WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION, ON,June 25 /CNW/ – Chiefs of the 42 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation have launched a campaign to eliminate the inappropriate use of the term “aboriginal”.
During the annual Grand Council Assembly in this Manitoulin Island community, Chiefs endorsed a resolution that characterized the word as “another means of assimilation through the displacement of our First Nation-specific inherent and treaty rights.”
“It’s actually offensive to hear that term used in reference to First Nations citizens,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “Our Chiefs are giving us direction to inform government agencies, NGOs, educators and media organizations that they should discontinue using inappropriate terminology when they are referring to the Anishinabek. We respect the cultures and traditions of our Metis and Inuit brothers and sisters, but their issues are different from ours.”
The resolution notes that “there are no aboriginal bands, aboriginal reserves, or aboriginal chiefs” and that the reference to “aboriginal rights” referred to in Section 35 of the Constitution Act of Canada “was never meant to assimilate First Nations, Metis and Inuit into a homogeneous group.”
Chief Patrick Madahbee of Aundeck Omni Kaning said: “Referring to ourselves as Anishinabek is the natural thing to do because that is who we are. We are not Indians, natives, or aboriginal. We are, always have been and always will be Anishinabek.”
Beaucage said that the resolution’s goal of encouraging the use of respectful terminology could lead to changes in organizational names.
“We have lived with The Indian Act since 1876, but the legislation’s provisions are as archaic as its name – and we hope it won’t be around for too much longer.” Beaucage said the resolution could result in re-naming the Anishinabek Nation’s corporate arm, which has been known as the Union of Ontario Indians since 1949. “Those terms were acceptable then, but today we recognize them as confusing and inappropriate.”
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.