Terrance Nelson is known for his shoot-straight-from-the-hip style, and he certainly doesn’t mince his words. The former chief of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has thrown his hat in the ring in the race for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Nelson ran for National Chief in the last election. His platform for 2012 is similar to his campaign in 2009. He has a strong focus on economics, which he says means taking control of resources along with dealing directly with Americans for business ventures.
“As a person that has studied economics, I’m well aware of how powerful our people are. We don’t have to be the 72nd level in the United Nations living index. Poverty in our communities can be done away with if the First Nations take action,” said Nelson.
As far as the AFN as an organization is concerned, Nelson proposes, “replacing the lawyers at AFN with economists and proving to the First Nations that they are the owners of the land and owners of the resources. The AFN is not a treaty organization, only the First Nations are the land owners that have entered treaties and agreements with the Crown, are the real property owners and have the power to change the system.”
Nelson doesn’t think the AFN has been steered by strong hands in the last few years. “I’m not in any way against (present National Chief) Shawn Atleo. I believe he’s a very good person, he’s proven that over the last three years. But I really do feel that Shawn is not able to handle the situation as far as the cuts that have come back onto the First Nations across the country.”
First Nations have been decrying the cutbacks to health and social welfare. Another point of contention is Bill C-38. The piece of federal legislation is an omnibus budget bill which impacts First Nations as it changes the environmental review process and pipeline approvals.
“We are the Indigenous people of these lands. We own all 3.83 million square miles of Canada. We own all the 60 different metals and minerals mined in Canada. We are the richest people in the world but we have been robbed of our wealth. We are occupied Nations living under the Canadian Indian Act. We cannot afford to wait for the immigrant governments to resolve our situation. Our people suffer. We must take action, but it must be constructive action.”
Nelson has already begun those actions. People may remember Nelson was under fire earlier this year when a meeting he held with the Iranian ambassador made headlines. Nelson was looking for a deal with Iran to garner support in his quest for better oil, gas and mining revenues for First Nations in Canada. As part of that deal, he also wanted to provide Iran with food grown on First Nations land. That meeting didn’t go over well with federal government officials since Iran is blanketed under numerous international sanctions, including Canada. That wasn’t the first time Nelson has sought deals with other countries. In 1998, he visited Iraq.
Nelson also doesn’t believe in the Indian Act.
“In order to break the Indian Act, the system that has been in place since 1876, First Nations not only have to ignore immigrant legislation, they have to seek international foreign investments.”
Such investments, he proposes, would go into First Nations to develop natural resources.
In the area of education, Nelson is not a fan of the proposed First Nations education legislation put forth by the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations.
“I think it’s crock,” he said. “As long as First Nations continue being dependant on the government of Canada we will continue to have no funding. We should be paying for our education ourselves.”
In a blog article written by Nelson last year, he stated, “If Indigenous people got 10 per cent of the wealth generated from their historical lands, they could pay for their own housing, their own schools, their own health centers and they could look after themselves without the immigrant governments telling them how to live.”
Nelson said education funding must come from what First Nations already have.
Concluded Nelson in the 2011 blog, “Unless we all try to understand the underlying reasons why Indigenous people in this country are in the situation they are in, we are headed to a drastic confrontation, one where it is not so clear who will win. Housing on reserve is only a symptom, it is not the problem. The problem is undeclared economic sanctions and if Indigenous people want a solution, they are going to have to think outside the box.”