As we usher out another year, treaty4news.com looks back at some of the stories that grabbed headlines, stirred emotions and sparked controversy. Here is a list of the stories that made 2014 an exciting year for Treaty 4 News readers.

 

North American Indigenous Games in Regina

The 2014 Regina North American Indigenous Games took place in Regina July 20 – 27 and brought thousands of athletes, coaches, chaperones, family and friends together to the Queen City. While the event overall was a success, there were several hurdles that popped up along the way.

The closure of the Lawson Aquatic Centre over an air quality issue meant that organizers needed to find a new venue for the swimming competition. A facility in Moose Jaw was chosen, but approximately one month before the games, organizers cancelled the swim competition due to lack of swim meet officials. The host committee allowed the swimming competition to go ahead as an unsanctioned event after the British Columbia region agreed to pay and officiate the competition.

Then the NAIG Council made another decision this time to count the medals from swimming that had three or more participants to the overall standings. Team BC dominated the swimming competition hauling in 73 medals of which 65 went towards the overall total for BC. Saskatchewan had no swimmers registered because they disbanded the team when the event was called off.

The boxing competition didn’t bounce back from its hit of being cancelled. The decision to cancel boxing was made due to low registration numbers and the possibility that some categories might have only had a single boxer registered to fight when the games opened.

It wasn’t just the events that were mired in controversy. In March, former NAIG CEO Glenn Pratt was placed on paid administrative leave while outside investigators look into harassment allegations levelled against him. Ron Crowe was named interim CEO shortly afterwards, and remained in the position throughout the games.

Thousands attended the 2014 Regina NAIG Closing Ceremonies. The event was a success despite challenges and controversy. Photo credit: Judy Bird.

Thousands attended the 2014 Regina NAIG Closing Ceremonies. The event was a success despite challenges and controversy. Photo credit: Judy Bird.

 

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Tina Lafontaine’s death in Winnipeg renewed calls for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, but again, the Harper Government refused. The 15-year-old girl had been in Winnipeg for just over a month when she went missing August 9. Her body was found over a week later in the Red River, in a bag. Lafontaine had been in the care of Child and Family Services, and ran away from her foster home. She spoke with Winnipeg Police officers just 24 hours before she died. She was in a vehicle with a drunk driver, and police let her go even though a missing persons report had already been filed. She’d also spoken with Child and Family Services the day before she disappeared.

Tamra Jewel Keepness has been missing since July 5, 2004.

Tamra Jewel Keepness has been missing since July 5, 2004.

In Saskatchewan, a post on Reddit appeared in November with a map that claimed to know the location of Tamra Keepness, a First Nation girl from Regina who disappeared July 5, 2004 at the age of 5. Regina Police Service conducted a search based on the map, looking in close to 20 wells on the Muscowpetung First Nation, but the search came up empty.

Calls for an inquiry came up again after the renewed focus on the Keepness case, and also after the brutal attack on Rinelle Harper in Winnipeg in November. She was assaulted and badly beaten, left to die by the Assiniboine River, but was found and rescued by two construction workers. Rinelle spoke out in December, making a plea for an inquiry. The federal government continues to refuse to launch an inquiry, and insists it is a legal situation, and that an inquiry would not bring results.

 

 

Atleo calls it quits

The controversial First Nations Education Act, and Shawn Atleo’s support for the bill, cost him the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The Act was created to give First Nations control over First Nations education, and while the federal government said it met five of the AFN’s conditions, chiefs across the nation rejected the act, stating that the act keeps control with Ottawa, and not First Nations. After Atleo resigned, the government’s controversial bill was put on hold, with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt stating that government will not move forward on it without support of the AFN.

Not much has been heard about Atleo since he resigned until December 10, when Atleo and another former AFN leader, Ovide Mercredi, were in the news for being hired as consultants for Pacific Future Energy Corp, a Vancouver-based company. Pacific Future Energy has a proposed project to refine bitumen from the Alberta oil sands at a new facility that would build in BC. The project could potentially include supporting a pipeline.

Atleo’s resignation paved the way for FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde to fulfill a career goal.

 

AFN Election

AFN candidates high res copy

AFN candidates Ghislain Picard, Perry Bellegarde and Leon Jourdain.

Anyone who follows Indian politics knew Perry Bellegarde was planning another run for the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

When Shawn Atleo stepped down Bellegarde seized the opportunity.

The only real threat to Bellegarde’s political ambitions came from AFN Quebec regional Chief Ghislain Picard who put his name forward along with the self-proclaimed “Peoples Candidate” Leon Jourdain.

The last time Bellegarde ran in 2009 it took eight ballots before he conceded to Shawn Atleo.

This time he won on the first ballot with 63 percent of the vote. In his first speech as AFN Chief, Bellegarde vowed to fight for the land, for First Nations people, and to involve the grassroots to engage them in the AFN again.

Many believe Bellegarde inherited a divided AFN and an adversarial Federal Government, if ever there was a rock and a hard place, Bellegarde found it.

 

Gender equality comes to FSIN Executive

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FSIN Chief Kim Jonathan.

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FSIN 4th Vice Chief Heather Bear.

Bellegarde’s victory also made history for Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

FSIN First Vice Chief, Kimberley Jonathan, was elevated to the Office of the Chief making her the first female leader of the Federation.

In October, Heather Bear was elected as 4th Vice Chief of the FSIN.

Jonathan and Bear bring gender equality to the FSIN executive, a status that had not previously existed until this year.

 

 

 

Treaty 4 Medal Returns Home

Chief Kennedy Medal

Chief Barry Kennedy of Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation welcomed home the Treaty 4 medal at the Regina Airport. Photo credit: Judy Bird.

A rare medal from the 1874 signing of Treaty 4 came up for auction in Ontario this past summer, serendipitously around the time of the 140th anniversary celebration of the signing of Treaty 4.

Royce Pettyjohn of Maple Creek had been researching the Treaty 4 medal, and found one coming up for auction. He contacted nearby Nekaneet First Nation to discuss the possibility of jointly purchasing the medal. They realized they wouldn’t have enough resources to purchase the medal so they contacted Treaty 4 spokesperson Chief Lynn Acoose to have her see what arrangements could be made to acquire the medal on behalf of Treaty 4 people.

Chief Acoose’s sister, Paula, was working at the Treaty 4 gathering, and decided that she and her husband, Ray McCallum, would attend the auction on September 20th, and use their personal resources to purchase the medal, with the understanding that they would be repaid and the medal would belong to the people of Treaty 4.

They won the bid at $40,000, and on September 29, the Treaty 4 medal returned home. Wendy Hoare of Jeffery Hoare Auctions, the auction house managing the sale, said she has seen about 10 medals in total from various treaties, but this was the first Treaty 4 medal that this auction house saw. She personally delivered the medal to Regina.

 

Brothers Reunion 

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Earl Anderson (L) and Johnny Brass (R)

In the 1950s, five children from a Brass family originally from Key First Nation – four brothers and one sister – were separated and removed from their home at different times by Child Welfare services in BC. Two of the boys were adopted, and two were sent to foster care, but none knew the fate of their sister.

The oldest boy, Leon, was about five years old when the first children were removed. He and his brother, Earl, were adopted in the same family, but he never forgot his other siblings, and was determined to one day find his family.

Leon found his twin brothers Johnny and Joe, and his sister, but it would be many years before all the siblings met each other. In summer 2014, Johnny Brass and Earl Anderson, brothers, met again for the first time since they were taken from their home. The five siblings have not yet come together as a family.  Johnny Brass states it best: “Here I am, just turned 60, and I meet my brother Earl for the first time. What sort of bullshit is that? Just for us to come together as a family is very complex and complicated.”

Leon Brass recently spoke to reporter Judy Bird, who will have more on this story in an upcoming issue of Treaty 4 News.

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