By NC Raine

Looking back, 2016 will likely be remembered for its fundamental crimes to democracy, primarily with the disorder that was [and continues to be] the American Presidential election, and the injustices that occurred at Standing Rock. But Saskatchewan, likewise, had no shortage of headlines which garnered international attention. From the Colten Boushie murder, to the La Loche shootings, and the Enbridge Pipeline – the best that we might be able to say about the past year is that 2016 was certainly one to learn by.

Treaty 4 News spoke with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, who also serves as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief for Saskatchewan, about some of his reflections and major takeaways from 2016’s biggest stories. Here is part one of that interview.

Treaty 4 News: Standing Rock, in most people’s minds, is likely one of the biggest stories of the year, and is certainly relevant to Saskatchewan. What did we learn from what happened, and continues to happen, at Standing Rock?

Chief Bobby Cameron: We learned that together supporting one another when called upon, or when we decided to take action, shows how united and powerful we can be when we come together. What happened at Standing Rock was a perfect example. But equally important, the protection of lands and waters drew us together and united us, for our children, our children’s children, and future generations.

That being said, we’re still cautious. We won’t let our guard down. Right now, [the hiatus to construction] is a small victory. We had the army and local police forces physically and spiritually harming our people. The protection of our lands and waters is not something we’re going to negotiate. It is far more important that making a dollar.

T4N: What were your major takeaways from Enbridge [Pipeline Line 3 replacement] and Trudeau’s decision to approve the pipeline?

BC: There’s different positions on it. We respect that the communities that have partnerships with pipelines. But, the focus for us will always be the protections of lands or waters so future generations can enjoy. Time will tell where our leaders and elders take us [in this pipeline issue], discussions and meetings will continue. And I look forward to the direction our elders and youth give us.

T4N: We’ve had roughly a year of Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government. Trudeau said that no relationships are more important to him than those with Indigenous people. How has he and the Liberal government done thus far?

BC: They’re a lot better to work with than the previous government, I’ll tell you that. Him and his MPs have met with us, and have come to our (AFN) assembly two years in row. We’ve had pretty good dialogue in terms of accessibility to MPs. And that’s a good thing.  So now, on all the concerns and directions that we as First Nations leaders face, from housing, to education, to mental wellness, to justice – it’s a big list and it’s going to take some time to get our directions implemented for the various sectors. It’s a lot of work and our people understand that. At the same time, our people have been waiting for decades for improvements in these various sectors. Now we have a federal government that is sitting with us, talking with us, that is willing to improve the lives of our First Nations and we’re thankful for that. We’re going to continue on that path.

T4N: Are there specific things you’d like to see from the Liberal government in 2016?

BC: [I’d like to see] bigger investment in housing. We need a big investment to address the massive shortage of housing across Canada. We’re talking at least 20,000 homes across our territories. Of course, education is a big investment as well, and post secondary too.

Watch for part two of our interview with Chief Bobby Cameron tomorrow in Treaty 4 News.

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