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Indian Speech Too Political For Torch Organizers

"The Olympic Flame symbolizes the struggle to achieve peace, harmony and justice between all peoples and nations throughout the world. Since arriving in Canada, the flame as taken on additional significance as it now symbolizes the struggle of the Lubicon Lake Indian people and their attempts to establish their lives on their traditional homelands".

The Indian people of Saskatchewan have therefore decided to welcome the flame to our traditional lands with a prayer and an honour song for the Lubicon people."

The above speech was to be presented at the ceremony welcoming the "Olympic Torch Relay" and the Olympic Flame to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan, but was not allowed to be made by the torch relay organizers and the Saskatoon committee chairperson, Alderwoman Pat Lorje.

An agreement had been reached to allow the Indian participants two minutes to make their presentation. The Native organizers said that they were led to believe that they would get on stage right to the very last minute. The ceremonies were shut down without notice to the Native participants. A lot of people were unhappy with this outcome and felt that they deserve an explanation.

The following was stated by the Saskatoon Committee chairperson, Pat Lorje, and the spokesman for the Native students, Tyrone Tootoosis.

Tootoosis: "I received a letter from the Olympic Torch Relay Committee indicating that they wanted Native involvement in the Torch Relay ceremonies. They indicated we had two minutes to do whatever we wanted to do."

Lorje: I feel like I was set up. We had not agreed on a speech. Only to let an Elder approach the flame, lighting his sweetgrass with it an say a prayer for the flame."

Tootoosis: "We told them of our intentions as far as what we would do with the two minutes we had. They were adament that I show them the speech, I did and they said I wouldn't be able to go up on the stage to read it, because it was too political."

Lorje: "We felt that this was a practical powerful gesture on our part. We read Tyrone's speech and asked he take out the direct reference to the Lubicon Band, we felt it didn't need to be underscored, because of the protestors right in front of us."

Tootoosis: "Maybe this slight by the Torch Committee was trivial to some, but to others it was a major blow."

Lorje: "This was an opportunity for people to make a positive statement on the Cree Band land claims. We also wanted to show that we are aware of the large Native population in Saskatoon and we share their concern. But none of this has happened. "