Weakened Like a Sick Deer

When Whitetail deer where in poor condition, ribs and hips lacked meat and they lost interest in maintaining alertness to their surroundings. The Aboriginal segment of society can be likened to a scattered population of sickened Whitetail… The sickest wander looking for drugs and alcohol to forget the past.. Problems caused long ago in the days of Residential Schools: Child Abuse both Sexual and Physical, loss of connection to their own culture, loss of language through being forced to speak English, loss of Native identity through forced settlement on farms, loss of community by the banning of Potlucks, and loss of their spirituality though the outlawing of Sun Dance Ceremonies. Because they are normally docile until provoked they will try flight before fight to avoid conflict. When cornered the Whitetail will do what any other animal would… Fight back. When the fight is brought to you and there is nowhere left to run, what do you do?

The prey a rich cultural icon within this Country and Province… Many things bear their names… Manitoba the Province… Winnipeg the City… Filled with streets of Aboriginal meaning… Tecumseh Street…. Algonquin Avenue… Assiniboine Avenue… Chippawa Bay… Comanche Road… Courchaine Road… Cree Crescent… Crozier Avenue… Tommy Prince Street. Many more town names along the many diverse highways like Neepawa…. The Pas… Wabowden. The Predators… European settlers and a budding government unkind to the Aboriginal population. Perhaps it was time for the deer to call upon the wolves amongst them, to unleash on society what they had been forced to take. It should be noted that deer should be observed over a period of time to determine the population’s health and to do so we should go back in time to start our observations.

First signs in the Province of Manitoba of ill health came in 1971 during the murder investigation of Helen Betty Osborne in the Pas. It took on racial and unjust tones in a town divided by a bridge, with an us and them mentality, that left whites glad to live in town and Aboriginals forgotten across the bridge in Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Sixteen years later a new lawman in town, Constable Rob Urbanowski, took over the investigation and arrested four suspects, Dwayne Archie Johnston, James Robert Paul Houghton, Lee Scott Colgan, and Norman Bernard Manger. Only Johnston was convicted as Houghton was acquitted, Colgan recieved immunity for testifying against Johnston and Houghton, and Manger was never charged.

A second sign of sickness came the fateful night in nineteen eighty eight when J.J Harper, Chief of Wasagamack First Nation, was killed by Constable Robert Cross. The disruption to normal life here in Winnipeg was minimal, but the Ojibway-Cree family of J.J. Harper’s former reservation was devastated, shocked with grief, and felt outrage. In the aftermath Constable Cross committed suicide as he couldn’t bear to live with what he’d done, and the family of J.J. Harper lamented this decision as they wanted healing between the Police in general, Constable Robert Cross, and the Aboriginal peoples of Manitoba. As a result of the murder of Helen Betty Osborne and the shooting of J.J. Harper, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry formed, and by nineteen ninety one had several conclusions based on the investigation. The report concluded:

“Canada’s treatment of its first citizens has been an international disgrace. To fail to take every needed step to redress this lingering injustice will continue to bring tragedy and suffering to Aboriginal people, and to blacken our country’s name throughout the world. By acting now, governments can give positive expression to the public support and good will we have encountered from Manitobans during the past three years.”

 CONCLUDING WORDS OF THE 1991 AJI REPORT

Signs of conflict in Canada were not confined to Manitoba as the struggles of the First nations Peoples went from coast-to-coast and since 1981 several notable protests had been held on Parliament Hill, and reservation lands around the country. There was a standoff in 1990 near Oka, Quebec, where there was a blockade by the Mohawk Warriors Society over a proposed expansion of a golf course into land claimed by Natives of the Kanesatake First Nation. The conflict was nothing new to the area since 1961 when the golf course was first built and the lands were claimed by the Kanesatake as their own and contained burial grounds. The conflict escalated to include other Reservations, another blockade across a bridge, and even Natives from across the nation showed up to man the barricades. After a month of hold ups in traffic and failure to negotiate a surrender, Premier Robert Bourassa requested the Canadian Military to intervene. 2,500 troops were put on notice and on August 20, 1990, 800 members of the Van Doos assumed a fortified position meters away from the protesters. By Aug 29 the negotiators had managed to end the blockade and by September 26, 1991, the crisis came to an end.

Idle No More was started in December 2012 as a peaceful means to protest the omnibus bill C-45 that threatened the rights of First Nations people as set out by the Constitution. The exact beef was against the newly promised abilities to push through business deals by private industry or government without strict environmental assessment. Chief Theresa Spence kicked off the protests in Ottawa by camping on an island in the middle of the Ottawa River and undergoing a hunger strike from Dec 11, 2012 to Jan 23, 2013. Sovereignty Summer, an offshoot of Idle No More, has come into being on Aboriginal Day 2013 with a march of 150 protesters to Parliament Hill. They were there to protest for many of the same things that the Idle No More movement was hoping to fix. The movement gained popularity and many organized protests were held across the country and are currently active in the here and now of 2019.

The protests had gotten peaceful in nature since Oka, and our message was getting across to a few fellow Canadians, but who remembers Idle No More beyond the First Nations people that the protests were designed to help? In December 2018, during a cold snap, downtown Winnipeg erupted into violence and there were several incidents in the Skywalks centered around the Millennium Library where people where assaulted with fists and weapons. One was badly injured and taken to hospital while several others were verbally harassed. Days later several gang members turned themselves in and 87 weapons were found stashed in the general area where the assaults took place… Then I awoke and I remembered the forest… The time as a Great Bear… The time of deliberation… It had come to pass.

There had been a war led by the Aboriginals on Canadian soil… The Inajis had taken their toll. The loop had happened within a weeks time… Opened and closed… Many were dead, injured, held captive… Many in society had thought it a dream, but the dream had come to pass. The Inajis started slow… It all started in the Skywalks of Downtown… They struck fear into the hearts of the whiteman’s people… The ones with the white souls… The mighty warriors of the church… The church that had screwed them up since the beginning. I remember awakening on the edge of the forest so long ago from a dream. I had been a Grizzly… Others had joined me in the woods… My parents… And the one called Susan… I remember the council and them deciding it was worth a shot… Create a dream that had really happened.

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