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MNN. Sat. June 3, 2023. The traditional Innu people evict logging companies from their territory and cancel modern treaty in the making.
The traditional guardians of the Nitassinan, the unceded territory of the Innu people whose 570 000 km2 are bigger than the territory of France, have sent two cease and desist letters to halt the current invasion of their land and attempts to extinguish their inherent rights. Here are the two letters for your attention.
From: Collectif Mashk Assi* 1 Guardians of Nitassinan, Innu ancestral territory email@example.com
RE: Notice of eviction from Innu territories and cessation of logging
To: Scierie Girard. 5872 route des Bouleaux, Shipshaw (Québec) G7P 1E3 Forestier Luc Goulet et fils. 440 rue du Coteau-Marcil, Albanel (Québec) G8M 3R3 Scierie Martel. 3000 route du Lac Est, Alma (Québec) G8B 5V2 Groupe Forestra. 4910 boulevard Talbot, Laterrière (Québec) G7N 1A3 Coop Fernand Boileau, Groupe Lignarex and other chains. 445 route 381, Fernand-et-Boilleau (Québec) G0V 1H0. Scierie du Lac-Saint-Jean inc. 41 route Saint-André, Métabetchouan-Lac-à-la-Croix (Québec) G8G 1X2. Produit Forestier Résolu. 200 rue de Quen, Dolbeau-Mistassini (Québec), G8L 5M8.
BY REGISTERED MAIL
We hereby inform you that all your employees and subcontractors must immediately evacuate Nitassinan, a sovereign and unceded territory of the Innu people, by order of the guardians of the territory. Your company is operating illegally on our territory, without having consulted the territory’s guardian families, whose authority over Nitassinan is protected by the Canadian Constitution, international law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only these families have the right to authorize a company to operate on the traditional territory of the Innu people. Agreements with Band Councils imposed by the federal government are null and void, as their jurisdiction is limited to reserve territory, as recognized by Canadian courts.
INNU GUARDIANS OF THE LAND
The custodians of the traditional territory of the Innu people have never ceded their ancestral rights, either by treaty or by conquest. The guardian families of Nitassinan ask you to cease all forestry activities and to leave our territory immediately. Your presence on Nitassinan constitutes a violation of innu tipenitamun, Innu sovereignty over the 571,000 km2 of Nitassinan, and uetshit takuaimatishun, the implementation of self-determination by the Innu people themselves.
Please also note that we are acting in solidarity and alliance with our Atikamekw brothers and sisters who are fighting to protect their ancestral forests in Nitaskinan. Please be advised that failure to comply with this eviction order will render you liable to prosecution for the violation of our human and ancestral rights. We consider the denial of our sovereignty and the ransacking of our territory to be a continuation of the genocide of indigenous peoples recognized by the Canadian government and Pope Francis I. By destroying our forests, you are destroying our environment and violating our right to bequeath our territory, our identity and our ancestral way of life to future generations. We ask you to stop the colonization of our territory, the destruction of the flora and fauna that make up our environment and the genocide of our people. We ask you to make a genuine gesture of reconciliation with the Innu people by respecting this eviction order in a peaceful manner.
Please inform all your employees and sub-contractors to leave our territory immediately. We ask that you take your personal belongings, equipment and vehicles and leave our territory in a timely and peaceful manner. As of May 30, it will no longer be possible for you to access our territory, except to remove your equipment, and you will be liable to prosecution. Please act accordingly.
From: Collectif Mashk Assi Guardians of Nitassinan, Innu ancestral territory firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBJECT: Formal notice to cease negotiations of the Petapan Treaty and other treaties
To: Attorney General of Canada Department of Justice Canada Litigation Branch 50 O’Connor Street 5th Floor – Room 531 Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Attorney General of Quebec Bernard, Roy (Justice – Quebec) 1 Notre-Dame Street East, Suite 8.00 Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1B6 BY
We ask the Attorney General of Canada to inform his administrative bodies known as the Band Councils of Mashteuiatsh, Essipit and Nutashkuan to cease speaking and undertaking negotiations on behalf of the Innu people. These Band Councils have no jurisdiction over the traditional Ilnuash territory of Nitassinan, other than that granted by the Canadian government on reserves through the imposition of the Indian Act, which Aboriginal Services Minister Marc Miller acknowledges is racist in nature.
The Band Councils of Mashteuiatsh, Essipit and Nutashkuan in no way represent the Innu people, whose legitimate authority resides in the guardian families of the territory, of which the Mashk Assi collective is a spokesperson. We also ask the representatives of Canada, Quebec and the Band Councils to cease any media disinformation campaign giving the public the impression that the traditional Innu people would be involved in any way whatsoever in the negotiation of modern treaties, including the Petapan Treaty and any agreements resulting from Bill C-15. The Petapan Treaty is negotiated behind closed doors by lawyers representing various levels of colonial governments, and has never been seen or consulted by the members of our communities and the guardian families of Nitassinan who preserve the Innu aitun, our ancestral way of life and sovereign title to our territory.
The territory’s guardian families have repeatedly informed you that negotiations concerning our title and ancestral rights must cease. In a letter submitted in 2005 to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Ukauimau aimu coalition, “words of mothers”, made up of over 270 members from different communities, denounced the lack of transparency and consultation in the process of illegally ceding ancestral territory, as well as “the usurpation of the identity of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh originally from Nitassinan and the various administrative, legislative, legal abuses, etc.., on the territory of the Nehlulnu descendants” by the federal administrative authorities of the Band Councils.
The descendants of the original Ilnuash people have repeated the same message several times since, including in a letter dated March 30, 2023, which stated that Territory Chiefs, Territory Guardians and Kukum (grandmother) circles have the obligation to protect ancestral territory. In Innu law, the land is inalienable and constitutes a legacy for future generations that must be protected and respected. In this sense, and under Innu law, these negotiations are illegitimate and illegal. The Hereditary Chiefs therefore call for an immediate halt to the process of global territorial negotiations. We hereby give you formal notice to immediately cease and suspend the negotiation of the Petapan Treaty and any other treaty, law or agreement in principle modifying our collective and individual ancestral rights, including the action plan for the implementation of Bill C-15 on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), under pain of legal proceedings.
The Mashk Assi collective and the territory’s guardian families are implementing the obligation, under Innu law, to protect Tshikauinu Assi, Mother Earth. It is part of the collective and individual legal obligations of the territory guardian families, the Kukum circle, and the territory chiefs, to protect Assi. As guardian families of Nitassinan, holding sovereign title to the unceded territory of the Innu people, we remind you that any treaty negotiation without our participation and free and informed consent is a violation of our fundamental rights protected by international law, the Constitution of Canada and the UNDRIP.
You are hereby informed that any decision taken without the consent of the Nitassinan custodial families concerning our territory, sovereignty and rights is null and void. Any negotiation aimed at extinguishing, suspending or modifying in any way our aboriginal rights without our free and informed consent will be considered a violation of our human rights and will be prosecuted in Canada and before international tribunals. We ask that the United Nations Special Rapporteur be immediately notified of the current denial of our very existence as a sovereign Innu people, through both “modern treaties” and the granting of logging permits on our territory without our consent. We see this denial of our existence as a continuation of the colonial genocide of indigenous people who are preserving their way, their right and their ancestral territories.
We therefore remind you, for the last time under threat of legal action, that all negotiations undertaken without our consent concerning our territory and ancestral rights must cease immediately. The guardian families of Nitassinan, who have never ceded their ancestral rights, either by treaty or by conquest, urge you to immediately cease all actions that may infringe on their collective and individual rights, and on the integrity of their unceded territory. Please act accordingly.
As Frank Zappa, friend of the Innu, said:
“Dreamed I was an eskimoFrozen wind began to blowUnder my boots and around my toesThe frost that bit the ground below
It was a hundred degrees below zero…
And my mama criedAnd my mama criedNanook, a-no-noNanook, a-no-noDon’t be a naughty eskimo
Save your money, don’t go to the showWell I turned around and I said oh, oh ohWell I turned around and I said oh, oh ohWell I turned around and I said ho, hoAnd the northern lights commenced to glow
And she said, with a tear in her eyeWatch out where the huskies go,And don’t you eat that yellow snowWatch out where the huskies go,And don’t you eat that yellow snow”