The testimony of Raymond Robinson

Raymond Robinson is an elder from Manitoba who joined Theresa Spence on a hunger strike in December. He spoke second at today’s news conference, after Theresa Spence’s spokesman, Danny Metatawabin. Here is a transcript of his statement (save for a few words that my tape didn’t pick up clearly).

As Danny was alluding to, today is the final day for my journey that I took upon myself over 30 days ago. It is with mixed emotions, with a lot of stress, joy, tribulation that I make this statement today that my journey on my hunger strike ends as of today, as we speak today.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride, for my sake, for my family’s sake, for my wife, my children, my grandchildren, for my community. The journey that I took upon myself to try to get some kind of word out to the general population, with respect to the way our people, my people have been treated over the course of these generations.

It’s amazing that, in this day and age, that our people are still not being respected as people in our own land. The non-aboriginal nation have been very complacent in our own territory and insisting that they have total control of every aspect of our lives, our lands, our resources, our waters. Little do they know we welcomed them with open arms when they first foisted their boats and set sail to this land. We nurtured you guys, we gave you our medicine. You guys would have died without our medicine. Without us teaching you how to live and survive in this country. We forged a relationship with you guys, hoping that you would be our partners, in everything, 50/50. We smoked the pipe to symbolize the relationship we wanted to forge with you, government to government, nation to nation, one sovereign nation to another sovereign nation, one country to another country, 50/50. That’s all we ever wanted from the start, 50/50. Nothing more, nothing less.

But through time, the non-aboriginal society, the government, thought that they could take everything from us. I’m an Indian residential school survivor myself. I went to three residential schools. The government of Canada tried to take my identity away from me, my life, my language, my being a First Nations person, to try to assimilate me to a foreign culture that I don’t know about. These are the things that I … in this journey that I took for 43 days, as part of that journey, to tell the world, to tell Canada that enough is enough. Can’t you just leave us alone? Can’t we just be ordinary people in this land? Can we have the same opportunities that you guys live on a daily basis? Can we learn to get along? Can I be received as a human being in my own land? Can I be acknowledged as a contributing society member of this land? Can I have the same opportunities that you guys enjoy, instead of trying to shove me in a corner, or bury me alive, with these genocidal bills that have been created by the government?

Bill C-38 gives … powers to the ministers to do as they wish. In our territory, the royal proclamation of 1763, states that there’s lands reserved for the Indians, that’s supposed to remain undisturbed, unmolested. But look at what these bills are doing to our lands … Bill C-45 takes control of all our lands, our resources, our waters. Bill 428 [wants to revise the Indian Act], where’s the duty and the obligations that lie within that act. Instead of progressing, we’re regressing.

I think it’s about time that the Canadian government and the general society of this land learn that we are part of this society. We’re not going anywhere and we’re never going to go anywhere. We just need our equal opportunities. We want our place in this soil. Is there something wrong with my colour that you don’t like? Is my heart, the blood flowing in my veins, different than yours? What is it? What can I do to tell you that I’m as human as you are? When I look at you, I don’t see no colour, no barriers, no prejudices. That’s the way I lived all my life. I see the beauty in everyone of you guys here, without distinction based on race. You will never see me act that way. But you seem to be doing the opposite. Trying to bury me alive. Bury my wife, my children, my grandchildren, alive. And you’ve taken full control of our daily activities, our way of life, even taken our property rights away. This is the message that I’ve been trying to carry these last 43 days. Sacrificing myself, my health, at the expense of my wife, my children, my grandchildren, to try to help you guys … the Canadian population too. This is your fight too. These acts, these bills will kill us all if they’re forced ahead. We’re supposed to have a freedom of democracy in this land, now where are they? The government takes them away. So fight with us. Make sure these bills do not go anywhere. Thank you very much and that’s what I have to say.

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