Camille: ‘Native elders have a voice’
A tired but still determined Evelyn Camille had her first meal in several days as she ended her fast in her sweat lodge in support of the First Nations Idle No More Movement.
“Pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns, sausages, fruit cocktail I made myself — it was good,” the 73-year-old member of the Tk’emlups Indian Band (TIB) said.
Camille entered the lodge on her West Shuswap Road property on Wednesday, Jan. 2, vowing to not take in any food or drink for four days in support of a hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa.
Spence began her protest on Dec. 11 on an island within view of the Parliament Buildings, demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss issues affecting First Nations throughout Canada.
Camille, after talking with her spiritual advisor, decided to replicate the protest to support Spence’s cause.
The elder said she did not have any food or drink for four days but, due to the concerns of her family, had some broth her daughter-in-law made on Sunday, Dec. 6.
In ending her fast, Camille said the most difficult time was Friday, when she became thirsty — “but you just get past it.”
During her fast, a representative of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod gave her a copy of Bill C-45, federal legislation on which Spence has focused her protest.
Camille’s actions are focused on the legislation because it implements changes to how land is managed on reserves and to the Navigable Waters Act, removing federal protection for thousands of small lakes and streams in the country.
Camille said she’s making her way through the several-hundred-page document, but her priority remains to work toward encouraging First Nations chiefs “to listen to their elders. We have a voice.”
She said she was joined by several chiefs of the 17 bands that make up the Secwepmc Nation and told them that fact as she explained why she took on the fast.
As for her own chief, Shane Gottfriedson, Camille said he listens to his elders “most of the time, but he speaks more with his mouth than with his heart.
“But, he is trying to learn.”
There are two people in particular Camille mentioned, calling them friends and wondering why they had not contacted her during her protest.
“I haven’t heard from [Kevin] Krueger and [Terry] Lake,” she said of the two Kamloops Liberal MLAs. “I though we were friends. Where are you, my buddies? Not even a phone call?
“I know this seems like a federal issue, but it’s still going to affect the province, so I’d like to really hear from Lake about how he fells about protecting the environment.”
As for news reports focusing on audit issues at the Attawapiskat First Nation, including lack of documentation on how the millions of dollars the band has received from the federal government were spent, Camille was suspicious about the timing of the leak of the unreleased federal audit.
She said it takes away from the greater issue First Nations face.