Donald Marshall on Marshall: "One bowl for all"

By DONALD MARSHALL*
SHUNPIKING, Atlantic Canada Today
February-March, 2001 / Volume 6, Number 38

Thank you Grand Council, AFN (Assembly of First Nations), Chiefs, fishers and friends.

During this past year and a half since the Decision I have seen a lot of change.

First I witnessed our nation coming together.

We were unified.

We had strength in that unity.

We had nationhood. It was a great time.

The Grand Council was stepping up to the mark getting ready to lead us.

Before we could really get our acts together, before we could negotiate amongst ourselves and build our own plans for the fishery, the unity was challenged.

That unity was broken by the usual tactics of the federal government and their failure to negotiate with us in good faith as a nation.

They did not want us to exercise our rights as a nation.

They did not know how to let go of their control over us.

So they offered individual communities deals, which divided us, instead of uniting us.

It is hard when you are very poor. It is hard when your children and elders are suffering. It is easy to forget that you are part of a nation.

Interim agreements are fine as long as everyone in the community benefits and not just a selected few.

There is lots of gossip and it is not good. It divides us more.

We need very transparent processes.

We need openness.

We need to share information.

We, the little people, the grassroots, need to be in the loop.

If we are to have community-based development, we need to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate.

In other words, we want to know what our choices are.

What money is out there, what is coming in and where is it going? It is up to our leaders to get that information to us and it is our duty to make our voices heard.

I also think interim agreements are good stop gap measures but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are a nation. A nation with rights.

As a nation we must decide together how to exercise those rights so that we can all benefit. We cannot let the government of Canada tell us what we do as a nation. Canada has not given us equal opportunity in jobs or in justice. So instead we have to create our own opportunities and our own justice for our people.

We have the capacity. We have the strength of our culture.

We have spent the last two days coming up with strategies. In my mind what is clear is we need to work together.

This is a very exciting time for us.

We should build our own fish processing plants. Our own marketing board. Our own trade unions.

We have the fishers. We have the resources. We have the imagination. We have the ability and we definitely have the courage.

I want to thank Chief Reg Maloney and the people of Indianbrook and Burnt Church and all peoples who have showed their courage and stood up for our rights! This really makes me feel honoured to be a part of this. This is a historic time. Let's keep the ball rolling. You march or you die.

Let's build the nation as our ancestors envisioned it -- on respect.

Our Mi'kmaq identity is based on values of respect, honesty and honour.

We have fished with these values for centuries.

We have not been defeated by anyone. It is a turning point in all of our lives.

We can now lead our next generations into prosperity, good health, and better futures as members of the Mi'kmaq nation and in friendship with all other First Nations.

We have shared much over the past year and a half. I am grateful for so many nations coming together here to teach and to learn from one another.

As the Nisga'a values teach us, "one bowl for all."

We have the bowl, let's learn how to fill it and share it.

* Battling the flu and a bad back, Donald Marshall of Membertou First Nation addressed a fund-raising dinner for Indian Brook First Nation (Shubenacadie) in Halifax recently, elaborating his vision for the fisheries -- a vision that all independent and inshore fishermen can empathize with.



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