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AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo gets an earful in Thompson at Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Idle No More - Northern Manitoba also lashes out at Atleo for support of proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act

BY JOHN BARKER

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Thompson Citizen

Fourteen months after the Jan. 11, 2013 nationally televised drama in Ottawa, which saw Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo on the inside meeting with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, during Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's protest, while the other side of the door was blocked by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, a prominent critic of Atleo's leadership, relations appear to remain as frosty as ever as Atleo got an earful in Thompson March 5 from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, in particular Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen Dumas from Pukatawagan, and Idle No More - Northern Manitoba's Lisa Currier – with the focus this time being on Atleo's support for the Harper government's proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

Atleo was in Thompson to meet with the Winnipeg-based Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and explain the Ottawa-based Assembly of First Nations position supporting the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

The proposed legislation calls for standards consistent with provincial standards off-reserve and says students will have to meet attendance requirements, while teachers will have to be properly certified. Ottawa is to fund core education, which includes language and cultural instruction, with $1.25 billion over three years starting in 2016. There is a provision for a 4.5 per cent annual increase. For the last 20 years, funding increases have been capped at two per cent a year. Along with the $1.25 billion, the federal government has offered another $500 million over seven years to go toward infrastructure and $160 million over four years for implementation.

Over the past decade, 58 schools on First Nations in Northern Manitoba have transferred education from band councils to the province's Frontier School Division. Ottawa tops up funding shortfalls in transfer payments to the province but not on reserve-run schools.

Nepinak says in a March 6 Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs news release that in the aftermath of residential schools, First Nations must never be subjected again to non-aboriginals dictating how aboriginal children are educated.

"In the aftermath of the Residential School we have to live by the call for First Nations control over First Nations education, to ensure that we never allow ourselves to be subjected again to a situation where someone else dictates to us how we educate our children," Nepinak said to the chiefs-in-assembly during the education discussion.

Nepinak of the Pine Creek First Nation was first elected as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on the final day of the AMC Annual General Assembly in Opaskwayak Cree Nation July 26-27, 2011. He captured 34 votes on the second ballot, three more than the 50 per cent plus one he needed to be elected AMC grand chief. Former Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak grand chief Sydney Garrioch of Pimicikamak Cree Nation at Cross Lake and Dennis Meeches of the Long Plain First Nation each received 12 votes on the deciding ballot.

A holder of a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan as well as a first-class honours undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta, Nepinak completed an intensive program on aboriginal lands, resources and governance at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. He interrupted his studies towards a master's degree in indigenous governance when he was elected chief of Pine Creek First Nation. He previously served as the chairman of the West Region Tribal Council and on the governance council of Treaty 4.

Nepinak succeeded Ron Evans of Norway House as the AMC grand chief. Elected as AMC grand chief on July 27, 2005, Evans won re-election on Aug. 13, 2008. Prior AMC grand chiefs have also included Dennis White Bird of the Rolling River First Nation, who served as AMC grand chief from 2000 to 2005, Rod Bushie of Hollow Water First Nation (1997-2000), Phil Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation (1989-1997) and Louis Stevenson of Peguis First Nation (1987-1989).

Currier, a community advocate representing women in leadership perspectives and Idle No More - Northern Manitoba, presented Atleo with a "STOP the First Nations Education Act petition. The petition calls for "First Nations control over education – NO provincial standards/curriculums imposed – No "Education Authority" delegated by Canada."

The petition presented to Atleo by Currier has a preamble that reads: "Education in Canada is founded on superiority and patriarchy historically and is still forced upon Indigenous people presently. Is this going to continue? It is our responsibility to listen to our young people, to protect their future and teach them by showing them that we can assert our Inherent Right to educate ourselves; to build our own identity, institutions and systems. When ½ of our population consists of our young people who will be attending these schools under the FNEA, how can we empower them to assert and protect our rights?

"Change comes through educating ourselves, when we do not educate ourselves on Inherent and Treaty Rights how can we protect them? How can we teach our young people language and culture with imposed provincial curriculums and standards? Change has been done in the past through educating ourselves because we have to when it comes to understanding where we are so we know what we are up against.

"The FNEA is 1/10 bills that are a part of a termination plan to end sovereign status and the extinguishment of Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty Rights."

Dumas, telling Atleo he knew the national chief was no more likely to listen to him now than he did in Ottawa 14 months ago, instead surrendered about seven of his allotted 10 minutes for speaking to the assembly to Currier to make her own remarks and present Atleo with the petition. You can watch and listen to Dumas and Currier on this 9:40 YouTube video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qnt7HsXLFL8#t=27

Like Atleo, however, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief David Harper was in Standoff, Alberta on the Treaty 7 Kainai Blood Tribe First Nation with Prime Minister Harper in a show of support for the proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act when the Tories unveiled it Feb. 7, as MKO supports the proposed legislation, which contains some changes to the draft legislative proposal shared with First Nations chiefs by the federal government last October. These include:

creating a joint council of education professionals to provide advice and support to the federal government and First Nations on the implementation and oversight of the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act;

outlining the federal government's commitment to adequate stable, predictable and sustainable funding. This funding will replace the complex structures now in place with three funding streams: a statutory funding stream that will have a reasonable rate of growth; transition funding to support the new legislative framework; and funding for long-term investments in on-reserve school infrastructure;

enabling First Nations to incorporate language and culture programming in the education curriculum, and providing funding for language and culture programming within the statutory funding stream;

committing the federal government to work in conjunction with First Nations to develop the act's regulations.

Efforts in recent years to update legislation pertaining to First Nations education date back to the Dec. 21, 1972 Indian Control of Indian Education 45-page policy paper presented to then Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien by the National Indian Brotherhood/Assembly of First Nations, and revised in 2010.

In the March 6 news release, Nepinak says, the Manitoba chiefs also wanted Atleo to provide "an explanation of AFN activities which appear outside the mandate provided by First Nations leadership."

Atleo, a hereditary chief from the Ahousaht First Nation in British Columbia, was first elected as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations on July 23, 2009 after a marathon overnight voting session.

Atleo, the assembly vice-chief from British Columbia, was in a neck-and-neck battle with Perry Bellegarde, former leader of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

After eight ballots and almost 24 hours, neither had the 60 per cent of votes needed to win, but Bellegarde conceded.

Atleo replaced Phil Fontaine as the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Fontaine, an Anishinabe from the Sagkeeng First Nation on the southern tip of Lake Winnipeg in Treaty Territory 1, had held the position for three terms and was not seeking re-election.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs passed a resolution March 5, said Nepinak, to reject the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act "in its entirety including all components and contents and any and all federally or provincially imposed legislation on the matter."

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