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Atleo: Working Together Is Key to Self-determination

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No sooner had the dust settled after Canada’s May 2 election than Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo was calling for, among other things, all indigenous peoples worldwide to work together, especially in the U.S. and Canada. A good place to start, he said, is mining.

Canada’s aboriginal lands sit atop deposits of diamonds, uranium and other natural resources. Now that the last holdouts (Canada and the United States) have endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, aboriginals in those two countries have greater leverage in decision making when it comes to what will be done on their land, he pointed out to reporters in a post-election conference call.

Responsible and sustainable development that benefits both indigenous peoples and the global economy, Atleo said, is a natural outgrowth of that. Both globally and domestically, aboriginals can work together to avoid being pitted against one another, he said.

Within Canada, “there may only be funding for 12 or 14 schools when we need 40,” he said. “There’s no determination of where those schools go and where that money is directed.”

Likewise, “there is a diversity of treatment between and among regions and nations,” he continued, adding that it’s important to “find a way to support and communicate” on issues such as the ways that energy initiatives in one part of the country may affect climate change in another.

When it comes to energy, “there is no broad vision or plan for Canada,” he said, pointing out that if you’re going to mine, drill or lay a pipeline, you are going to have to deal with indigenous needs.

With this and other issues in mind, the AFN is sponsoring a two-day International Indigenous Summit on Energy & Mining June 26–27, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

According to the preliminary agenda, the summit will focus on developing resources sustainably and responsibly, refining best practices when it comes to developing energy, providing economic education on mining and energy and “the many opportunities for First Nations to contribute to the Canadian and world economies.”