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Miles Morrisseau
ICT

The leaders of Canada’s three national Indigenous organizations will attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, joining the official Canadian delegation in grieving the loss of one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs.

The First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders said they hope their presence will remind the world’s leaders that they remain a force, with treaties signed by the British Crown recognizing their sovereignty.

“I will be attending Her Majesty’s funeral as a testament that despite colonization and genocide, First Nations people are still here,” National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations said in a statement.

“We are relentless and have been strengthened by the challenges facing us all; and moreover, we are moving from being survivors to thrivers. We continue to revitalize our languages, culture and traditions. Most importantly, in spite of efforts to eradicate us, we have held onto our seven sacred teachings which include: respect, courage and love.”

Related story:
Indigenous people in Canada conflicted over Queen’s death

President Cassidy Caron of the Métis National Council said the show of support signals a willingness to rebuild relationships.

“It is our Métis custom to pay respect to those who have passed,” Caron said in a statement.

“As a people of relationship, we join together to comfort families as they grieve personal loss,” she said. “Forging a positive pathway forward requires building and strengthening relationships. I look forward to renewing the Métis Nation’s relationship with the Crown through the Governor General and King Charles III.”

President Natan Obed of the Inuit Tapirat Kanatami will also attend, but did not respond to ICT’s request for comment. Earlier in the week, however, the Inuit Tapirat Kanatami offered condolences on the Queen’s death.

“ITK sends condolences to the Royal Family on the death of Queen Elizabeth II,” according to the statement. “As Queen of Canada and our constitutional monarch, she played a critical role in our history and relationship with Canada. She served with grace and dignity and for that we are thankful.”

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The three leaders accepted the invitation to attend from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon, Inuk, who is the first Indigenous woman to serve as the Queen’s representative in Canada. 

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The death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8 left many Indigenous people in Canada with mixed emotions, however. Canada remains a part of the British Commonwealth and recognizes the British monarch as its own. But Britain led much of the colonization of North America that devastated many Indigenous nations.

Treaties signed by the British Crown, however, formally recognized Indigenous sovereignty in Canada.

The decision to attend drew general praise from other Indigenous leaders.

“We have a Treaty with the Crown and an AFN presence is a reminder to the Crown that we still exist,” Pimicikamak Cree Nation Chief David Monias said in a written statement. “As long as our Treaties exist, our Sovereignty is recognized because only Nations sign true Treaties.”

Myeengun Henry, former chief of Chippewa of the Thames and current knowledge keeper at the University of Waterloo, told ICT that Indigenous leaders are cautiously optimistic about King Charles III.

“King Charles III has visited Canada a number of times and he's met with Indigenous people, and he is very well aware of what's expected of him,” Henry said.

“I don't know if there's an air of positivity yet. But I think people think the new king has different thoughts than his mother did,” Henry said. “And if we just lived up to those treaties that we signed with the Crown, there would be no poverty, everybody would be able to have clean water and we would be able to live in this world a lot better.”

Neskonlith Indian Band Kúkpi7 Judy Wilson said she is hopeful about a path forward.

“As Canada observes a National Day of Mourning on Sept. 19, I will be wearing orange to recognize the end of a colonial reign in Canada and the dawn of a new era based on Truth and Reconciliation,” Wilson said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the dialogue King Charles and National Chief Archibald began on Truth and Reconciliation — including a request for an apology for the role of the Anglican Church in the devastation wrought upon our communities by the inhumanity of residential schools — will not only continue but lead to greater respect and understanding.”

Archibald said the attendance at the state funeral further supports a call to action issued by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for a royal proclamation and covenant of reconciliation issued by the British Crown.

“As part of the Healing Path Forward, AFN’s next step in Crown relations is attending the funeral of the late Queen, honouring the accession of the new King, and fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action … all the while holding space for grief, respect, diplomacy, accountability, and truth,” Archibald said.

The state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II was set to begin at Westminster Abbey in London on Monday, Sept. 19.

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