Terrance Nelson: Northern Gateway pipeline is dead if I am elected national chief
It is official. The electoral officer has declared that I am officially a candidate for national chief. There are eight candidates. I welcome all candidates, more so the four women candidates. This has never happened before in any Assembly of First Nations election. In 2009 in Calgary, I was one of five men running for national chief; there were no women candidates.
My purpose in running in 2012 is very clear. I have a plan. Chiefs will hear from all candidates about the problems that face First Nations. The difference with me is that I offer solutions. As a five-term chief, I know what the chiefs face. When I was first elected chief, it was because the people were fed up, they were so angry in March 2003 that they were ready to elect a “radical”. I was elected four times in a row after that. I was a radical, but I was a knowledgeable radical. I had a plan. I am still known as a radical, a militant, and I will be elected national chief if the chiefs are ready for change and they understand the plan I will put forward to them.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver introduced legislation to speed up pipelines and resource extraction. “We are at a critical juncture because the global economy is now presenting Canada with an historic opportunity to take full advantage of our immense resources,” he said. “But we must seize the moment. These opportunities won’t last forever.”
I said in Calgary in 2009, and I will say it again, without American involvement on our side we will not succeed in changing the situation for indigenous people in Canada.
The Queen of England cannot help us; the British account for under three percent of Canada’s foreign trade. The Americans account for over 80 percent of Canada’s international trade. In economic terms, Canada is not a true sovereign nation; Canada is only an economic suburb of New York City. When the chiefs understand the economy, they will understand that our lands and resources do not just subsidize Canadians; we power up the American economy.
So, what is my plan?
1. Support the Yinka Dene! The Northern Gateway project is dead if I am elected national chief. The Kinder Morgan expansion will become the next topic of discussion after Gateway. This will wake up the Asians, the Americans, and the world that First Nations in Canada will not simply stand by the wayside as our resource wealth is sold off by the immigrants. The immigrant “free ride” on our natural resource wealth is over if I am elected national chief.
2. A four-day meeting of First Nations leadership to organize an action plan very soon after I am elected national chief. In December 2006, as a chief, I went to the AFN and told the chiefs that I was going to blockade the railway lines on June 29, 2007. That turned into the National Day of Action. Only the chiefs can take action. The First Nations are the treaty partners; AFN is not a party to the treaties. Only the First Nations are the owners of the land and natural resources, not AFN.
In 2007, I was asked by Canada, “Chief, what do you want?” When we finish the four-day meeting on the action plan, Canada will immediately ask you, “What do you want?” Once we are in session in the four-day meeting, you will be presented with all the economic information. To take action, you must first organize when does the action take place, where does the action take place, and most importantly who actually carries out the action. When the chiefs understand how the immigrants live on our wealth, you will understand that you do not have to blockade; you can implement the treaties by peaceful but very strategic coordinated First Nation action.
3. Once the action plan is done, organize a supper, one of the first informal meetings between all the ambassadors in Ottawa and the chiefs. Those First Nations ready to get foreign investment and foreign aid will begin by identifying the natural resource wealth in your historical treaty area. When you are finished with the four-day meeting, you will understand why the world wants to do business with First Nations in Canada. You, not Minister Joe Oliver and not the immigrants, are the real owners of all the natural resource wealth in Canada. You will begin to have an independent First Nation foreign policy that is not tied to Canada. Unless you step outside the box, Canada will continue to treat you as subjects, not nations. Other nations in the world want access to your natural resource wealth; they will help you, but only if you are ready to go beyond dependency on Ottawa.
As a chief, I got the Roseau River chief and council off government funding. We “radically” increased our own source revenue under my administration. Since the National Day of Action, Canada has converted over 400,000 acres of treaty land entitlement lands into reserve status in Manitoba. In 2007, from start to finish, it took Jim Prentice only six weeks to convert 75 acres into an urban reserve for Roseau River. When it is in their best interest Canada can get things done quickly. Canada announced in 2007 the tribunal on land claims. They didn’t do any more on the tribunal, because we as First Nations fell back into status quo.
Roseau River got an $80 million deposit into their account on my birthday, July 29, 2011. I am a skilled, tough negotiator. I took a land claim that was rejected three times and settled with Canada for $10,064 per acre for agricultural lands. This settlement was 2.5 larger than the largest previous settlement per acre for agricultural lands, a new precedent in land claims. When you know economics and the treaties, Canada will ask you, “What do you want?” Elect me national chief, we will never have to be begging Stephen Harper for a meeting.
It is not as if I need a job. I am in this campaign to see if the chiefs are ready to change the status quo. If the chiefs are tired of begging Indian Affairs, their funding services officer, for more funding, then you might be ready for a tough negotiating radical that can bring real change to the AFN. If you elect me, you won’t need to protest outside Indian Affairs.
Status quo is not good enough. A vote for status quo is a vote for the Stephen Harper budget. The federal budget is done; if the chiefs vote status quo, the federal budget cannot be changed.
On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt made his presidential inaugural speech during the darkest days of the Great Depression:
…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
Over 20 years ago, I provided the lawyers for the James Bay Cree economic information on how the Great Whale Project was financed by the sales of electricity to New York City. While the economic information was very important, it was more important for the Cree to take action. I saw them paddling down the Hudson River in 1990. Quebec was forced to sign nation to nation agreements. Do you know that the electricity generated in Canada powers up 120 million Americans on the eastern seaboard? Canada sends 2.5 million barrels of oil per day to the States. The Americans are not our enemy; they are our ally if we present ourselves as the owners of the wealth being sent south.
Terrance Nelson is a candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, a former chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba, and the vice chair of the American Indian Movement.