Monday, April 21, 2014
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Chiefs vote in a war chief

By Trevor Greyeyes

I, for one, was not surprised that Terry Nelson won the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) grand chief election last week.

Manitoba's southern chiefs basically elected Nelson as their war chief.

Over the years, I have been at other First Nation representative elections both nationally and provincially where Nelson only garnered a smattering of support before bowing out early.

Nelson, the former embattled chief of Roseau River First Nation, is well known for his strident style of speaking, opposition to federal government policy and extra curricular forays to other countries.

The next couple of years could prove to be the time when First Nations become increasingly militant in the face of governments and industries looking to make money from resource development without adequately dealing with a host of issues of concern to First Nation peoples.

With the recent cuts across the board to tribal councils and representative organizations, such as SCO, the chiefs obviously feel there's nothing left to lose by electing someone who is sure to be strident and outspoken against the federal government.

Certainly, the writing is on the wall and it may only be a few more years before funding for lobbying organizations will be cut entirely.

In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid lip service to the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate when he addressed the Vancouver Board of Trade on January 6, 2014 that was interrupted by two protestors.

He went on to urge aboriginal communities to consider more than issues of rights and title when addressing development projects (http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Resource+development+projects+First+Nations/9357782/story.html).

Indeed, various levels of government continue to lose court case after court case across this country including cases in which the government failed in its duty to consult and accommodate.

Just before Christmas, a ruling from BC that the provincial government failed to adequately consult and accommodate Fort Nelson First Nation left that government on the hook for $1.75 million (see First Perspective columnist Bill Gallagher's take on the issue http://www.firstperspective.ca/index.php/14-bill-gallagher/2346-native-legal-win-190-implications-for-alberta-s-oilsands).

Let's see, last year there was also the Kapyong Barracks ruling that went against the government. The federal government is currently appealing that court loss.

And in November 2013, the feds lost a case against Indian Brook First Nation in the Maritimes when it unilaterally tried to change welfare rates without adequate consultation.

Last year, the federal government spent $106 million on legal fees fighting a losing battle against First Nation court victories.

Into this milieu, Nelson finds himself the newly anointed leader of a fading organization. He's also the American Indian Movement local rep and can mobilize, shall we say, possible protestors who think the Idle No More movement is a joke. 

He's a polarizing figure with First Nation peoples, not just the mainstream, where either you love him or hate him.

I think Nelson gets a kick out of pushing the envelope such as a trip he took to Iran in 2012.

As the saying goes: sh*& just got real. 

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Blast from the past: FP archive

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