Terrance Nelson: We must bring real change to the Assembly of First Nations

By Terrance Nelson

John Ivison of the National Post has called my possible election as national chief a “nightmare scenario”. I have entered the race because what we heard at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs candidates forum in May was status quo. Chiefs across Canada are angry and frustrated, but will reluctantly vote for the status quo if the candidates cannot present a viable alternative to what is available now.

The idea that the Assembly of First Nations is being asked to lobby change to government policies is ridiculous when the AFN is totally dependent upon government funding and is paid to implement government policies. All the candidates are on the same page when we talk of getting a share of our own resource wealth, but the difference is that I not only know how to get it done, I would actually do it.

Economics is the real power—not governments, not bureaucracy—and while my talk of standing between the white man and his money creates headlines, there are real solutions behind those headlines.

The first thing that we as indigenous people have to realize is what Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X and many others understood: colonization and enforced poverty is predicated upon making people financially dependent. Control of indigenous people requires that their wealth is taken out of their hands and put into the control of the foreign immigrant governments. Ghandi was a radical when he went to the sea and boiled water to obtain tax-free salt because salt (a life-necessary commodity) was controlled by the British. Buying the Maharajahs support for colonization ensured the British controlled all parts of the economy. It ensured Indian against Indian, and British control.

In Canada, resource sales and availability contributes about 60 percent of the per capita GDP. Canadians are led to believe that their taxes are what the country is built upon, when in reality, without the resource base, Canada would not be the ninth richest country in the world.

How do I ensure change to the system?

Put economists in the AFN and give proper economic information to the First Nations. Engage the Americans, Chinese, South Koreans, Japanese, and the Arabs to build a $100-billion foreign investment pool for developing resources in First Nations traditional territory. Either Canadian industry works with us or we work without them with foreign investment at our control. Economists not lawyers should lead the way in the AFN new system.

How do we ensure Ottawa listens and changes its policies?

Ask the Inuit and Dene to meet with Americans about the Arctic. The Inuit and Dene should meet the Americans independently and without their Canadian handlers. If Americans seem to be uninterested, the Inuit should write a letter to Vladimir Putin for a meeting with the Russians.

Advise and work with British Columbia First Nations to file a lawsuit against a specific lumber company in the United States court system. File the lawsuit for the value (including compound interest) of all product sold now and historically by that company. America has the right to property in its Bill of Rights and all Canadian indigenous people are recognized and protected under American law by the Jay Treaty as dual citizens with all the rights of American citizens including protection under clauses of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Many of the British Columbia First Nations have never signed treaties with the British Crown and the Royal Proclamation of 1763 underpins the U.S. constitution. In the U.S. constitution, treaties are the “law of the land” and if Canada has no treaties that allow the immigrants a right to settlement and immigration, the indigenous people have the legal right to file against the “theft” of their property.

I have always said that we do not want the white man’s money; we want a share of our own wealth, the wealth of our land and resources.

In the next few weeks, my Web site will come on-line and more information will be presented to the 633 chiefs in Canada. It is only the chiefs that vote, and it is their decision that will determine who is the next AFN national chief. If the chiefs have had enough of the status quo, I guarantee them one thing if I am elected: change. I also have to be honest with the chiefs: real change requires real sacrifice.

My message to the chiefs is clear. Either we change, or change will be forced upon us. Right now, our youth are paying the price for the status quo. If we don’t give them hope for change, they will force change upon us. Watch for a flashpoint somewhere in Canada; it is coming whether we like it or not. To leave First Nations at the 63rd level of the United Nations living index and expect continued peaceful coexistence flies in the face of human history.

Terrance Nelson is a candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and the chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba.




Jul 10, 2009 at 4:09pm

I truly agree with the principles behind Nelson's words. The matter of tactics abd strategy is one for after the election. Bellegarde is no strategist and will not provide the leadership because he is not prepared to sacrifice himself. Atleo may provide leadership and strategy but the work on the ground needs champions like Nelson to make the larger strategy work.


Jul 20, 2009 at 2:41am

The desire for change is a momentum that the world has discovered thanks to Obama, and it is wise to know that First Nations are not exempt from this idea. The majority of all First Nations are under the age of 25. Youth dominate the population and yet they have no real voice in our national affairs... at least not yet.

The youth in Indian Country are on fire and ready for this Obama inspired change. What they are saying is "we want out of this old system and we want to put an end to the status quo!" They are tired of leadership that is only concerned with building up "loose legacies" for themselves (Fontaine). They are tired of leaders who are only concerned with sustaining the dynasty of their family (Perry Bellegarde). They have become sick of the moderates and passives (Atleo). What they want is a new brand of leadership, one that will build a legacy for the people! They want a candidate that is truly concerned with the grassroots in Indian Country!

The candidate that is willing to take hold of this new "youth" movement is the candidate that will assume a new kind of power. He will assume the reins of a youthful electorate that has the power to dominate at the band level.

From band Council to band Council, we will see this young electorate rise up and change the status quo. Therefore it would be wise for the Chiefs to openly express their support for the one candidate who represents this new movement, lest they are seen as obstacles to the revolution!

I see this July 22 AFN election as a referendum on the Status Quo. This is an opportunity that we must not bypass. The young people are watching and I'll bet that they are expecting their Chiefs to vote for the one man that epitomizes their true feelings... that man is TERRY NELSON!

Thank you....


Jul 24, 2009 at 11:15am

Yes the youth are on fire but so are some of us elders who keep watching Band council administrations give away the shop.
Then they are told they must sign away their rights to the same lands that Land Claims say they have no right to.But for the almighty $ they go ahead and agree.
I am an elder and youth at heart, I faught at Oka '90 only to have these Band councils agree to give away the youths future. Fight has never been the basis for any Band council until I heard hope in the words and action of Clarence Nelson. Our Fight in '90 was not just to save a piece of The Pines, it was also save a piece of Mother Earth for those of the seventh generation for all to enjoy.