MP treks on foot to Saskatchewan, Manitoba First Nations
- Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP | February 17, 2017
On January 18th, I began a twenty-two day journey from Red Pheasant Cree First Nation (North Battleford) to Winnipeg, walking on the lands of our ancestors. I walked (and skied) on the traditional territories of 41 First Nations. I walked to bring a message of unity around the ideal of a formal political union among Indigenous peoples and to learn about all the specific needs of different peoples and places.
I met the leaders of many communities and heard the dreams and aspirations they have for their peoples. Each community is choosing a different path to overcome their own respective issues and challenges; many have thrived while there are those who struggle. I did not find one nation looking to be told what to do, but peoples trying to create a better future. There was a solidarity they expressed in a common goal of a better future, but which is difficult attain because we are not working together. I continue to believe there is more that unites us as Indigenous peoples than divides us. I saw communities which were better at economic development, housing, water quality and service, policing, firefighting, education, health and youth programing. All communities had something which they were very strong at, perhaps they should have the opportunity to help others and be helped in return. We should use our collective capacity to meet the challenges we face in all communities. How can we ensure that not one community moves ahead while others stay behind? Can we help each other?
As Ottawa starts discussion about self-government, it is my belief that a large political union, a great confederacy among Indigenous peoples from all treaty territories would allow us to achieve great things, together. I met many leaders (both community and political) from all backgrounds like the Cree, Dakota, Anishnaabe, Saulteaux and Métis, all who have a very specific world view that has been informed by their place and history. For instance among the Dakota I found a people fiercely independent, but because of almost a 150 years of the Indian Act they are divided. We fight amongst ourselves for the needed resources in our communities. There is only one long term solution, working together and creating structures which unite us all.
In all my conversations with teachers, social workers, Elders, Chiefs and councillors, there were consistent themes of education, safety, housing employment opportunities, and healthcare, things that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast think about and ask their leaders to address on a regular basis, but there was also strong undertones of the overbearing impact of the Indian Act. We discussed what sovereignty means. There was a time when we were united, such as when we signed treaty together, but for many years others have been deciding what is best for our communities. It is time to be the Fathers and Mothers of our own house.
If there is one thing I can leave with you after these twenty two days it is the seven teachings of Courage, Truth, Humility, Knowledge, Love, Effort and Respect; things that were shown to me in every community I visited. If you have an opinion on this idea of a political union and great confederacy please write my office at Robert-Falcon Ouellette, M.P. House of Commons Ottawa ON K1A 0A6. There is no need for a stamp the postage is free to any MP.
Tapwe akwa Khitwam
Otapapistamâkew/Member of Parliament/Député
Winnipeg Centre (Heart of Canada)
House of Commons/Chambre des communes
Justice Building 713 Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6