For me, it is simple. Aboriginal rights, human rights and birthrights should all be the
same thing. But for the Native person, they are not.
I, like my ancestors before me, was born an aboriginal with a deep and loving
connection to our sacred Earth Mother. That connection goes back to the beginning of our
existence and it brings with it a sense of responsibility and respect for the Earth
Mother. Our people were expected to take care of our sacred Earth Mother; that was a
responsibility given to us from time immemorial. In turn, our sacred Earth Mother would
sustain us. It was a simple, mutually respectful relationship. That was our birthright,
our human right, our aboriginal right.
It was also our birth/human/aboriginal right to use our own language, determine our own
destiny, conduct our own ceremonies, follow our own spiritual ways, maintain our
sovereignty, raise and educate our own children, build our own institutions, and care for
our own land, which was originally called Turtle Island. These basic rights ensured peace
and equity in our communities. People did not go without. Only what was needed -- wood,
food, fish, deer, moose, etc. -- was used, and always, there was thought of the
generations yet to come. Our heritage was built on sharing and respect. Conservation was
natural. There were no toxins dumped into our rivers. We did not deplete fish, game or
anything, for that matter. And we did not destroy our forests. Creator made us the
Custodians of the land and our ancestors took our responsibility seriously. Greed was not
a part of our birthright.
Things have changed. After the European invasion of our land, a Eurocentric government
determined what our rights would be. Even today, the non-Native, updated versions of human
rights have been thrust on us. Canadian government legislation and policies have decided
what is in our best interest, even though they have never lived in our skin or felt the
connection that has been handed down by our ancestors. It's like trying to make a carrot
behave like a cucumber: they are both vegetables, but one has grown in the earth, while
the other has grown on top. There are differences.
I, like many of my generation, cannot speak my Maliseet language, thanks to Canadian
legislation. Many Native people lost their children to residential schools, their
independence, their means of livelihood, and their land. There is no equity or peace which
was my birthright. Even the right to practice spiritual beliefs and customs was outlawed.
All of these things took place as a direct result of Canadian government legislation.
Taking away our birth/human/aboriginal rights was wrong. It is genocidal and goes
against the laws of Creator, and it has caused terrible damage in the hearts and minds of
aboriginal peoples everywhere. But, regardless of all that has happened, or should I say
because of what has happened over the past 500 years, we as human beings must continue to
act responsibly toward our sacred Earth Mother. We, as aboriginal people, must remember,
live-by and preserve those original instructions, those traditional teachings, to love,
honour, respect and protect our sacred Earth Mother. That is our only hope of surviving
the holocaust that is taking place against our Earth Mother, against our people and all
natural living human beings.
Sadly, the holocaust that is taking place in our forests is being perpetrated by some
of our Native people, and for the same rationale that was used by our oppressors: greed.
This greed is being disguised by "wannabe white" Natives as economic necessity.
Some cry, "I only want to feed and clothe my family," but they are really
talking and acting like businessmen who see a way to accumulate wealth. They speak of
profits and growing into large companies. Unfortunately, the concept of sharing doesn't
enter into it for many. In most cases the notion of conservation for the generations yet
unborn is never considered, and our sacred Earth Mother is not respected. That is nothing
more than personal greed.
As aboriginal people, as human beings, and as the designated protectors of the land, we
have a responsibility to all living things, all of creation: the two-legged, the
four-legged, those creatures that fly, all creatures that swim, all plant life, the trees,
the water, the air, the land -- every living thing. It is our responsibility to love,
honour, respect and protect all creation. In doing this we honour our birthrights, our
human rights, our aboriginal rights, and the Ancestors who kept our traditional teachings
alive. We honour the Seventh Generation, yet to come. That is the root of out
Aboriginal/human/birth rights. These are the rights we need to understand and defend.
These are the rights we must be allowed.
I conclude this article by recognizing, acknowledging and respecting my relationship to
all other living things, past, present and future. Our sacred Earth Mother requires our
respect if she is to continue to sustain us. ALL MY RELATIONS.