Chief Spence maintains hunger strike —despite Ottawa meetings

Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation attended a meeting with Canada's Gov-Gen. David Johnston Jan. 11, but left official residence Rideau Hall early to announce that her hunger strike will continue. "It didn't feel too good inside that house…but we stood up for your rights," Danny Metatawabin, who speaks for Spence, told gathered First Nations chiefs. "Somehow it felt like a show, a picture opportunity. What’s happening here is not done yet. It’s not over yet. Sadly, the hunger strike continues." He said that a wampum belt Johnston had been presented as a good will gesture by First Nations leaders at a meeting last January had been disrespected in the "ceremonial" meeting with Spence.

An earlier meeting that day between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper was boycotted by Spence on the grounds that Johnston would not be present; she attended that later "ceremonial" meeting with Johnston. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and 19 other First Nations leaders attened the meeting with Harper—despite calls for him to join Spence in boycotting it. Several chiefs, including Gordon Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Nations (AIAI) in Ontario and Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, had urged Atleo to boycott the meeting. Before the meeting, Harper pledged to open an "high-level dialogue" on treaty relationships and comprehensive land claims. (Canadian Press, ICTMN, June 12)

The meetings took place amid ongoing Idle No More protests across Canada. Hundreds marched in downtown Montreal Jan. 11 in support of Chief Spence, with traditional drumming, songs and dances filling the streets. (Montreal Gazette, Jan. 11)

  1. Leonard Peltier statement on Idle No More
    From the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Jan. 18:

    Greetings, my Relatives and Friends!

    It has come to my attention in the last week or so that a lot of our young people and women especially are standing up in support of our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters in Canada. It really does my heart good to see the activism and concern of the different generations of People coming together. There is great potential for educating those who don’t know about the perils that face our environment. 

    With personal knowledge I totally understand the difficulties of getting people to take action to bring about change.  The direction that the world corporations have taken historically and today have largely been at the expense of the Indigenous People around the world. I encourage anyone who reads these words to become involved as much as possible to stem this tide of environmental destruction taking place. 

    The health of our environment transcends across all walks of life.  If we don’t have healthy water, healthy air, healthy food, and healthy children we will not have a healthy future.  That is the law.  I can’t say enough how important it is that we communicate and join hands with our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters all over the world. We need to join together to bring about the change of these corporations who trample on our environmental rights. 

    I encourage you again to seek out the organizations that are already involved in this endeavor, and remain united with one another. I will encourage all the People that I work with and have worked with to do their part in this struggle.  I’ll close for now, but in the Spirit of Chief Teresa Spence keep on keeping on, and idle no more!

    In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
    Leonard Peltier