Premier Brian Pallister announced will be riding his bicycle from the St Peter’s Reserve (Selkirk) to Peguis First Nation this June 16 – 17 to recognize the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk Treaty. This blog summarizes the responses by Peguis First Nation member Tim Stevenson and CCPA Manitoba director Molly McCracken to the June bike tour.
A letter regarding the bike tour was sent to groups, including our office, along with a general invitation to all Manitobans to provide a letter to the Premier for delivery to Peguis First Nation. The Premier’s letter states:
“I invite you to join me in this mission of friendship by writing a letter to Manitoba’s Indigenous peoples, expressing your gratitude for the vital role they played in the formation of our province, as well as your optimism for the important role they will play in the future.”
As a non-Indigenous organization we thought it best to connect with Indigenous people on our submission and connected with researcher and food sovereignty leader Tim Stevenson, member of Peguis First Nation, who wrote “Victory Lap or Humble Ride” on his reflections of the journey. Stevenson writes:
“With the letters of thanks from Manitobans, it is hoped the premier learns the true history of Manitoba and the sacrifices made by the Indigenous people. I hope the letters will move him to actual reconciliation work in the province and to partner with Indigenous people”.
Stevenson calls on the Premier to be a leader in Indigenous relations, work with Indigenous health leaders and prepare a plan to support Indigenous health frameworks, ensure equitable participation in social infrastructure and social programs and partner with Indigenous people through implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.
As a leader in food sovereignty, Stephenson in “Victory Lap or Humble Ride” calls on the Premier to support Indigenous communities to uphold harvesting rights, strengthen co-management regimes for conservation and increase access to traditional foods outside of reserves, all with a view of improving health and well-being. The symbol of Manitoba, the buffalo, once a central source of livelihood for Indigenous people has been lost. Bringing back the buffalo would be an important effort to this end explains Stevenson.
The letter from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA MB) director Molly McCracken respectfully submits evidence through international, national and provincial policy frameworks and the research of the CCPA MB goals for Indigenous-settler relations in Manitoba. The letter highlights CCPA MB research in partnership with Indigenous communities, such as Moving to the City: Housing and Aboriginal Migration to Winnipeg; Reconciliation Lives Here and Finding Her home: a gender-based analysis of the homelessness crisis in Winnipeg.
The CCPA MB letter (view it here: “CCPA MB letter Premier Bike Tour 2017“) explains how the bicycle journey can be a first step or a token gesture. The province has responsibility to act on the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action, however this provincial government has not yet indicated they will do so. The letter asks if the Premier’s government has a plan to implement the TRC Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)? Molly McCracken writes in the CCPA MB letter:
“The bicycle tour to Peguis First Nation from Selkirk appears to be a surface effort. A brief look at the history shows that this is the route the people of Peguis First Nation took when they were illegally removed from the band’s traditional home, the St. Peter’s Reserve, in 1907. The route is known as “Canada’s Trail of Tears” and the lack of acknowledgement of this fact in the letter makes the Bicycle Tour appear ill-informed and an incomplete token gesture.
The Premier has the opportunity to reconsider and reframe the bike tour as an opportunity to start to advance Truth and Reconciliation and take the time to learn from Indigenous leaders offering education such as Dr. Niigaan Sinclair and Peguis First Nation members like Tim Stevenson with the end goal of addressing inequities and supporting self-determination of Indigenous peoples.
This starts with settlers acknowledging that Indigenous peoples lived on Turtle Island (North America) for millennia before settlers arrived and have much more to teach us, especially today. The knowledge held by Indigenous peoples is key to our collective survival on the planet and Indigenous Manitobans are leading the way. For example tomorrow leaders gather in Sagkeeng First Nation for the Onjisay Aki International Climate Summit; this gathering will express a common vision, values and consensus on action-based solutions to climate change. McCracken writes:
“After just 200 years of settlement we are confronted with contamination of land via for example the hog industry (Commissioners’ Report); of the water via for example agricultural run-off into Lake Winnipeg resulting in harmful algea blooms (Lake Winnipeg Foundation); and of the animals, for example via the loss of the buffalo and now woodland boreal caribou (Wilderness Committee Manitoba). Climate change risks irrevocably changing life in our province and our planet (Prairie Climate Centre). These concerning environmental impacts are felt by all Manitobans particularly Indigenous peoples who are spiritually, culturally, socially and economically tied to this land. Indigenous peoples persevere, often in spite of what the colonizers have done. We need to change the dial on this conversation to become true and meaningful allies, in order to stand with Indigenous peoples, culture and ways of knowing so that we can live in a true sustainable way for seven generations and more.
Just as Chief Peguis shared his resources with the Selkirk Settlers to aid in their survival, now we need Indigenous peoples to help us survive on the planet in a sustainable manner into the 21st century and beyond.”
Letters from Manitobans regarding the bicycle tour can be submitted to the Premier’s office at PremierPeguisTour@leg.gov.mb.ca.
Molly McCracken is the director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba office