Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee speaks at the Ka mnaadendanaa gaabi zhiwebag miinwaa nango megwaa ezhwebag, miinwa geyaabi waa ni zhiwebeg – Respecting and honouring our Past, Present and Future Conference in Sault Ste. Marie. – Photo by Laura Barrios

By Marci Becking

SAULT STE. MARIE – Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee and legal counsel Fred Bellefeuille spoke to participants at the Ka mnaadendanaa gaabi zhiwebeg miinwaa nango megwaa ezhwebag, miinwa geyaabi waa ni zhiwebag – Respecting and Honouring our Past, Present and Future’ Conference.

“Some of the major components of what went into the Canadian constitution at the time of the constitution talks, came from Anishinabek.  We influenced Section 35,” said Grand Council Chief Madahbee. “Anishinabek have had a lot of success.  We influenced Ontario and Canada into adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We were successful in maintaining the point of sale PST exemption and expanded it to include telecommunications.”

“We aren’t this corporate structure – the Union of Ontario Indians was created as a secretariat for the flow of funding from Ontario and Canada – we are Anishinabek.  As Elder Gord says  ‘A duck is a duck and a moose is a moose.  We are Anishinabek and we aren’t anything else’.”

Madahbee also mentioned that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that there was no other important relationship than the one with Indigenous people.  His father PM Pierre Trudeau said:  First Nations Governance is a non-starter.

“Our predecessors – our powerful Chiefs that went before us – they had a great vision of what being Anishinaabe was.  They were ahead of their time,” says Madahbee. “When we talk about the future, I don’t want to hear what’s not possible.  I want to hear the possible.”

Emcee Bob Goulais said that as a young man, he was largely influenced by the American Indian Movement.  “How was that influential to Anishinabek in the 1970s?” he asked the presenters.

Anishinabek Nation legal counsel Fred Bellefeuille answered, “The American tribes understood that they had sovereignty over their land – general control over their land and resources.”

Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said,”I saw that warrior spirit in the Americans – they may have influenced me.  I went to a federal day school and at the Catholic school and got strapped every day.  They can beat me, but they will never beat me.”

Michipicoten’s Chief Patricia Tangie said that when we take over our jurisdiction, we have the control over our land.  It allows us to move forward.

Madahbee said we would be further ahead if we stuck together.

“When you talked about the Grand General Indian Counsel – almost all of the Lake Huron nations took part – what about the Lake Superior nations?  Were they involved?” asked Chief Tangie. Bellefeuille said that they were involved, but weren’t consistent due to travel.

Chief Scott McLeod from Nipissing First Nation said he was enlightened to see the historical slide show.  “You see the confederacy, alliances and the treaty process.  The one thing we have in common and we need to hold up the treaties more. Those treaties were done to protect our inherent rights.  The only reason we had those treaties to protect the inherent rights.  Rights were given to us by the creator.  We need to start practicing.  The only people who have treaty rights is our partner who signed the treaty with us.  Have our organizations based on those treaties.  Those are the ultimate documents for our government – why the treaties were signed for the Robinson Huron area.  We should have a treaty organization.  We have had an organization since 1850.”

Bellefeuille said that the treaties do protect our inherent right.  Robinson Huron Treaty was about the copper and resource extraction.

Ron Bernard from Algonquins of Pikwakanagan said that we need to remind Canadians about the War of 1812.  The British didn’t have enough military and First Nations won the war for Canada.

Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare wrapped up the session.  ”

I am proud that I am a Chief and a leader.  This gathering belongs to us.  We are strong and the white people are starting to be very careful to meet with us.  This didn’t happen a long time ago.”