In this article, I want to share with you important information regarding the history and the rights of the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation (KCN) people, and how the Indian Act was used to oppress our ancestors and our people.
The KCN people are part of a much larger Swampy Cree Nation of Turtle Island, and we are descendants of the original Cree people who occupied the lands of the Cumberland Delta, Ratty Country, and Kaministikominahiko-skak (Cumberland Island). We were here before treaty, during treaty, and we are still here. We never left our territory, and our occupation to our lands has been continuous.
Before contact, the Creator gave us life as Cree people. In addition to life, he gave us our Sovereignty which includes our Cree Nationhood and our Inherent rights. We were born with our rights and we didn’t get them from the Queen, the Canadian Government, Indian Affairs, or from the Kamectagwacagasihk people.
For example, KCN research shows that our sovereignty was a gift from the Creator. The elements of sovereignty and nationhood define who we are, how we live, and how we govern ourselves. Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation and the Crown confirmed each other’s sovereignty in the Treaty #5 process. Only parties possessing Sovereignty could enter into treaties.
Furthermore, we inherited our rights from our ancestors who are buried right here in Kaministikominahiko-skak. We used these rights to look after our families, our territory and to sign treaty with the crown and other First nations on Turtle Island.
At the time of treaty signing, our ancestors were told that the treaties were all about sharing land and it was never about giving up our Sovereignty or the rights of our children, and grandchildren.
When the first white people arrived on our island and territory we were known as the Kaministikominahiko-skak Iniuk (people).The newcomers quickly built a trading post on our island without asking our ancestors and they changed the name of our community from Kaministikominahiko-skak to Cumberland House. For their appreciation, they started calling us Indians and Savages.
But we were never Indians and we will never be. We were born Cree people and we will die Cree. The term Indian is a colonial label and it was given to us by Canadian government at the signing of Indian Treaties 1 to 11 and they used the term to suppress our rights, and to take over our lands and resources.
This is why the Indian Act was created. Research shows that the aim of the Indian Act has been to do away with our tribal systems and to assimilate our people into main stream society to make way for the newcomers.
They also used it to outlaw our right to gather, to dance, and to conduct ceremonies. As well it was used to determine who could become an Indian? to create residential schools, reserves, the band council system, the pass system, and to force young First Nations to give up their rights if they wanted to go to university.
In addition, the Canadian government used this legislation to deny some Indian women, their children and grandchildren Indian status. We think this legislation is a total betrayal of the Treaties our ancestors signed and agreed to. In fact, the Indian act was never part of the Indian treaty negotiations.
Research shows that six generations have passed since the Indian Act was introduced and the seventh generation are now rising to get rid of the Indian Act. Likewise, the Manitoba First Nations Chiefs are doing the same thing. They want out of the Indian Act.
They have seen the negative impacts of the Indian Act in their communities. Statistics show that over 60% of our children live in poverty on reserves. They also see daily on television the terrible living conditions of many First Nations people right across Canada.
Many of them don’t even have clean drinking water which is having terrible impact of the health conditions of our people. Our teachings tell us that water is one of the elements of life and we must do everything in our power to protect the water for future generations. (Hooray Standing Rock !!!!)
Through colonization we have been treated like second class citizens on Turtle Island. and in our own territories. As well they have successfully used the Indian Act to keep us marginalized as a people. This means that we are on outside looking in while everybody else is getting rich off our lands and resources.
And it’s not going to end until the federal government starts honoring the treaties our ancestors signed, get rid of the racist laws like the federal Indian Act, eliminate government agencies like the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Winnipeg Sun, January 07,2013) and implement the Nation to Nation relationship promised by Prime Minister Trudeau in 2015.
Maybe we should re-engage with the Idle No More Movement and work with them to fix the problem.