An Open Letter Regarding Projects Between First Nations and Israeli People
By Ahniwanika (John Schertow)
A few months ago I read a news article about a project to create a Native Embassy in Israel (link to article below). I was suprised and confused at this development, and that in the comparison of Jewish and
Native People, there was no mention of Palestinians, or for that matter, the frequently volatile relationship between them and the Israeli People.
I also shared a concern with others in that, it doesn’t make any sense for Tadoule Lake First Nation to get an embassy in Israel – not while First Nations here are being disenfranchised by the Canadian Government, exploited by numerous Corporations, and even harmed by their (government-appointed) ‘Leadership’.
Only when Natives in Canada first have their own government; and then having built an embassy in Ottawa, can an embassy in Israel even be considered. And we would most certainly have to acknowledge how this would effect Israeli-Palestinian relations, since in many respects, Palestinians are going through exactly what the Natives in Canada have gone through for centuries (and the Israeli Government’s policies towards Palestinians are often similar to the Canadian and American Government’s policies towards First Nations People).
With that in mind; today I found out about a Native delegation travelling to Israel for a cultural exchange. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, in fully reading the media advisory (which also follows) the concerns I had about the Native embassy came rushing forward again…
So I decided to write this letter, and ask people to help make certain everyone involved in these projects (and any to follow) have all the knowledge needed to make informed decisions, for the benefit of all of us.
I mean, let’s just consider the situation with David Ahenakew, who’s actions are the reason these projects are happening: Hate propaganda was put in the mind of David, which he later expressed in an interview (where he called “Jews a ‘disease’ and [suggested] the Holocaust was justified”).
The only reason David expressed these ideas is not because he hated Jewish people; It is because he was misnformed…
Had he known the truth, he would not have made the choice he did. And the same is true with what the AFN and some First Nations People are doing here – They would choose differently; for example, acknowledge the lesson here and do something that truly benefits us, that is not entrenched in politics or harmful to the already complicated and violent goings-on between Israelis and Palestinians.
The lesson, is that making uninformed decisions often brings unrecognized and harmful consequences – that we don’t really want. We can already see from peoples’ feedback about all this, that harm is exactly what’s being done.
And so I also ask the AFN, and other First Nations People if they’d like, to inquire as to why/how harm is being done here; and then once you have some answers, that you consider writing a public statement in response to the issues brought up here.
Then at least we can be certain of how we must proceed to ensure no violence or conflict is perpetuated, or agendas advanced that further dissever any Israeli, Palestinian, or Native Person.
John Schertow (Ahniwanika)
ps. I just want to clarify that it is not my intention to suggest
working with Israeli People is a bad thing; I personally have no quarrel
with any Israeli or Palestinian. The problem here is with Politics, and
my intention is to see things come from all this that benefit everyone
connected to this – starting with our own People and Communities.
Related Stories, and Background Information:
An article about the recent trip to Israel, by Janice G.A.E. Switlo
Info mainly about David Ahenakew, but near the bottom are a few articles about the embassy, and trip to Israel.
Response to open letter, via the Friends of Grassy Narrow Mailing list
Hi. My name is Nancy powderhorn, and I am from Tadoule Lake, manitoba. I am currently student at U of W here in Winnipeg.
I dissagree with your letter as I am not been inform by my chief or council but heard about this regarding foreigners visiting, nor any information released to students off reserve. I am not acknowledge at the band council nor encourage by them, as a matter a fact they discourage me at all level with council members. They continue to misled the people off the community.
Half of those people living and bullying people on reserve level now, were not in the picture, when we left churchill to move back to our land (1969-1970). All done by My father Mr. Thomas Duck. There was no help nor anyone to support him when the move was done by canoe and dogteam from Churchill. the people were being abuse by the town of Churchill White people including the crees, eskimo.
I find people who open offices in urban areas with our band name via AMC/MKO/KTC or other funding resource to be fully active, do not involved our DENE to date, nor do I see any Dene people working in all offices in Winnipeg so far.
I have been here for 2 years and there has been no support anywhere.
I don’t think anyone should start shooting off story of my community unless they know about the hell the people were put through by all involved and there are many on documents from the fifties to seventies.
Who ever is writing these stories should get to talk to people as myself. or many other band members living else where. my parents are still alive and credit must be given to my father Mr. Thomas Duck for his courage to save the his family from dying in the hands of Churchill town and who ever controls municiple towns
Unless you people in urban and southern areas know the true facts, I find it offensive you write that people of tadoule lake dont deserve anything, as we been told all our lives.
My father is true evidence of what took place to the Denesuline people of the north. NO one knew who we are as dene in manitoba existed for decades, now we are told we don’t qualifiy for help where it may benefit people who were made to live like the jews and other suffering people of this country & governement.
I have lots to say, but who do I take it now, I guess governent succeeded and turning 1st nation against 1st nation has is playing now, it is evidence in institution of how cold people can be. I want to be inform of the latest information.
There is much I would like to clarified on behalf of my Father MR. THOMAS DUCK. because others have turn his story around to benefit them such as the one member who wrote the book on my so call people. I dissagree with that women because she was not in the picture and she is a petite women who bullies all band members as only her family benefits from everything since they move to the community.
When your own relatives and family members tries to control and manipulate an end to means, why? wasn’t anyone then when living in the forrest, it seems no one cared, until we were exposed by ambitious people for themselves.
If you have any question I can be reached at 282 6782 (wpg) or email ndgpowderhorn(at)shaw.ca
I will not be put in the same catagory as others or be used to make a statement while I know nothing to date has been done for my family and relative in the community I come from
Mah See Cho = thank you very much
My Reply to the Mailing list
Just to let everyone know, I phoned Nancy yesterday, we talked for about half an hour. I think we came to an understanding about everything, and so I just wanted to clarify and explain a few things for everyone reading any of this.
I respect and support Nancy’s position, and also understand her frustration. I admitted to Nancy that I don’t know much about her people, but it was not my intent at all to suggest her People don’t deserve something. Quite the opposite actually… I hope, work for, and want for the DeneSuline and all other People on this Land: Health, Peace, Safety, Justice, Freedom, and Prosperity. This embassy will not bring anyone closer to these important things.
In this situation, the DeneSuline are being taken advantage of – and the consequences of this project will effect all People on this land. It pulls the People closer to being incorporated into a State. In my eyes, this is the final stage of colonization – when the assimilated carry on the legacy of the Assimilators.
Now, if the circumstances and purpose of my writing were different, for example if my goal was to write something directly on behalf of the Tadoule Lake People, I would be obligated to ask permission from her people to proceed. I emphasize that 10,000 times over, because I know there are so many good People in the world who want to help Indigenous people, but never actually ask the People themselves how they would like help.
Instead they just do as they think is best, which is no good; especially when our actions will effect the lives of people who are often in very difficult situations – whereas most of us have the luxury of living in the Colonial bubbles called cites.
Anyways, I am thankful Nancy received this because now her people will have a chance to talk and make an informed decision (before-the-fact).
This is something Nancy repeatedly said to me: her People are never told anything – not by the Government, and not by the Chief and Council.
She, like her family and her People: want to be informed.