By Michael Tyas
In April, Wa Ni Ska Tan had a rare and incredible opportunity to share some personal stories on a world stage at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City. Our delegation was:
- Shirley Ducharme, Chief of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation
- Leslie Dysart, a fisherman of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation
- Betty Lou Halcrow, Women’s Chief from Cross Lake.
- Dr. Ramona Neckoway, Cree member of Nelson House
- Dr. Jarvis Brownlie, Professor of History at the University of Manitoba.
We were given 75 minutes to present to other Indigenous delegates and diplomats from around the world. Our delegation presented on the history and impacts of Manitoba Hydro on their families, economies, environments and treaty rights.
At times, the tears could barely be contained, both by our delegates and the 30 or so members who attended. Immediately following the presentation, some nation-to-nation dialogue and new relationships were formed. We have a number of international Indigenous delegates who have also felt the impacts of hydroelectric development who would like to attend and present at our upcoming gathering this November.
The remaining days were just as busy, attending other conferences and making contacts. We had the rare privilege to witness Tsilhqot’in Nation present to the UN forum. To quote from this linked article, they were “speaking about how the Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs of 1864 continue to guide and give strength to the Tsilhqot’in as they seek to implement their 2014 Supreme Court of Canada title victory, and to secure recognition of title and jurisdiction to their Territory.” The group received a thundering standing ovation.
We also reached out the the Canadian Mission to the United Nations who helpfully set up a meeting with Francois Weldon, Canadian Head of Delegation. Our delegates were able to brief him directly on issues related to Manitoba Hydro and its impacts on treaty rights in Manitoba, and Canada’s absence from the process of protecting these rights. It was a good dialogue and a relationship we intend to grow.
The trip to New York City was very cool, but also very exhausting. Everyone expressed relief to make it back home safe and sound.