve been pushed aside, we’ve been ignored, we’ve been denied our rights,” he said.
“Their understanding of the treaty was that the land and the resources of this rich country were supposed to be shared, eh? Not taken away from us.”
On Oct. 15, Anaya is expected to present his preliminary findings at a news conference in Ottawa. His final report will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September, 2014.
The House of Common is expected to resume on Oct. 16, following a period of prorogation. The government has poised itself to pass the First Nations Education Act at some point this coming session in order to have it in place in time for the next school year.
“At this point, it’ll be a wait and see from the federal government,” Mirasty said. “They’ll have to respond … after James Anaya takes the documents that will be presented to him on Sunday.”
Click HERE for James Anaya's official website, HERE for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and HERE for an article on the Prince Albert Grand Council's opposition to the feds' First Nations Education Act.