Sep 5/98: Tricky NAFTA 'First Nations' summit


Mohawk Nation News (MNN)
September 5, 1998

MNN Mohawk Nation News. 5 Sept. 98. The Canadian government is putting on the "First Nations NAFTA International Summit & Trade Show" at theCalgary Convention Centre (Marriott Hotel) on October 17 to 19, 1998.Their prime concerns are trade relations, creation of an Indigenous trade group, overcoming possible barriers and opposition, making treaties and laws.

What a line-up of promoters! Selling the North American Free Trade Agreement will be representatives of the Canadian Governmentís Indian Act band councils; premiers of provinces; Jane Stewart, the apologetic Minister of Indian Affairs; even US UN representative Bill Richardson; Phil Fontaine head of the Assembly of First Nations, the main Canadian government financed lobby group; Blaine Favel, the world ambassador on Indigenous issues; Ron Allen of the US National Congress of American Indians. Featured is Simon Reisman who made the NAFTA deal for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; Ms. Nina Sibal of the UNESCO; and Kevin Grover, head of the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. The keynote address will be given by the former Mayor of Atlanta Georgia. Luminaries from Foregin Affairs and International Trade will be paneling with some hard core indigenous band council persons such as Chris Shade, Joe Norton, Marvin Mull, Willie Little Child, Deni Leonard and Jessie Fisher.

Elijah Harper is billed as "Ambassador at Large". The Canadian government loves him because he promotes his spiritual religious vision that "Aboriginal people do not own the land, in fact, treaties were visions to live and co-exist with each other and to share our land and resources ... The land was created by God to benefit all people".

It looks like the Indigenous representatives are about to sign an internal NAFTA trade deal on behalf of the Canadian government. It will look like itís between the Indigenous people of Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central and South American countries. Actually it is between Canada and Mexico and Brazil and Nicaraugua and... get the picture? The true traditional Indigenous sovereign nations have, of course, not been consulted on this latest maneuver to sell off their resources to benefit the multinational corporations who are behind this whole thing.

Either they've forgotten or don't care. Last February the traditional Mohawk Nation condemned the human rights violations by Mexico against those Indians who rebelled against NAFTA, murdering 45 men, women and children in Acteal on December 22nd 1997. On March 16th they marched to the Kahnawake band council office and presented Joe Norton with a letter of protest. They were opposing the impending theft of Iroquois cultural symbols by these nation states for worldwide marketing, to be made cheaply in labour camps in Oaxaca, Mexico. As well, Joe Norton and the Canadian government announced at that time the setting up of a trade commission to oversee the use of Iroquois cultural symbols and intellectual property so that those wishing to use their own symbols would have to go through this private commission. Now it looks like this commission will control all Indigenous trade.

The question comes up as to what can be done with Indigenous collaborators who work with oppressive states to undermine Indigenous peoples' lives, rights and possessions? They are helping Canada and the US find ways to use NAFTA to exploit and sell off more Indigenous resources such as oil, gas, forestry, mining, fishery and agriculture. Rather shouldn't they demand that Canada and the US boycott trade with Mexico over their human rights violations? The Mohawk tried to reach their brothers and sisters, the Mayans, to tell them of their opposition. In fact, real nation-to-nation agreements are possible between true traditional Indigenous governments similar to international contracts which must be honoured. Band councils can only exercise those rights delegated to them by the Canadian government who created them.

Sovereignty can only be with the true traditional Indian governments. At a 1977 UN conference, Ross John of the Seneca Nation said, "What do these trade agreements with our nations mean? Is it international trade, nation to nation? Will it be manipulated by large businesses and certain nations? If so, all the dollars will go back to international organizations". Kakwirakeron of the Mohawk Nation asked, "Does the international community and the UN define who a nation is? Or is it only the U.S. and Canada who make the definition so that we shall be continually referred to by other states as an 'internal problem'? This is intolerable". Kahn-Tineta Horn , President of the Canadian Alliancein Solidarity with the Native Peoples, suggested that, "What we need is a structure with a process where true indigenous nations can make decisions that become legal. What is the point of this meeting if the government's policy is to not deal with Indigenous sovereignty?"

Is this scheme how Canada and the United States avoids condemning these states for genocide and human rights violations by getting their indigenous nominees to go in and do the trading on their behalf? Dissenters, such as the Zapatistas, have not been invited to give their views on NAFTA which allows Canada, United States and Mexico and their business interests to overrule any U.S. and Canadian laws adopted by any state, tribe, band or local government if they interfere with investments or sale of services or products by any multinational corporation. The Zapatistas and other Indigenous people should give this conference a dose of reality. They should tell these corporate fronts about the damage to workers, farmers and citizens by allowing cheap goods from undemocratic countries to come in, resulting from the murder of labour union and indigenous leaders, the dominance of extremely corrupt military and para-military cliques, and the raw exploitation of women and children sweatshop workers of both sexes and all ages.

Has the time come to identify those who knowingly work against their own people and harm them? What did the ancestors do to their spies and traitors? If they have abandoned us and joined the army of the opponents, shouldn't they forfeit all their birthrights and claims on our nation, territory and resources?


Register your opposition:
Bruce Iron Shirt/John Paul
Tel: 403-258-1775
Fax: 403-258-1811

Deni Leonard/R. Heyman
Tel: 415-288-8500
Fax: 415-288-8510

Mohawk Nation News (MNN)
Tel: (450) 635-7402
Fax: (450) 635-2413

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