“My duty as a greater president is not only to represent the governments and defend the rights of my members and the integrity of the territory, but also to raise awareness among the general population of the reality of the indigenous people,” declared at the University of Montreal, the grand president of the Aticamico Nation Council, Constant Ouachich, called on April 28 to convene Conference on the self-determination of indigenous peoples.
“It’s about building harmonious relationships with Indigenous peoples at the University of Montreal,” said Samuel Renville, UdeM’s First Peoples Relations Advisor. His statements were corroborated by those of Michel Janos, Dean of the School of Continuing Education: “The paths to reconciliation are many and certainly very tortuous. I am convinced that they must deal with an openness of heart and mind, an openness that must be based on honest knowledge of self and the other.”
In the beginning: allies, partners, collaborators
When the first Europeans arrived in Canada in 1534 with Jacques Cartier, the indigenous peoples welcomed them kindly. “Our ancestors helped them and showed them how to survive by teaching them to hunt and hunt in the areas they knew. They brought them into our communities, into our villages. Some married indigenous people and there was a lot of crossbreeding. The aborigines and Europeans were then allies and partners in this new adventure .and that, both commercial and military,” said Constant Awash.
It is the first example of legal pluralism in Canada: the two indigenous and European legal systems coexisted then, in reference to the Treaty of Two Row Wampum or the “Parallel Tracks” treaty, which has become obsolete.
A major turning point in the nineteenth century
Imagine: you welcome someone into your home and offer to host them. Choose the most spacious room in your house. She feels so good there that she invites her friends there. They stay there and gradually move to other rooms until they chase you and your family away. Then they legally declare, without consulting you, that this is their home. This is how we felt when the Europeans took over the lands we lived up to then. This mother land, the land of our ancestors, we have never given up and we are deeply attached to it, ”explained Constant Uachech.
In 1867, when the Canadian Confederation was established, Aboriginal people were not invited to participate. Section 91 (24) gave the federal government the power to legislate with respect to indigenous people through Indian law, which later became Indian law. Some of the land is allocated to them in particular and they are forced to live in these reserves. The Ministry of Indian Affairs also encouraged the establishment of boarding schools for Indians starting in early 19And century to preach and assimilate them. Atikamekw attended these boarding schools later, from 1955 until the 1990s.
“It is necessary to know this history so that today we can dismantle prejudices about the indigenous population and not see it only from the prism of the Oka crisis,” said Constant Ouachache.
Rediscover this initial collaborative spirit
There is a labor shortage in Canada, particularly in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Constant Awashiche noted that Atikamiko would be happy to fill these positions if they developed a sense of belonging to the Canadian nation: “In the economy, everything is interconnected. We would like to rediscover this spirit of alliance for siblings so that we can work together for the good of society. Our goal is to restore our place in society as allies and collaborators. and partners. We would also like to be allies in the defense of our natural resources. Forty years ago, during the Quiet Revolution, French Quebecers demanded the same rights as English speakers. Today, we must think of the Quebec motto, I remember, and applying it to the First Nations in the spirit of reconciliation.”
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