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Local First Nation leaders call out MNO attempt to 'rewrite history'

'The MNO’s only job is to find sympathetic ears to tell their false narratives,' says statement signed by First Nations' leadership, including Beausoleil and Chippewas of Rama First Nations

Local First Nations’ chiefs are among a leadership group that is condemning what it sees as the Métis Nation of Ontario’s attempts to “divide individual Nations against one another.”

The statement released by the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) says the elected leadership, which includes Chief Joanne Sandy from Beausoleil First Nation and Chippewas of Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams, felt the need to act after individual First Nations’ leaders in southern Ontario received letters from the provincial Métis organization.

“This is clearly an attempt to divide our individual Nations against one another, as well as against our brothers and sisters in the north,” the statement reads. “This tactic will not work.

“We stand in solidarity and opposition to the MNO’s continued efforts to rewrite history, usurp our lands and rights, and appropriate legitimate First Nations and Métis identities.”

According to the statement, the MNO is seeking meetings with individual Nations in the south, “apparently to discuss how we can have ‘respectful’ relationships and memorandums of understanding with their organization.

“This comes after they have spent decades asserting rights across Ontario, including in our First Nations’ territories,” it reads.

“The MNO is now stating the corporation does not assert section 35 or inherent rights in our lands, and that its members are ‘guests’ in our territories. We have always known this.”

But the statement notes the MNO’s words do not match their actions nor the realities First Nations’ peoples have faced.

“We have witnessed firsthand how MNO members demand consultations on issues that affect our Nations and our rights-holding citizens,” the statement notes. “We have watched them make claims to our lands and resources in the south.”

The latest salvo comes in the midst of significant backlash faced by the MNO recently, including a summit in Winnipeg by the Chiefs of Ontario and the Manitoba Métis Federation over what they see as “identity theft” by the MNO.

During the two-day conference, the Ontario chiefs called on the province to “erase” six Métis communities, including Georgian Bay with one chief noting that “just because you have a drop of Indigenous blood running through your veins” doesn't make one Indigenous.

“The difference between us and the MNO — a corporate organization founded in 1993 — is we are Nations who govern our lands and territories and are accountable to our citizens. The MNO’s only job is to find sympathetic ears to tell their false narratives.

“Their letter also makes clear that the corporation (MNO) is still coming for the rights and territories of our brothers and sisters in the rest of the province. Every Nation in Ontario needs to know that we are with them in this fight.

“Governments at all levels have pandered to this corporate organization with unsubstantiated claims for too long and now it has the confidence to think we, as First Nations, would sell each other out.”

In response to the Chiefs’ statement, the MNO told Wideupdates that “there has been considerable misinformation and misunderstandings about Métis rights assertions in Ontario.”

Sent via email, the response says that a southern Ontario First Nation had recently written to the MNO to express concerns about "the existence of an MNO office in their territory."

While the MNO didn’t identify the First Nation to which it’s referring, the MNO does maintain offices in a strip-mall off of King Street in Midland.

“The MNO responded to that First Nation affirming that there are no Métis rights assertions related to lands in the area and that the office exists solely to provide essential services to Métis citizens living outside of their territories,” the MNO says, noting services include education and training, elder care and healthcare.

“This service offering to Métis living outside their traditional territory is akin to the services offered to the significant population of Inuit living in Ottawa, who obviously do not assert land rights there but who continue to access services and engage in cultural activities," says the MNO.

“In our letter, we made it clear that the MNO citizens living outside their traditional territories in southern Ontario do so as guests on the traditional lands of the First Nations. Knowing that other First Nations likely had the same questions or concerns, the MNO sent a similar letter to all First Nations in southern Ontario where Métis do not assert land rights.”

Also signing the COO statement are the leadership of Caldwell First Nation, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Eelŭnaapéewi Lahkéewiit (Delaware Nation), Hiawatha First Nation, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Moose Deer Point First Nation, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Wahta Mohawks.

“First Nations have spoken with one voice on this issue,” the COO statement continues. “Nothing will change that.”

“The MNO is making claims to the lands and rights of some of the Nations who have signed this statement. Let us be clear: any attempt to divide us on this issue is futile. It is the same colonial tactic that we have resisted for centuries.

“We know the playbook. We know the stakes. We know what to do. We have always been here. We are not going anywhere. Any attack on one Nation’s inherent and Treaty rights, jurisdiction, or sovereignty, is an attack on us all.”

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country’s most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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