Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chief Ominayak's Letter to Jailed Indigenous Leaders

[Editor's Note: On the Ontario Appeals Court ordered the release of the six person Chief and Council of KI First Nation, who had been held in prison since on civil contempt charges for refusing to allow the exploitation of the Nation's traditional homelands by a mining company in cahoots with the Ontario Provincial government in violation of the Canadian Law and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although these tribal leaders have been released, the letter written in their support and in support of their actions by Chief Ominayak of the Lubicon Indian Nation is both eloquent and instructive for those who are unaware of the continued theft of Indian resources and oppression of Indian leaders when they speak out and act to protect their lands, peoples and ways of life. The letter, then is and will continue to be timely. --Perry Chesnut, Editor, Native Rights News.]


April 17, 2008

Yesterday Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak wrote to the Chief and Council of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation at the prison in which they are being held. His letter is reproduced below.

On March 17, 2008, an Ontario Superior Court judge sentenced 6 Aboriginal protesters to six months of jail for peacefully defying a court order that would allow Platinex, a mining-exploration company, to drill for minerals on their traditional lands in northern Ontario, Canada. The Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation fears that mining activity will jeopardize hunting and burial grounds and argues that the Ontario government awarded the mining permits without consulting and accommodating their people, a violation of aboriginal rights and Canadian law.

The individuals jailed include the Chief and four Councilors of the (KI) First Nation.

KI First Nation continues to recognize its Chief and Councilors as leaders in exile and as prisoners of conscience. It has also declared that a 2001 community declared moratorium on exploration and development will continue to be enforced in KI traditional territory, pending resolution of a treaty land entitlement claim and fulfillment of the Government of Ontario’s legal obligation to consult and accommodate.

We are encouraging Lubicon supporters to also lend their support to the KI First Nation and its leaders. More information on how you can help is included below Chief Ominayak’s letter.

* * * * * * *

April 16, 2008

Chief Donny Morris
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation

C/O Thunder Bay Correctional Centre
Highway 61 South
PO Box 1900
Thunder Bay ON
P7C 4Y4

Dear Chief Morris;

We have been following closely the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation’s efforts to protect your land from the onset of mineral exploitation, both in the courts and on the ground.

When Platinex took your Nation to Court for opposing their proposed exploratory drilling project, we asked our supporters to join in protesting this attempt to use the courts to silence your leaders and lay claim to your lands, because we saw parallels with our own peoples’ struggle to survive and the attempted use of the courts to keep us quiet while they stole everything of value from our lands.

When the Court told Platinex to meet with your Nation to determine how mineral exploration should be allowed to proceed, lawyers across the country trumpeted the decision as a victory for aboriginal rights because it demonstrated that consultation is a requirement under Canadian law. We knew, as I’m sure you did too, that this was not a real victory for our people, because we knew from our own hard experience that having the right to be consulted is not the same as having the right to say no. And we knew from our own hard experience that without the right to refuse a project that will destroy our lands and damage our communities, we will be unable to meet our responsibility to protect our lands and people.

When the company later returned to Court – aided and abetted by the provincial government and its lawyers – to argue that it should be allowed to proceed because it had already met the “duty to consult”, it was no surprise to us or to you that the Courts agreed, and instructed your people to stay out of their way.

When you and your Council stood in the way of Platinex regardless of what the Courts and the provincial government said, we took heart that there are leaders like yourselves who are willing to stand up and demonstrate that we, as aboriginal people, will not sit idly by while outside governments and companies destroy everything we value – the land, the air, the water, and our way of life.

When you were offered the chance to apologize and accept the exploitation of your lands in exchange for your freedom, we took heart that, as real leaders, you and your Council refused. And now this letter finds you in jail, where they hope to destroy your spirit and that of your community by taking you away from your people and your land, and threatening others that they will face the same fate if they don’t allow Platinex to proceed.

If there were any way to turn back the clock and stop the very first oil and gas companies from entering our lands – before the hundreds that followed made it all but impossible to reverse the environmental destruction they brought to our lands – I believe our people would gladly do so. For that reason, I’m sending this message now to encourage you and express our support for the principled stand you are taking, so that the lands of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation don’t have to suffer the same fate our lands suffered after the first resource exploitation companies opened the door for the many that followed.

We hope you keep close to your families, your people and your lands in spirit, despite being taken away to a remote jail, and that you continue the struggle from inside with the same devotion and courage you have shown so far. There may be many forces allied against us as aboriginal people, and those who want to take everything from the land have a great deal of power and influence, but there are some things they can never take away from us. One of those is our spirit, our courage, and our determination to carry out our responsibility to protect the lands the Creator gave to us.


Bernard Ominayak
Lubicon Lake Indian Nation


Deputy Chief Jack McKay

Councillor Samuel McKay

Councillor Darryl Sainnawap

Bruce Sakakeep, Lands & Environment Director

Head Councillor Cecilia Begg


More information


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