The air of mistrust and excitement among both Native and non-Native people leading up to todayâe(TM)s Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Day of Action represents a broad range of anticipation over the cross-country event. Itâe(TM)s getting peopleâe(TM)s attention.

But what grassroots Aboriginal-rights activist could, without hesitation, see the day as an opportunity to âeoevoice concernsâe about our land and quality oflife when the AFN itself has done so little to abate these problems that havegone on for so long?

The AFN represents bandcouncil chiefs across Canada and has enjoyed few victories for Aboriginal rights. Nor has it generated anymeaningful momentum in anything regarding the sanctity of land, life andjustice: Itâe(TM)s not designed to do that. National Chief Phil Fontaineâe(TM)s stumbling rhetoric about the Day of Action attempts to reassure Canadians that the AFN is only out to educate the population, and thatâe(TM)s all.

This one single day out of 365 rings with an abrupt absurdity to those working on the issues âe” it would for anyone, unless you live intotal ignorance of front-line activism (which is quite possible considering the waygrassroots work is consumed by a media vacuum). In Ontario, the brewing tensions at Caledonia are a potential flashpoint along with the Mohawk community of Tyendinaga (Deseronto) where CN Rail decided to cancel services in a Machiavellian tactic of blaming the potential problem on those who are protesting government inaction.

Yet, the day is not about land or justice but poverty âe” Natives are landpoor and the conditions abysmal, due in most part to federal governmentinaction, disinterest and the burning agenda of assimilation of the peopleand exploitation of the land for its resources.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a stern warning that ifany violence or blockades cause disruptions, federal funds to those communities will be cut off. And his blue-ribbon panel styled to reach atentative deal on specific land claims accounts for but a fragment of theoutstanding business regarding comprehensive land claims and First Nationagreements that spiral into the billions of dollars in compensation andother costs.

Not only that, but the budget allocated to allay the concerns regarding specificland claims accounts for a paltry quarter-of-a-billion dollars to find a commonsolution for diverse clients. If the residential school settlement is anyindication on how the government doles out justice to Native people, it would bebetter to use energy to plan a coordinated effort that calls upon the federal governmentto bargain in good faith.

For a government-sponsored entity such as the AFNâe(TM)s Day of Action to become an opportunity to make threats only serves to defeat or at least distract from the hard work of front-line activists from communities in trouble such as Grassy Narrows in northwest Ontario, Burnt Church, New Brunswick, or the continuing strife in Kahnesetake (Oka) in Quebec.

As more and more federal responsibilities to First Nations communities are downloaded to the provincial and municipal level, we should recognize the shift as a warning sign toall Native people who have followed the history of the assimilation process.In the early 1970s, a national effort that brought MPP Keith Pennerâe(TM)s White Paper (treaty termination) to the forefront culminated in a rioton Parliament Hill.

Similarly, June 21 âe” National Aboriginal Day âe” has been disfigured into somepolitically correct government sanctioned festival. The event announces the arrival of summerand more specifically summer ceremonies such as the sun dance. Without taking our rights seriously, such a celebration becomes a mockery, a distraction from traditional values and responsibilities âe” theresult of a government-sanctioned holiday that manages to market Nativeculture to the government’s own benefit instead.

Even the choice of June 29 is seemingly arbitrary and disconnected from any particular goals. What significance does this date have or for that matter, the call to action itself made by the AFN? Perhaps they see a need to join grassroots activists and the peoplesâe(TM) voice. But I understand who called for the event and thatâe(TM)s why I remain suspicious.