Most recently in the Innu's long history, NATO planes violated Innu territory by regularly conducting low-level flights over their lands. Also, the Innu Nation includes some communities that were moved by the Canadian government in the 1950's/'60s as an "experiment," the most famous is in Davis Inlet. Such acts are accurately defined as genocide. Daniel Ashini took some time for an interview in July.
And it got to the point where the government couldn't stand the story -- the publicity and the negative reaction people gave to the situation, their outrage that these kind of things were happening in their own country to Indigenous people.
And government promised to act upon the situation and to re-locate the community to deal with the problem. But after the media attention died down, and after the government officials got the Innu people into closed-doors meetings and so on, it appears that the government is singing a different tune.
They're basically all now reneging on the promises. Our experiences remain to be very poor. The experience that we have had with governments has always been dismal and very, very poor.
There's still quite a lot of people having alcohol problems, substance abuse problems, and people still living in the same old house that people saw on TV with no running water, no sewer system and so on.
In Chesat Inlet the same situation exists . . . where governments are still talking about developing our lands and its resources to provide jobs to non-Native people, to invite other industrial society to exploit the land and conduct low-level military flights over land.
We never thought in our own minds that we'd be able to put a big dent in this big monster. But we actually did it, with our own communnity of about 1,000 people.
Another issue that has come up is the hydro development negotiated between the governments of Newfoundland and Quebec. We now have people talking about the trans-Labrador highway that they want to put right into the heartland of the Innu people's homeland.
There's never been any so-called 'land claims' settlement over this whole area . . . we entered the so-called 'land claims' negotiations with the federal and the Newfoundland government back in July of 1992. And then the talks broke down.
Negotiations broke down . . . because the non-Innu governments, namely the Canadian government and the Newfoundland government, could not even resolve their differences over a cost-sharing agreement.
The overall policy of the federal government's land rights negotiations with the Aboriginal people is something that needs drastic [change], or a major overhaul.
It's quite probably unreasonable to expect any change in the near future. Things here have been very bleak. We try to keep up hope and our own spirits and so-on.
Hopefully it won't be too late before we realize that things have to change.
There's a lot of corruption out there. There's a lot of things people get corrupted with, especially if you're from a different world, you have a different value system. You have a different way of looking at things.
The world out there has strange ways of manipulating you and getting you to do things that you sometimes don't feel like doing.
"If you have it in yourself to fight back and to try to assert what you believe is right, and to be able to lend a helping hand to who you feel is right, then the more people who join hands the bigger the circle will be and the stronger the people will be. I think that this is the message we're trying to give people."
Join the circle. Speak out, write out, against the continuing unfair, inhumane conditions our governments keep the Innu Nation in. Write the Prime Minister, local MPs, and the Department of Indian Affairs. Ask the Innu for direction. Daniel Ashini can be reached through:
PO Box 119, Sheshatshu, Labrador, Canada, AOP 1M0 tel: 709-497-8398 Innu Nation
PO Box 119 North West River
via Nfld., Canada A0P 1M0