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Message-Id: <199504280024.TAA05563@info.tamu.edu>
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 1995 20:29:27 -0700
Reply-To: native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us Sender: NATIVE-L Aboriginal Peoples: news & information <NATIVE-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>
From: native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us
Subject: nanews03.017 (part A)
To: Multiple recipients of list NATIVE-L <NATIVE-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>

Original Sender: gars@netcom.com (Gary Night Owl)
Mailing List: NATIVE-L (native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us)

Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995 16:42:27 -0300
From: Larry Innes <es051322@ORION.YORKU.CA>

Mailing List: Innu people forum list <INNU-L@odie.ccs.yorku.ca>

Davis Inlet chief jailed: Urgent support needed

From Chief Katie Rich and Larry Innes, 21 April 1995

Once again, Innu people have been jailed for standing up for their rights. Katie Rich and Nympha Byrne from Utshimassit (Davis Inlet) are now in custody at the Stephenville Women's Correctional Centre. They are charged with contempt of court for evicting a provincial court judge from their community in December, 1993. The two women leave 4 and 6 children behind. The women could be in jail for the next 3 weeks.

When we try to stand up for ourselves, we are branded as criminals and put in jail, said Katie Rich, yesterday, in the Newfoundland Supreme Court in Goose Bay. My people have been crying for a long time. No one has listened. We keep saying the same thing over and over. I didn't think if I wrote a letter about the conditions and conduct of the court circuit, that anyone would have listened. We took this action because we felt we had to do something.

The action did help to force the government to sit down and talk about justice issues. An interim policing agreement has been signed, but the courts issue remains outstanding, and governments have suspended all negotiations on land rights and relocation until the court returns to Utshimassit. This is a political issue. The Innu should be negotiating Nation-to-Nation between governments, not being held in jail like criminals.

The women have refused to sign undertakings for their release on principle. I don't understand you people, your system, your government policies, said Nympha Byrne. My people have been pushed around too much. It's like we are the puppets of the government. Everything has to be on paper. They have to have a name and a signature. In our culture, we don't need signatures. I did what I did because I wanted to be there for my people.

It is very difficult what these women are doing, said Elizabeth Penashue, who spent time in jail in 1989 for her role in the protests against NATO's military flight training over our homeland. The women are making personal sacrifices, leaving children and husbands, to help their people. They are sacrificing now for the future, because if changes don't happen, the future of our children does not look very good.

Please send letters requesting governments: 1) to withdraw their charges against the women, and 2) to resume immediate negotiations on an Innu justice system, relocation of Utshimassit and land rights:

Premier Clyde Wells
PO Box 8700
Confederation Building
St. John's, NF
A1B 4J6=20
tel: (709) 729-3571
fax: (709) 729-5875

Ron Irwin
Minister of Indian & Northern Affairs
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6=20
tel:(613) 992-6418
fax: (613) 953-4941

Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Government of Canada
Ottawa, ON
K1A OA6=20
tel: (613) 992-4211
fax: (613) 957-5556

Send letters of support to Katie and Nympha at:

c/o Bay St. George Status of Women
P.O. Box 501, 54 St. Claire Ave.
Stephenville, NF A2N 3B4
fax: (709) 643-4495

Please pass this message on.


The whole thing started in 1992 when two of our young people took the initiative to travel to the First Nations Tribal Police Institute in British Columbia to train as peacekeepers. The community was being policed by RCMP, and we approached the provincial government for recognition of our peacekeepers and six weeks of on-the-job training. The province refused and threatened to charge our peacekeepers with impersonating a police officer. But the two peacekeepers, under the direction of the Band Council, started their duties anyway, and three more went out for training. The government's refusal to cooperate led us to really question the jurisdiction of both governments on our lives since Innu people have never signed any agreements or treaties.

On December 16, 1993 we took another important step in asserting control over the justice system. We evicted the judge and his court from the community. We were saying the whole justice system does not work for the Innu and does not meet our needs to heal. We should be the ones who should judge our own people. We should be able to have our own law enforcement and have our own laws. We want to deal with the root causes of these problems through healing circles and treatment programs. Punishing people is not the answer. A couple of days later, Chief Judge Luther issued a statement saying those involved would have to pay. Two weeks later, charges were laid against Peacekeeper Justine Noah, Chief Katie Rich and Nympha Byrne.

In the summer of 1994, Newfoundland Justice Minister Ed Roberts attempted to bring the court back to the community. On two occasions, he ordered RCMP in full riot gear to escort Chief Judge Donald Luther into the community to hold court. He also received permission from the federal Minister of National Defense to access helicopters so that 100 RCMP and military could enter the community. He got the Federal Department of Transport to close the airstrip, and stop all air traffic from coming within seven miles from the community. We held strategy sessions in the community. We decided no planes would land in the community at all including military planes, so we barricaded the airstrip with oil drums, lumber and trucks. The whole community participated, giving ideas, making placards with our messages to the outside world. Both Canadian and Newfoundland flags were hung upside down. We considered the actions of the governments a military invasion. The youth vandalized the RCMP patrol cabin in anger saying So what? We are going to die tomorrow anyway.

Seeing the resistance of the Innu, the Minister abandoned his plans for an invasion. He had other plans. He travelled to Ottawa and convinced the federal government to suspend all talks with the Innu. Negotiations on land claims, relocation and the devolution of social programs as of today are still suspended in both Utshimassit and Sheshatshit. Before these negotiations can resume, governments are saying we will have to allow the court back into the community. We want the court back in our community, but we want it to help us in our healing, not stand in our way.

We feel our basic human rights have been violated from day one, and this is how we have come to this place of despair where our children want to die. As we become stronger to make Utshimassit (Davis Inlet) a better place to live for our children, we are making our voices heard across Canada and around the world. Each day, we see more of our people healing. We are making choices and decisions. We are seeking out elders to help us. We will be a Nation that our children will be proud of.

Chief Katie Rich
Larry Innes
Environmental Advisor

es051322@orion.yorku.ca (direct to me)
innu@web.apc.org (general to Innu Nation)