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Eating as brothers again, out of the same pan. An open letter to the next British monarch

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This column is an opinion by Waabishkigaabo (Will Landon), an Anishinaabe from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Dear Future Monarch of England, 

Are you proud of the crown and history you will inherit? Are you proud of the history of your people and the past monarchs who stood against all threats that came to the island of Britain and the existence of your people so that your children can continue to be proud Britons? 

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The crown that you will wear has spanned generations of monarchs who had a responsibility to England and its people. It also carries the responsibilities of the relationships and commitments made generations ago. The ancestral blood and foresight of partnership runs within your blood. 

Does it not make sense then that we as First Nations people have the very same pride and history woven into the fabric of our being, whether we come from the Anishinaabe Nation, the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka Nation, the Dene Nation, the Haisla Nation, the Wolastoqiyik Nation, and every nation that inhabits Manitou Aki (North America)? 

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Would it then not make sense that any perceived threat to our existence must be met with the same intensity of resistance in order to ensure our children’s future as your ancestors did for yours? 

A sacred relationship

Yet, within our ancestral blood is the ability to form partnerships as well, I am proud to say my ancestors had the foresight to enter into a sacred relationship with the Crown called Treaty. 

When your people and those of other nations first arrived on Manitou Aki, we extended our hands in peace and friendship. This lasted for many generations, but eventually this peace was betrayed, as I am sure you are aware; children were ripped from their homes, denied the very essence of their identity and chance to live life; land that we were proudly gifted to maintain by Creator was taken and abused, and our very way of life has been disrupted.

But I ask you not to pity us, for we have maintained our language, sovereignty, culture, identity, the laws Creator gave us to govern, and connection to our spirit. Unfortunately, in order to maintain such things we have had to resist and fight your subjects known as Canadians, whose Parliament continues to threaten our very sovereignty and existence. 

A petition from our leaders of Treaty 3 in 1892 said: “the Governor was at the Angle and pointing towards the East, taking the name of the Queen to witness, he said that all the promises would be kept. Taking hold of a pan he said that we would eat of the same pan as brothers — How is it now that the Department is going back on these promises and upset down the pan?”

The petition continued and asked, as I am asking now, “Now we want the pan to be turned up again and be brothers and receive what we were promised.” 

Continuing forward

It is imperative that we go back and uphold this relationship so that we may continue forward in a good way, so that all the children and future generations of our nations have an opportunity to live the good life, or as we say: Mino-Bimaadiziwin. 

I humbly ask for four things, when you come to Manitou Aki next:

  • That you sit and learn from those who have been gifted Giikendasowin (Sacred Knowledge) on the treaties, known by our elders in Treaty 3 as Manitou Maznigai’gan, and the relationship between our people and the Crown, so that you may come to understand where we must go back to in order to uphold our relationship. 
  • That if invited to sit within our ceremonies, you accept with an open heart so that we may both hear the next steps to strengthen our relationship. 
  • That if those Nations that do not hold a treaty with the Crown want to sit with you, you do so in friendship. 
  • That your children and ours meet so that they come to see who their relationship will be with when it is their time to lead, and begin to learn from one another. Perhaps through their innocence and connection with the Creator we will observe what our relationship should be. 

I sincerely hope for a return to peace and friendship between our peoples, that we adopt the principle of respecting Miinigowiziwin (gifts given by Creator), because we will face many challenges together in the future as the world, climate, and society begins to change. 

Unique gifts and connections

We all have unique gifts, connections, and ways of viewing that we must share in order for the future generations of our nations to survive and thrive in the world created for us as human beings, because I only want one thing in this life: for our children to live life, be proud of the ancestral blood they carry, and maintain their sovereignty. 

Our relationship was built on the principle that it would last forever, as cited in Section 18 of the Paypom Treaty: “This Treaty will last as long as the sun will shine and water runs, that is to say forever.”

I can only speak for myself when I say I will uphold that principle and keep my part of the Treaty, as will my children and future generations who will carry the blood of my ancestors who saw fit that we enter this relationship. The question is: will the ancestral blood you and your children carry honour your ancestors, who saw fit that we would live in harmony and friendship for the many generations to come?

I and many others eagerly await your response. 

Miigwech, Thank you, 

Waabishikigaabo 

One of the many rights and title holders to Treaty 3


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