Friday, January 04, 2013

American Indian Movement of Colorado and other groups rally in support of Idle No More, bombard Canadian Consulate

 Virginia Allrunner, Colorado AIM Elders Council member
 Delegation in building of Canadian consulate, waiting for representative
 Tessa McLean, Anishinabe, AIM Leadership Council speaking to crowd of 150

 Westword, Denver, CO

It was quite cold in Denver today where hundreds of people gathered just outside the Canadian consulate to stand in solidarity with indigenous groups in that country who are fighting with the government there over a wide range of issues. But organizers of the local protest said supporters of First Nationsshould have no problem enduring the cold, knowing that in Canada, a chief is suffering through a hunger strike to get officials' attention.

"You think that we're uncomfortable here," shouted Glenn Morris, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver and a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. "Theresa Spence is willing to give her life."
Spence, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, has been on a hunger strike for more than twenty days, demanding a meeting with the Canadian prime minister and protesting several pieces of legislation that she and her supporters say are anti-First Nations.
Today, Morris had on hand a letter asking that officials meet with Spence and also honor previous treaties as well as provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (More on that letter in our original post from this morning).
"When was the last time you met someone that was willing to give their life, to starve to death, to make the point that the Canadian government [is wrong]?" he told the group, which gathered on the 16th Street Mall. "Hopefully, we can endure a little bit longer."
Tessa McLean, 24, who was born in Canada and is a member of the Ojibwe tribe, said it's important for Denver to be active since the city is home to one of fifteen Canadian consulates in the United States. "For every action that we have, we make it hit closer to home," she said. "We need to explain that the people affected in Canada are our relatives."
McLean, a political science student at the University of Colorado Denver, said that there is also a lot of environmental activism in Colorado, which aligns well with support for the First Nations. "A lot of native people understand we are all related."
After signing onto the letter, the crowd gathered inside the lobby of 1625 Broadway, where the consulate is located -- only to be told that the office had closed early for the day. A guard told them that a representative would still come down to accept the letter -- and meanwhile argued with protesters, telling them they could not carry signs or take photos or video inside the private property.
"They closed early, because we're here!" one protester shouted, as others said they were thankful to be inside and continued to take photos, despite the guard on scene telling urging them not to.
And after around fifteen minutes, a representative came down and accepted the letter.

Denver Idle No More Calls Out the Canadian Prime Minister via Letter

January 02, 2013 • Indian Country Today
Despite drumming, Round Dancing and megaphoned speeches far below its lofty offices in Denver, the Consulate General of Canada remained silent December 31 about the First Nations’ indigenous rights concerns expressed in a local rally that drew about 100 people in support of the continent-wide Idle No More movement.
Because of widespread preparation for New Year’s Eve, consulate offices closed at noon to the general public, but Ladan Amirazizi, consul and senior trade commissioner, accepted a letter she said she would convey to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of Idle supporters in Denver’s Indian community. She did not comment on concerns raised in the rally or in the letter signed by Denver-area residents and others.
The letter said that Harper and his government would be held personally responsible should Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation be permanently or fatally injured as a result of her hunger strike that began December 11 to force a meeting on indigenous rights with Harper. It also pointed to issues raised by First Nations continent-wide.
“This movement is unstoppable,” said Glenn Morris, Shawnee, a professor of political science at University of Colorado-Denver and long-time leader of the American Indian Movement of Colorado (AIM). He pointed out the common interests of Native peoples and cited some of the current First Nations concerns expressed in the letter to Harper.
The letter advises Harper, “You should be aware that the intransigent and regressive position of your government towards First Nations people is being viewed internationally as an affront to the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is a violation of internationally recognized human rights standards.”
An “immediate” meeting among Harper, representatives of the Queen of England, Spence, and other First Nation leaders must be convened to discuss the direct relationship between First Nations and Canada, the letter states.
The letter also calls for repealing anti-First Nations sections of an omnibus bill and other legislation, for honoring all treaties between First Nations and the Crown/Canada, and for implementing all provisions of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In one provision, like the 1887 Dawes Act in the U.S., current Canadian legislation would lower the threshold for the surrender of community-held reserve lands, which could be divided into individual parcels and possibly sold for economic development, others noted.
The letter is being conveyed “on behalf of thousands of people from Colorado—First Nations, American Indians, supporters and allies” and was created and delivered on behalf of Idle No More-Denver, Morris said.
Morris clarified that the rally and Round Dance was “not an AIM event,” but was in support of Idle No More and its fight against the erosion of indigenous rights.
He commended the four women who convened 300-plus people, primarily from Denver’s Indian community, for a separate Round Dance December 29 at Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall. The current rally’s first speaker was Virginia Allrunner, Cheyenne, a noted traditional dancer in the 70+ category and grandmother of Cheyenne Birdshead, one of the four planners of the earlier event.
Allrunner advocated unity with First Nations people because “they’re just like any of you here. Talk to them—they’re just friendly.”
After about two hours of dancing and listening in 20-degree weather, most of the Round Dance participants crowded into the lobby of the consulate building where security guards said a consular official would come to receive the letter.
Tessa McLean, Anishinaabe First Nation, gave the letter to Amirazizi for Harper. Amirazizi told her the consulate had closed at noon but if she, as a Canadian, had concerns, she would talk with her at greater length; McLean responded that she was there as part of the support for Idle No More, and she and other rally participants left the building.