Keeping the Land Review in Wataway News

Keeping the Land
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Reconciliation and Canadian Law

By Rachel Ariss  

Kanawayandan D’aaki

Kanawayandan D’aaki inspires Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug’s (KI) actions.KI’s struggle to keep mining companies out of their traditional lands is legend in Wawatay country.

The 68 days in jail for the KI-6 for was a stand for First Peoples’ laws, the very reason the land was given to KI by the Creator was to protect her for giving humans life.

Treaty 9 has not been honoured by governments – federal and provincial. They are not sharing the land, as the treaty addressed, but continue to act as absent landlords.

Ontario continues to fail the First Peoples in fulfilling its constitutional obligations in its authorization of a free-entry Mining Act. The message to mining companies is of sole ownership, yet the governments’ ante on their commitment has yet to be paid.

The significance of KI’s first court battle, and they didn’t win them all, is the introduction of traditional law into the courts through Justice Smith’s 2006 decision which in part said: ‘The land is the very essence of their being. It is their very heart and soul.’ The actions of KI showed that they upheld traditional laws, the duty they have to the land, the laws given them by the Creator.

The book by Rachel Ariss with John Cutfeet outlines the effect of this initial step, the effect of affidavits and court testimony attesting to the significance of the land, the interconnection of all that is on and of the land, from a legal perspective and how everyone’s actions impact everything.

Chief Donny Morris’ response to a question in Oji-Cree in court was an excellent example of how our ancestors learned about treaties. The difference is that instead of court the newcomers arrived with papers for signing – papers printed prior to discussion lacking any negotiation – and then did not translate the contents, but spoke words of assurance designed to acquire signatures.

<”Reconciliation now exists as a legal doctrine and constitutional requirement, built in part on Indigenous traditional laws,” Ariss and Cutfeet say. “‘First Peoples’ were here first – unless the Crown gained its sovereignty legally.”

The Supreme Court has already said the honour of the Crown is at stake in any reconciliation. Furthermore, scholars in the field of law say that without reconciliation, crown sovereignty is in doubt.

This is a great book, loaded with messages of value in relation to Kanawayandan D’aaki and with how future court cases may unfold or be argued.

What is evident is that KI, along with Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, have shown courts and justice systems what First Peoples are prepared to do to protect the land.

The story is well told. What Ariss lacks in feeling the heart of the land is well addressed by Cutfeet’s input in the chapters on the connection, and therefore obligation, KI and First Peoples have to the land on which we have been placed.

Missing from this entire process of injunctions, rulings, jail, and Ontario’s giving of $5 million to Platinex to let the claim lapse is the inherent right First Peoples have to say ‘no’.

Keeping the Land: Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Reconciliation and Canadian Law – Rachel Ariss with John Cutfeet (Fernwood Publishing, Winnipeg, MB; 2012; ISBN 978-1-55266-477-3 (paperback), 176 pages, $22.95)

- Joyce Atcheson, Wataway News, Thursday June 21, 2012

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