On Friday, after four years of servility and weak leadership in the face of a Harper government bent on an aggressive agenda of assimilation and termination of First Nations, National Chief Shawn Atleo was forced by popular pressure and a brewing chiefs' revolt to resign, the first time a national chief has resigned since the creation of the institution.
Throughout his term, Atleo has been more concerned with keeping Ottawa happy than with representing the aspirations of First Nations people. When people rose up during Idle No More, he undermined the movement by legitimizing the government's empty posturing by attending a controversial meeting with the Prime Ministers' Office on January 11, 2013 without the mandate of the Chiefs in Assembly.
Most recently, he has served as the fig leaf for the government's Orwellian First Nations Education Act, which aims to finish the job of "killing the Indian in the child" that residential schools began by placing First Nations education under the control of governments and central authorities remote from the realities of First Nations -- all while disingenuously claiming to place education under First Nations control. This was too much for First Nations peoples, and many chiefs, to bear.
Defenders of the Land cofounder Arthur Manuel, whose father George Manuel founded the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) that later became the AFN, said, "when my father began the NIB, it was a grassroots organization that represented the people. Now it is an organization that serves Ottawa and is controlled by Ottawa's funding. Only a real movement of the people can fill the vacuum of leadership among First Nations, and I hope Shawn Atleo's departure will allow that kind of movement to bloom."
"With the Harper government foreclosing debate, ignoring First Nations concerns and rushing to pass Bill C-33 before summer, our movement must keep up the pressure on the AFN executive to show real leadership in the fight against Harper and his termination agenda. The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA) is nothing more than a bogus term created by the Harper government. It goes to the heart of our identity as First Nations Peoples, and our ability to choose our own way of life," said Idle No More activist Janice Makokis.
"The emergency Confederacy of Nations Meeting called by Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, which is to take place in Ottawa on May 14, 2014, is the time to hold our leadership to account. It is the time for our leadership to show they are on the side of our Peoples, our Treaty and Inherent rights, and self-determination," said Sylvia McAdam of Idle No More. "We must focus the energy of our movement against the machine of the Harper government and not allow our own people to become the instruments of our own destruction."
For more information, contact:
Russell Diabo (613) 296-0110
Janice Makokis (780) 915-0310
Sylvia McAdam (306) 281-8158
Art Manuel (250) 319-0688
This press release originally appeared on Idle No More.
Photo: wikimedia commons
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