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The main focus of the assembly was to develop and to, perhaps, adopt a stronger structured organization that would represent all status Indians in Canada.
Two proposals were presented by the Council of Chiefs, which was appointed last year at the First Nations Constitutional Conference in Ottawa; the other was presented by the Manitoba delegation.
Although all three proposals differ in the structure, all are based on the fact that the Indian people have a right to self-government and self-determination.
The three proposals would change the function and the role of the National Indian Brotherhood, which is currently the official voice for the status Indians in Canada. The NIB would emerge in a secretariat role to the Council of First Nations and function as an administrative arm.
NIB president Del Riley
Proposal One: North American Indian People
The first proposal is structured in such a way so as to exercise sovereign status and to assert and protect aboriginal and treaty rights.
The Council of First Nations, comprised of 52 chiefs, would be selected on a territorial basis that is, to select 13 representatives from each of the four directions of West, North, East and South. The Council of First Nations would implement the Assembly's decisions, monitor finances and establish a secretariat. The Council of Elders, considered as a spiritual and advisory committee, would be comprised of 28 members, also selected on a territorial basis from the four regions. This committee would be empowered to veto decisions by the Council of First Nations. In addition to evaluating and reporting on the Assembly and Council of First Nations meetings, the Council of Elders would also monitor aboriginal and treaty rights and conduct four meetings a year.
...of the 573 Chiefs in Canada only 177 attended the Assembly of First Nations...
Proposal Two: Indians of Canada
The second proposal, Indians of Canada, is structured to represent all Indians in Canada. The First Nations Assembly of Chiefs would be comprised of the 573 Chiefs in Canada.
The aims and objectives would be to update the present NIB constitution so as to provide better representation and in-put by the members. Further, it would strengthen the Indian government, and identify national issues.
The Council of First Nations would be comprised of 48 members, selected on provincial basis, not by territory According to the proposal, B.C. would have eight members; Yukon and N.W.T. - two representatives; Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba would receive four representatives each; 12 for Ontario while Quebec would have six; New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would receive two; and finally, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland/Labrador would get one representative each.
The main functions of the Council of First Nations would be to develop policies and to meet at least once every three months to address specific issues. The executive council, who would assist in the development and implementation of policies as well as lobbying with various levels of government, would have one chairperson elected by the First Nations Assembly; four vice-chairpersons elected by the Council of First Nations; and one representative from each member organization.
The Council of Elders would be comprised of one appointed or elected member from each member organization. Again, its main function would be as a spiritual and advisory body.
Chief Charles Woods (standing), Chairman of Interim Council of Chiefs. Dennis Nicholas (sitting) was the Speaker of the Assembly.
Ray Jackson from Yukon making a presentation while Max Gros-Louis of the Huron Nation looks on.
Proposal Three: Confederacy of Chiefs
After a thorough analysis and subsequent rejection of the two structures proposed by the Council of Chiefs,
The Confederacy of Chiefs would be composed of 36 or 65 representatives, the Council of Elders would consist of 12 members and the Executive Council of First Nations would have 17 members to act as an administrative arm.
The purpose and function of the Confederacy of Chiefs would be to discuss provincial, national and international issues; to assert Indian, Dene and Dakota sovereign powers and to protect aboriginal and treaty rights. Furthermore, it would be designed to monitor fiscal relations to ensure equitable distribution of financial resources to meet the needs of Indians, Dene and Dakota governments. Finally, to establish policies on all matters affecting the Indian, Dene and Dakota governments at the national level.
Despite the overall lack of attendance at the assembly, it appeared that the Saskatchewan delegation was the largest.
Of the 573 chiefs in Canada, only 177 chiefs attended the assembly and received the proposed new structures for a national Indian government.
After two days of provincial/territorial caucuses, with no sign of immediate adoption or rejection of the proposals, it was apparent that more time was needed to study the proposals.
Only the Alberta caucus was quick to phase out the NIB and replace it with one of the proposed structures. In his deliberation to the assembly, Chief John Snow of the Stoney Tribe of Alberta, said that the NIB has done commendable work for the Indians in Canada in the
Andrew Delisle from Caughnawaga Reserve near Montreal.
Felix Musqua making a presentation on behalf of the Saskatchewan delegation.
past decade, but has to change its tactics to be effective.
He added that the government is too familiar with the NIB's tactics, and therefore, it should be reorganized. The Chiefs and delegates from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Yukon, all wanted more time to study the proposals and to review them back home.
A controversial debate erupted when Chief Andrew Delisle of the Mohawk Nation proposed that the Manitoba proposal be adopted in principle. The tension eased down after two days. It resulted in the adoption, in principle, of the Manitoba-proposed structure, extending the mandate for another year for the Interim Council of Chiefs to work closely with the NIB executive council and the Council of Elders to make decisions on matters affecting the Indian people in Canada.
It was also suggested that any new proposals of new national political structures be submitted to the Council of Chiefs within the next three months from the date of this assembly, so that they may be presented at the annual assembly of the NIB this September and at the World Assembly of First Nations, to be held in Saskatchewan in the summer of 1982.