Local First Nations leaders denounce Métis attempt to ‘rewrite history’
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Local First Nations leaders denounce Métis attempt to ‘rewrite history’

“The MNO’s only job is to find sympathetic ears to tell its false stories,” says a statement signed by First Nations leaders including the Beausoleil and Chippewas of Rama First Nations.

Local First Nations chiefs are among a group of leaders condemning what they see as attempts by the Métis Nation of Ontario to “divide individual nations against each other.”

The statement released by the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) says the elected leaders, which include Chief Joanne Sandy of Beausoleil First Nation and Chief Ted Williams of Chippewas of Rama First Nation, felt the need to act after individual First Nations leaders in southern Ontario received letters from the provincial Métis organization.

“This is clearly an attempt to divide our nations against each other, as well as against our brothers and sisters in the North,” the statement read. “This tactic will not work.”

“We stand in solidarity with and oppose the MNO’s continued efforts to rewrite history, usurp our lands and rights, and appropriate the rightful identities of First Nations and Métis peoples.”

According to the statement, the NRM is seeking to meet with individual nations in the south, “apparently to discuss how we can have ‘respectful’ relationships and memoranda of understanding with their organization.

“This comes after they spent decades asserting their rights across Ontario, including on our First Nations territories,” it reads.

“The MNO is now saying that the company is not asserting Section 35 or inherent rights to our lands and that its members are ‘guests’ on our territories. We have always known this.”

But the statement stresses that the MNO’s words do not match its actions or the realities facing First Nations people.

“We have seen first-hand how NRM members are demanding consultation on issues that affect our nations and rights-bearing citizens,” the statement said. “We have seen them claim our lands and resources in the south.”

The latest salvo comes amid a backlash the MNO has faced recently, including at a summit in Winnipeg hosted by the Chiefs of Ontario and the Manitoba Métis Federation over what they see as “identity theft” by the MNO.

During the two-day conference, Ontario chiefs called on the province to “erase” six Métis communities, including Georgian Bay, with one chief noting that “just because you have a drop of Aboriginal blood running through your veins” doesn’t make you Aboriginal.

“The difference between us and the MNO, an organization founded in 1993, is that we are nations that govern our lands and territories and are accountable to our citizens. The only role of the MNO is to find sympathetic ears to tell its false stories.

“Their letter also makes it clear that the (MNO) corporation continues to fight for the rights and territories of our brothers and sisters in the rest of the province. Every nation in Ontario needs to know that we stand with them in this fight.

“Governments at all levels have caved in to the unfounded claims of this corporate organization for too long and it now has the confidence to believe that we, as First Nations, would betray each other.”

In response to the chiefs’ statement, the MNO said there has been “a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about Métis rights claims in Ontario.”

Sent via email, the response said a southern Ontario First Nation had recently written to the MNO to express concerns about “the existence of an MNO office on their territory.”

Although the MNO did not identify the First Nation it was referring to, the MNO has offices in a shopping centre off King Street in Midland.

“The MNO responded to this First Nation stating that there are no claims of Métis rights to the lands in the area and that the office exists solely to provide essential services to Métis citizens living outside their territories,” the MNO said, noting that services include education and training, elder care and health care.

“This service offering to Métis living outside their traditional territory is similar to the services offered to the large Inuit population living in Ottawa, who obviously do not claim land rights there, but who continue to access services and participate in cultural activities,” says the MNO.

“In our letter, we made it clear that MNO citizens who live outside of their traditional territories in southern Ontario do so as guests on First Nations’ traditional lands. Knowing that other First Nations likely had similar questions or concerns, the MNO sent a similar letter to all First Nations in southern Ontario where Métis do not claim land rights.”

Also signing the Chief Operations Statement were the leaders of Caldwell First Nation, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Eelŭnaapéewi Lahkéewiit (Delaware Nation), Hiawatha First Nation, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Moose Deer Point First Nation, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames and Mohawks of Wahta.

“First Nations have spoken with one voice on this issue,” the chief of operations’ statement continued. “Nothing will change that.”

“The NRM claims the lands and rights of some of the Nations that signed this declaration. Let us be clear: any attempt to divide us on this issue is futile. This is the same colonial tactic we have resisted for centuries.

“We know the strategy. We know the stakes. We know what needs to be done. We’ve always been here. We’re not going away. Any attack on the inherent and treaty rights, jurisdiction or sovereignty of one nation is an attack on all of us.”