Conference of First Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Statement by Max Gros-Louis (15-16 March 1983)
By: Max Gros-Louis
Citation: Conference of First Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Statement by Max Gros-Louis, Grand Chief of the Hurons, Doc 800-017/045 (Ottawa: 15-16 March 1983).
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CONFERENCE OF FIRST MINISTERS
ON ABORIGINAL CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS
STATEMENT BY MAX GROS-LOUIS
GRAND CHIEF OF THE HURONS
March 15-16, 1983
As I said, our common past is lamentable.
It is curious to note that the immigrants fled from tyranny
and oppression and then installed then even more firmly in this country,
which we have occupied for thousands of years.
First of all, tyranny of thought. Look at your history books,
your films or your television programs: they portray the first nations
as savages, good-for-nothing savages. We were not allowed to have our
own schools, and in your schools, we were forbidden to speak the languages
of our fathers.
Then, you decided that we were not Canadians. The first
inhabitants became minors, even deprived of the right to vote until
1960. Yet Indians were good for the slaughter. If you go, for example,
to France, you will see that from 1914 to 1918, and again from 1939 to
1945, the cemeteries were filled with native soldiers, the same ones
who were unable to choose the politicians who sent them to their death.
This was a crime, this was a mistake, wasn’t it?
Finally, whether we signed solemn treaties or not, you
occupied our land to satisfy your commercial interests.
All this is a sad state of affairs.
I am not alone in this. Look around you, and you will note
the absence of many of the first nations. These brothers no longer trust
SO that we can speak the same language as we look toward the
future, I would like to ask you a few generak questions:
First, is an Indian as good as an immigrant – yes or no?
Second, do you wish to continue your centuries-old policy of suppression
of our rights?
Third, do you truly wish for us to speak to each other as equals?
Even unspoken, your answers to these questions will be of
major importance. I will tell you why. Canadians are rightly
shocked by the massacres of native peoples in Guatemala and elsewhere.
The goal of such hate policies is the rapid extermination of the first
inhabitants. But up to now, you have been promising us a slow death.
Where does the basic difference lie?
Keep in mind that this is only a small beginning. I remnind
you of the problem of the glass of wine: you would say that it is half
full, but I would say that it is half empty if we adopt these proposals.
We still have a long way to go.
We have reached a turning point: either the right to be
different prevails, or progress comes at a snail’s pace, and the
differences will eventually have to be recognized. We will remain
Indian no matter what happens.
The immigrants talk of the Third World. Your governments
boast about aid programs for developing countries in Africa or elsewhere.
But look around you: the Fourth World exists, and it is represented at
this table. A proud Fourth World destined to flourish, in spite of and
notwithstanding your often dull, deliberately incomprehensible legal
arguments. This development will take place with or without you.
So let us put words into action.