As you’re aware, the Governing Members voted at the Métis National Council General Assembly in December to declare 2011 to 2020 as the Decade of the Métis Nation with the theme for 2011 being Paying Tribute to our Métis Veterans. The decade announcement follows a successful 2010, which the Métis Nation declared the Year of the Métis Nation last spring that was quickly followed by a similar declaration by the Government of Saskatchewan, Parliamentarians and the Province of Ontario. In order to pick up on the moment from last year, the Decade of the Métis Nation was officially launched in March as part of my President’s Tour.
The Métis National Council has a specially designed logo, which we encourage the entire Métis Nation to adopt. And special products have been produced which will also be shared with the Governing Regions, which we hope you will distribute across the Métis Nation. Watch your mailboxes for a Decade of the Métis Nation package coming this week.
Also as part of the President’s Tour, I visited the University of Alberta on Monday, March 21st, then the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon on the 22nd and finally, the University of Winnipeg on the 23rd. I discussed the significance of the declaration and how we want to use the decade as an opportunity to draw significant attention to key issues affecting the Métis Nation.
We are making progress in getting our message out as Métis people whether it is our history, culture or language, or our continuing struggles as rights bearing people. I see the Decade as an avenue to promote our issues, whether it’s our push for a land base for our peoples; securing harvesting rights or recognition for Métis Veterans.
Also as part of the tour, the book Witness to Resistance was released which outlined my experiences as the former President of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in which I was asked to witness peace talks in Nicaragua.
I was happy that Mr. Brooklyn Rivera from the Indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and leader of the Yatama political movement was able to join me on the tour. Mr. Rivera discussed the progress Indigenous peoples of Nicaragua have achieved with respect to land rights and self-government plus, he outlined the continuing challenges his people face which rebuilding his country that continues to feel the effects of civil war from 20 years ago.
I also introduced Mr. Rivera to Métis Nation of Alberta President Audrey Poitras who was kind enough to spend nearly two hours discussing the progress being made across the Métis Nation. She outlined the governance structure in Alberta, which she highlighted to Mr. Rivera on a provincial map.
Since 1983, the Métis National Council has represented the Métis Nation nationally and internationally and the Métis Nation continues to have an interest in seeing the Indigenous peoples of Nicaragua continue to take important steps with its land demarcation and governance processes. Clearly, the gains being made in Nicaragua can be seen as encouraging and significant progress that the Métis Nation can refer to as we continue our struggles for rights and a land base.
Specifically, I want to thank Professor Frank Tough and Professor Natalie Kermoal at the U of A and for their help in coordinating the tour in Edmonton and inviting us into their classes to make presentations.
At the U of S, I extend my gratitude to Professors Winona Wheeler and Bonita Beatty and the Native Studies team for hosting lunch at the Faculty Club and for inviting us to be a part of the Native Studies program.
In Winnipeg, the first stop was at the office of the Manitoba Métis Federation. President David Chartrand spent some time discussing with Mr. Rivera, the many successful projects which Métis have proudly launched in Manitoba. He also explained how Métis have built equity by buying properties and establishing programs, which are generating revenue. He suggested the Indigenous peoples of Nicaragua could adopt a similar approach by using the experiences gained in Manitoba to build a solid governance structure that may work for the Indigenous peoples there.
At the U of W, Jennifer Rattway and her staff helped to coordinate a meeting with President Lloyd Axworthy and the members of U of W Aboriginal Advisory Circle. Among the delegation was former Assembly of First Nations National Chiefs, Phil Fontaine and Ovide Mercredi who are helping to coordinate the introduction of a new International Aboriginal Studies program.
Following the luncheon meeting, Mr. Rivera hosted an information session at Convocation Hall. A small but enthusiastic crowd was on hand to listen to an historical review of the Indigenous peoples of Nicaragua, which prompted several questions about the progress being made in his homeland.