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Roseau River railway blockade

Chief Terrence Nelson of Roseau River
First Perspective:
21 June, 2006

[SISIS note: The following press release is provided for reference only. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Roseau River will peacefully blockade two railway lines for exactly 24 hours starting Thursday June 29th at 4:00 p.m. and ending Friday June 30th at 4:00 p.m. One of these railway line blockades will be north of Dominion City, four miles east and one and half miles north of the main Roseau River reservation, the other railway line to be blockaded is north of Letellier, which is approximately two and half miles west of Roseau River and one mile north of Letellier. Both railway lines move goods and services into and from the United States and will affect business in North Dakota, Minnesota and beyond. Both railway lines run on our traditional territory, we hold underlying title to those lands.

At noon on Thursday June 29 in front of the Roseau River Community Hall, two Roseau River drums will begin singing. People will gather to hear from the elders, the leadership and from the people themselves why First Nations are angry enough at Canada to initiate this action. Roseau River’s traditional territory was over 2000 square miles in south central Manitoba prior to the signing of Treaty # one on August 3rd 1871.

The Crown promised, that no white man would ever be allowed to set foot upon the reservation without our permission. The Crown pledged on their honor that if we agreed to the treaty giving them access to our 3 million acres of land that the reserved lands would be ours forever. Just 32 years later on January 30th 1903, the government would force the surrender of 12 sections or 70% of our reserve. Mr. Atkinson would be shot and killed for refusing to leave his home. It takes the Minister of Indian Affairs, twelve days to recommend an Order in Council and in just 26 days by February 25 1903 the white farmers have full ownership of 12 sections of our reserve with a signed Order in Council.

In 1993, we had RCMP snipers in our fields when we tried to open a casino that could have bought in 100 million dollars a year for us. Once again our jurisdiction, our right to govern ourselves was denied by force of arms. We could not enjoy the same rights as our Anishinabe relatives in the States. We still have 77% unemployment. We are denied any recognition of our right to lease our 3 million acres of traditional lands and each year we receive less and less funding. It took us 125 years to get Treaty Land Entitlement recognized. Eight years we have waited to have our TLE land converted and still we have to wait, but it took the white farmers only 26 days to get an Order in Council taking our 12 sections of reservation lands away.

Roseau River is owed at least 60 million dollars from the 1903 land claim. We have been peaceful, we have been patient, we have waited 103 years for justice but meanwhile in Caledonia the white people got compensation already, millions of dollars have already been pledged by the government, yet the white people only had to wait 100 days, not a 100 years for the government to act.

Yes we believe that there are two sets of laws in Canada, one for whites and another for the Indians.

The Supreme Court of Canada decided in Haida that "Knowledge of a credible but unproven claim is enough to trigger a duty to consult." In spite of the law as decided in Mikkisew, where Justice Binney of the Supreme Court wrote that it was illegal for government officials to be indifferent, it is exactly what the Government of Canada does, Liberal or Conservative, they ignore the law if it is in favor of the Indians. Why do you think that in 1982, Premier Lyons of Manitoba would absolutely refuse having the Right of Property recognized in the Charter? They tried to stack the law in their favor but it didn’t work so they ignore the law when it is convenient for them to ignore it.

Over five hundred murdered and missing First Nation women in Canada. Our people fill the jails and prisons in Canada. Over 50% of the people killed at the hands of police in Canada are First Nations people. Over 6000 land claims in limbo because Canada refuses to put in place a process that will deal with these matters. The Conservatives refused to deal with the Kelowna accord despite the fact ten provincial premiers, three territories and the previous federal government had agreed to it. In Six Nations/Caledonia land claim, it was the people who took action, it was the people who finally had enough and decided not to be sidetracked by a useless Canadian government process, they, the people took direct action.

So I ask the question, are the people tired? Are you tired of watching hundreds of billions of dollars of resource wealth paid to the governments of Canada, while you, the original owners are denied a share of your own wealth. Are you tired of the housing problems, the lack of education opportunities, the denial of health coverage, the injustice, the brutality, are you tired of being the poorest of the poor in Canada. Are you tired of watching immigrants to our lands taking our resource wealth, while at the same time they call you down for not paying taxes to their government?

We at Roseau River will stand up as we have always done. We will not be ignored. We will not obey any white court injunction that the railway companies might try and get imposed upon us, an injunction that will be unilaterally imposed, an injunction that would deny our right of property.

We signed a treaty with Canada. They are obligated by the terms and conditions of that treaty. The immigrant to our land gets their title from the Crown but the Crown got their rights from us, the indigenous people of these lands. We were here first, these are our lands. We hold the underlying title to all these lands including under the rail lines.

At 3:30 p.m. vehicles will pull out of the reserve headed to the blockade sites. At exactly 4:00 p.m. cars will be driven onto the rail lines and we will stay exactly 24 hours to send a message to Canada, that we will no longer tolerate our rights being ignored. The Okiijida Society will provide security and will not tolerate any acts of violence from anyone. We will welcome all peaceful people to join us on June 29th and 30th 2006. We ask that you get there at noon in order to ensure everyone knows their responsibility.

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