First Nations infighting exaggerated: Grand Chief Nepinak

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs talks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, January 18, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS/Patrick Doyle


WINNIPEG -- The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) says reports of political in-fighting with the national Assembly of First Nations (AFN) were greatly exaggerated, but a new treaty relations alliance may still be considered.

AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo serves as a gatekeeper to help treaty chiefs negotiate with the federal government but shouldn't be the sole voice on treaty issues.

"There is unity in the fact that the AFN recognizes it cannot speak for treaties," Nepinak said.

Nepinak admitted a special chiefs assembly meeting in Winnipeg this week discussed "hurt feelings" after Atleo's unpopular decision to attend a Jan. 11 meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that didn't meet a demand to include Gov.-Gen. David Johnston.

Nepinak said the federal government's tendency to speak with Atleo alone behind closed doors was the real issue.

"There are certainly misunderstandings, certainly hurt feelings resulting from the Jan. 11 meeting," Nepinak said.

Creating a new organization is now being considered.

"There had been discussion (Wednesday) that perhaps a new treaty nations alliance may warrant some consideration," Nepinak said.

Meanwhile, Nepinak said Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and supporters have been a unifying force throughout her six-week fast.

"They've clearly awakened a warrior spirit across the country," Nepinak said.

Spence went on a liquid diet before signing a 13-point treaty rights declaration Thursday.

Nepinak said he expects weeks of nationwide Idle No More protests to continue despite this national progress.

"I would strongly encourage that they need to maintain the growth of that movement," he said.

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