Wednesday, September 16, 2015

OUR FUTURE AND THE 2015 ABENAKI NATION ELECTIONS


Greeting all;


I am honored to write this message to our Abenaki citizens and their families living at Odanak, in our three large off-reserve communities at Sudbury, Waterbury, and Albany, and beyond.  I am pleased to announce that we will host  a forum for Abenaki citizens to meet this year’s candidates for chief and council on October 24, 2015, at the Best Western on Wolf Road in Albany, New York. Doors open at noon and the forum begins promptly at 1pm.  We will wrap things up at 5pm, and then enjoy a buffet dinner.


All of our citizens and their families are welcome to attend., Candidates will be given an opportunity to describe their qualifications and relevant experience, to account for time they have already spent in office, and to explain why they believe that Abenaki voters should support them. Community members will have a chance to ask their own questions as well. A moderator will direct the forum and a translator will be available for candidates to bridge the French-English divide.  I hope that all of you can join our candidates and our Albany, NY community of Abenaki families, to consider the important issues facing our nation and have a chance to hear directly from those running for office.


It is my sincere belief that we as a people need to become more involved in the life of our nation.  We need to embrace opportunities like to this to learn more about our brothers and sisters on and off reserve and those who want to serve as our Chief and our Council members.  In just the last few years I have mourned the loss of community elders and I have been haunted by what their passing means for our families and for our nation.  I have met Abenaki kin who are unable to gain their Abenaki citizenship and I have met people with no Abenaki ancestors who falsely claim our lands, our rights, and our ancestors as their own.  I have learned about the Emerald Ash Borer threatening to destroy all of the beautiful Black Ash trees that have given our people so much.  And I have learned about the harm we continue to suffer as a result of residential schools and the Indian Act.


All of this can be discouraging.  The deck seems stacked against us.  However, I believe that we can overcome these challenges and strengthen our nation.  Today, we hold the future in our hands.  Our ancestors ensured our place in this world.  It is by their love and hard work and faith that we have endured and grown.  The elders pass on and leave this world to the next generation, our generation, and it is up to us to make a difference and secure our collective future.   Come out on October 24th to take part in this process, or contact me if you’d like to become involved in any of the community projects and events being organized in the Albany area.
WLI WNI,
DENISE

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

EMPOWERING MEMBERS THROUGH EDUCATION-SUMMARY OF LAWS


EMPOWERING MEMBERS THROUGH EDUCATION
Legislation Summary Impacting First Nation Peoples
Provided by Denise L. Watso
September 2nd, 2015
 
Indian Act (1876)
The Indian Act passed by the Government of Canada in 1876. It imposed government control over all Natives. It focused on 3 main areas: band councils, reserves, and status (membership). Its primary purpose was (and is) to control and assimilate Indian people into Canada. It was always intended as a temporary set of laws until Native peoples were successfully assimilated.
 
Bill C-31 (1985) – Lavell vs. Canada
In 1985, Bill C-31 amended the Indian Act to provide equal treatment of male and female Indians to register as a status Indian. Bill C-31 was directed at removing discrimination against women in the Indian Act registration provisions. Since then, all registered Indians have been subject to the “second generation cut-off rule” which occurs as a result of two successive generations of parenting with non-Indians of either sex. However, the Act’s gender discrimination was not fully remedied by Bill C-31.
 
Corbiere Act (1999)
The Indian Act voting regulations were amended to comply with the Supreme Court of Canada decision. The Court ruled words, found in section 77 (1) of the Indian Act, "and is ordinarily resident on the reserve," violated the Charter rights of off-reserve members of First Nations that hold their elections under the Indian Act. This decision, provide for First Nations holding elections or referendums under the Indian Act to permit members, living off reserve, to vote.
 
Esquega vs. Canada (2008)
In 2007, the Federal Court of Canada ruled in Esquega v. Canada that the residency provision for councilor candidates in the Indian Act violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since August 2008, there have been no residency restrictions on councilor candidates.
 
Bill C-21 (2008) - An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.  Repeal of Section 67
Bill C-21 repeals section 67 of the federal human rights statute, does not allow anyone to file a complaint against government or First nations i.e. “any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act.
  • Section 67 restricts the ability of people living or working in communities operating under the Indian Act to file complaints of discrimination if the discrimination they are complaining about is related to the Indian Act. It is the only provision in Canadian human rights law that restricts access of a particular group of persons (people living or working in First Nations communities) to the human rights process.

  • The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on eleven grounds. To ensure effective protection against discrimination, the Act provides for a system for the investigation and resolution of allegations of discrimination. A person who believes they have been discriminated against can file a complaint against any employer or service provider under federal jurisdiction including federal departments and agencies. This includes complaints regarding provisions of federal legislation and regulation.
Bill C-3 (2010) McIvor vs. Canada
With the introduction of Bill C-3, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act it will mean that eligible grandchildren of women who lost status (Bill C-31) as a result of marrying non-Indian men will become entitled to registration (Indian Status) in accordance with the Indian Act.

2015 Abenaki Nation Elections hosted in Albany, NY


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 2, 2015
Odanak Abenaki First Nation
Contact: Denise L. Watso, NYS Abenaki Liaison (518) 334-3101
Candidates for Abenaki Chief and Council to Address Voters
at Forum in Albany, Saturday, October 24th
The Capitol District will host a forum for Abenaki voters to hear directly from candidates for Chief and Council of the Odanak Abenaki First Nation.  The forum will be held from 1-5 PM, Saturday, October 24th at the Best Western, Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12203.  This is an exciting time in the history of the Abenaki people – all Abenaki enrolled at Odanak are invited and encouraged to attend with their families.  
Elections will be held Saturday, November 28th, 2015, although voters may also cast their ballots by mail.
The Abenaki are the aboriginal people associated with homelands in much of northern New England and adjacent parts of New York, Massachusetts and Quebec, as well as with the Odanak (Saint Francis) and W├┤linak (Becancour) reserves in central Quebec (and historically with the Penobscot Nation in Maine, too).  Abenaki derives from Wabanaki (“people from where the sun rises,” “people of the east,” or “people of the dawn”), and this latter term is often used in a general sense to refer collectively to the Mi’kmaq, Malecite, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki peoples.
While many Abenaki have been thought of as “Saint Francis Indians,” living at Odanak, in truth many Abenaki families have maintained part-time or full-time residence within their homelands south of the border continuously since the American Revolution.  In fact, the first election held by the Odanak First Nation under Canada’s  Indian Act, the legislation regulating aboriginal affairs in Canada, occurred January 18, 1876, after many Abenaki (and their Indian Agent) complained that the three chiefs serving the community at the time – Louis Watso, Solomon Benedict and Jean Hannis – were away from the reserve so often that two additional chiefs were required to ensure adequate representation.  (The aged chief Louis Watso was actually living at Lake George, where a good deal of his family resided.)  Samuel Watso and Lazare Wawanolett were chosen from a field of six candidates, and elections for office have been held at regular intervals ever since.
Abenaki history on the upper Hudson dates to at least the late 17th century when many ancestors of the modern Abenaki people lived at Schaghticoke, near the mouth of the Hoosic River.  Continuing Abenaki presence in New York State is attested to by such notable 19th century Adirondack Abenaki as Sabael Benedict, Mitchell Sabattis, and the late 19th/early 20th century Indian Encampments at Saratoga Springs, Lake George and Lake Luzerne were primarily occupied by Abenaki.  Despite a lack of recognition by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, these Abenaki families have persisted within and beyond their homelands:  today, the Albany metro region is a major Abenaki population center.  Other significant concentrations of Abenaki people are located in Waterbury, CT; Newport, VT; and Sudbury, Ontario.
This will be the fifth time that a formal forum for candidates for Chief and Council has been held in Albany, (elections every 2 years) the brainchild of and organized by Abenaki activist and educator of Abenaki family history, Denise L. Watso.  Off-reserve Abenaki were not allowed to vote in Odanak’s election until after the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Corbiere ruling struck down the voter residency requirement of Canada’s Indian Act.  
The importance of the off-reserve vote has been increasing with each passing election.  This election, however, may bring about even greater change since the Indian Act was enacted that off-reserve Abenaki will be eligible to accept a nomination for office (per the 2007 Federal Court of Appeals’ Esquega decision).  The potential impact of this development places an even greater spotlight on the role of off-reserve voters in the civic affairs of the Abenaki Nation.
It is also a point of pride for many Abenaki who think of both Odanak and the Albany metro region as home.  Susan Marshall, a lifelong resident of Albany and Rensselaer, is looking forward to attending the candidate’s forum and voting for her first time.  “I just wish my mom (Mary Jane Nagazoa) was here to see this, knowing how proud she would be.”