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The Confederacy Of Nations: New Executive Of The Assembly Of First Nations

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 1982      v12 n07 p20  
At the Assembly of First Nations in Penticton this year, a new national structure was approved. The old N.I.B. Joint Council, made up mostly of representatives from Provincial and Territorial Organizations, was changed. Now thirty six chiefs make up the National Executive. They are elected by their Provincial Chiefs, and the number per province or territory is based on population. On July 1st, 1982, they became the Confederacy of Nations, and they are to meet four times per year.

New Executive of the Assembly of First Nations
Dave Ahenakew, as Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, heads the Confederacy. The Chief and the Seven Vice-Presidents form the Executive Council.

Until the All-Chiefs Annual Assembly in October, the FSIN has appointed two interim representatives: Cyrus Standing, Vice-President, and Felix Musqua, Clerk to the Executive. Formal elections for five FSIN positions on the Confederacy will be held in October. The election of the Vice-President for the Prairie Provinces will probably take place in mid-September in Edmonton.

So far, four Vice-Presidents have been elected: Tom Sampson from B.C., Herbie Norwegian from the Yukon and NWT, Stanley Johnson from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Peter Kelly from Ontario.

Many of those who met in Ottawa in mid-August are new to the organization, not having associated with the old NIB. So the first couple of days dealt with questions of procedure, structure, organization and mandate, and the sharing of information and concerns on the main issues.

Formal committees were set up for Education, Indian Government, Political Policy, etc. Manitoba asked to lead the finance committee because of their interest in investigating Indian Affairs finances. The FSI will make formal appointments to the committees once the representatives are elected in October.

The Constitution

According to Section 37 of the Canada Act, the Federal and Provincial leaders are to meet with the Indian, Metis and Inuit leaders to decide what Aboriginal Rights are. While Treaty and Aboroginal Rights are entrenched in the Constitution, the question of how these are interpreted is vital. Already there are large differences: what we understand the Treaties to mean is often quite different from Federal interpretation. What the DIA means by Indian Government in their Indian Government Bill is very different from what Indian leaders mean. We have to make sure that what we understand by Treaty and Aboriginal Rights is what is guaranteed in the Constitution, the Canada Act.

Just before this meeting, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) sent a letter to the Assembly of First Nations confirming that the Section 37 Conference will take place in the spring of 1983. Over the 'last four months, there has been some correspondence on the question of protocol, the terms of meeting. Before we can attend any conference on such a vital issue, there has to be some agreement on such things as - do we go there as equal participants or do we go to observe Provincial Premiers decide on our future? Given that it is only the Federal Government that has trust responsibility for "Indians and land reserved for Indians", what part will the Provincial Premiers play? and so forth.

Last February the Joint Council of the NIB drew up a Memorandum of Intent (See Sask. Indian, February/ March issue) which set out the terms under which the Indian Nations agree to attend the Section 37 Conference. In all the correspondence from the PMO, there has been no acknowledgement of our position. At the First Ministers' Meeting in New Brunswick in May, the question of Aboriginal Rights was on the agenda and the Chief of the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) was asked to attend. He repeated the conditions under which he would participate. They were ignored and he refused to attend - the issue was dropped from the agenda. On June 22nd he met with the Prime Minister to discuss our Memorandum and to listen to counter-proposals. No response was made to the counter-proposals at the meeting - Ahenakew had agreed only to listen. This silence was interpreted as agreement: however, their silence on our Memorandum has not been interpreted in the same way!

So far what has been agreed to is that only the properly recognized representatives from the A.F.N., and Inuit Tapirisat of Canada and the N.C.C. will negotiate for and represent the aboriginal people

The last letter from the PMO again disregarded our stated position, and set out the stages of talks leading up to the S37 Conference. Confederacy Representatives rejected the letter.


The Confederacy Of Nations: New Executive Of The Assembly Of First Nations

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 1982      v12 n07 p21  
The Political Policy Committee was asked to concentrate on the Constitution in preparation for further negotiations. The AFN position remains: We have not agreed to participate in the S37 Conference, although we have not closed the door.

Treaty and Alliance of Friendship and Mutual Respect Among the Indian Nations of Canada

WE, the people of the First Nations, determined to preserve and fulfil the destiny and responsibilities set out for us by the Creator, do hereby reassert our rights and duties that will stand forever.

We stand in the footprints of our ancestors in proclaiming the First Nations to world community.

Laying aside the aspirations of each member, we intertwine our arms so strongly that the actions of each Chief (and Headman) shall become the action of the whole.

We have placed, as our goal and purpose, the attainment and protection of all the rights of humankind and shall support such efforts by other nations.

By rights of kinship with the natural elements and fruits of Mother Earth, we join our efforts to protect the riches of the earth and the animal and plant life from destruction and deterioration as though such attacks were upon our own bodies.

We repeat the Declaration of First Nations of December 1980 with a strong and united voice and keep it ever before us.

NOW THEREFORE, keeping each his own face and form but each adding his own strength and wisdom, we put aside all contention and doubt. We pledge our individual and collective efforts, our dignity and our lives so that the First Nations will be returned to a rightful place of honour in the world community.

Now, in the spirit of the Creator, upon whom we have called for wisdom, we place our names with the words of our heart.

The document is seen as the first step in developing a convention similar to the one developed recently by the FSIN. In the same way, it will have to be signed by the Chiefs.

Indian Government Bill Shelved

Further reports were made on action on resolutions passed at the AFN in April. Of most immediate concern was the one on the Indian Government Bill. Ahenakew had conveyed its rejection by the AFN to Munro in May. Munro has since stated that the Bill will be shelved pending consultation with Indian leadership. AFN staff reported progress in developing a package on Indian Self-Determination for the Chiefs.

Other issues for discussion included funding to off-reserve students (see story), the Standing Committee's study of the Indian Act and the Federal/Indian Governments' financial relationship (see story).

Further and full discussion on most issues was postponed to a Think Tank/International Strategy Workshop to be held in Edmonton for Confederacy Representatives from September 20 - 24th.

The next formal meeting of the Confederacy of Nations has been set for November 16 in Vancouver, B.C.