“Power is not given, it is taken; opportunities are not given, they are taken.”
Following a prayer by Elder Lawrence Saddleback, Elijah Harper and Co-chair Gerald Morin of the Métis National Council introduced the morning session. This was followed by an address from Ethel Blondin-Andrew, federal Secretary of State, Youth and Training.
Appealing to “those whose wounds go deep,” she told listeners that when her wounds start to show, she goes back to her people, who “fill that lonely space.” “The only power that Aboriginal peoples will ever have is the power they give each other,” she said.
Commenting on the “very distinct” culture of Aboriginal peoples, she expressed sadness because “though we can do great things… the wounds are overwhelming.” A wounded bird can’t fly or protect itself, she said. This pain is “like a spear that goes through the hearts of our ancestors” and keeps on going through the generations.
It’s almost like it’s invisible to others, but “we know and feel it.” It is a wounding of the psyche of the nation. “Today is an opportunity for people to rise up and stop that traveling lance, that spear of pain.”
Power, opportunities and answers are not given—they are taken, she emphasized. “I really believe part of reconciliation is owning yourself.”
Despite all the problems, there are 53 Aboriginal languages. She speaks Dene, she said, “because I’m a survivor like you.” And another 125 years isn’t going to change that revolutionary spirit, “that flame inside us.”
Blondin-Andrew stressed the importance of youth issues, justice and education. Citing Mother Teresa’s definition of loneliness as the biggest problem in the world, she said a child who is not nurtured is like a bird with a broken wing—it can’t protect itself.
“I’m here to tell you I understand,” she said. She praised the leaders at the national and community levels, urging them to “bring it together, bring it home and give it to our young people. Let’s not have a leadership that’s divided.”
As he thanked Blondin-Andrew, Elijah Harper said, “We have the spiritual authority in this country to lead—not just our own Aboriginal nations but also the rest of Canada. Within our home, we have the authority to speak.”