ARTICLES BY Irkar Beljaars

Diamond mine fails to improve conditions in Attawapiskat

Few stories illustrate the widening chasm between rich and poor as clearly as the story of Attawapiskat. The chasm is captured in Vicki Lean’s inspiring documentary, After the Last River. When the world’s largest diamond company, De Beers, opened a mine 90 km upstream from the First Nation community in northern ... read more ››

McGill University’s annual powwow shares traditions

Photo by Al Harrington The 14th annual McGill Powwow took place on the university’s lower field September 18 with a full day of traditional dancing and drumming. The event has always been a great way for McGill students to browse artisan vendors, learn about student groups, and connect with Indigenous organizations. ... read more ››

QPIRG’s Culture Shock discussion highlights Aboriginal incarceration

A panel discussion on Aboriginal incarceration was one of the many events that took place at this year’s Culture Shock, an annual event which looks to dispel the stereotypes surrounding immigrants, refugees, Indigenous peoples and communities of colour. Hosted by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG), the event seeks ... read more ››

New blood

  Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq from the Eel River Barr First Nation in northern New Brunswick, has thrown her hat into the ring to take on Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), who will face the first challenge to his leadership on July 18. Palmater, ... read more ››

Defending the children

The Federal Court ruling on April 18 was the first victory in a year-long battle to acknowledge the discrimination of First Nations children in the welfare system. Though the fight is far from over, Cindy Blackstock is showing no signs of quitting. Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nation Child ... read more ››

Wakiponi still Mobile Innovative media group survives federal funding cuts with a mandate for social change

  Ashoka Canada’s Changemakers Initiative has announced two early winners in its competition Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning. The early prizes, each worth $500, go to Québec’s Wapikoni Mobile, a travelling video and music workshop, and Ontario’s Aboriginal Student Links, a mentoring program for students of all ... read more ››

A working Inspiration

  Maureen Awasish fell in love with heavy-duty equipment when she was a young girl going to work with her dad at the local mine. Few people expected a woman to be doing that type of work, but that is what Awashish has always wanted to do. After taking a 900-hour ... read more ››

Better late than never?

The RCMP says it will develop closer working relationships with First Nations groups in a joint effort to solve cold case files on the epidemic of missing and murdered native women in Canada.   The RCMP will establish a working database of missing persons and unidentified remains in partnership with the Sisters ... read more ››

Changing attitudes

  The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM), in partnership with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, presented their Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (AAAW) event in Montreal on December 2.   Hosted by Harvey Michel, the event brought First Nations together to help support change in Aboriginal communities in regards to AIDS. Unfortunately, AIDS ... read more ››

Native sons

  Family and community -– that’s what the Cree band CerAmony is all about, and it has become their mantra in their personal and professional lives. Matthew A. Iserhoff and Pakesso Mukash took different roads to get where they are today. Iserhoff picked up music at a very early age (three years ... read more ››

Native images

  The 12th annual ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival took place in Toronto October 19-23 with great fanfare. The event, which promotes the latest Indigenous films, videos, radio and new media, began in 1998 and has become one of the most important Indigenous festivals in the world. It has provided ... read more ››

Jobs or the environment

In what is sure to be a contentious issue for months to come, opponents of the Keystone Pipeline project are gearing up for a fight. From the protests on Parliament Hill on September 26 to the ones in front of the White House where several prominent actors, chiefs and environmentalists ... read more ››

Walking for justice

On September 19, I had the honour, along with Theresa Ducharme, to emcee the Walk4Justice rally on Parliament Hill. Walk4Justice participants arrived in Ottawa after walking nearly 5000 miles from Vancouver. They started their journey in June, traveling through different communities and meeting with supporters who added their stories to ... read more ››

Walking for clean water

Documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin once told me during an interview that access to clean water was a human right. That was the message that the Mother Earth Water Walk wants to draw awareness to – the continued polluting of our natural clean-water resources. Organizers of the walk ask, “What will you ... read more ››

Never forget

When Terrie Ann Dauphinais was murdered in Calgary on April 29, 2002, she didn’t just leave three children and grieving parents behind. She left many questions unanswered, like why has her death remained unsolved after nine years, and what is the government going to do about violence against Aboriginal women? Around ... read more ››

Gone but not forgotten

Robert James Weistche, former chief of Waskaganish, suffered a heart attack while cross-country skiing, and died on March 11; he was 55. Weistche was known as a “gentle radical”. Growing up, he was influenced by the American Indian Movement (AIM), an organization that stood up and fought for Native rights. ... read more ››

Community Check Up

Aboriginal health was the focus at McGill University’s first Aboriginal Health Career Day hosted by the First Peoples’ House of the Montreal university. Held February 2, the day had speakers and panelists from health research, dentistry, medicine and nursing. Audrey Claire Lawrence, the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Nurses Association, ... read more ››

Education before sports

Bishop’s College School is a culturally diverse, bilingual, independent boarding and day school for grades seven through 12. Located in Lennoxville, Quebec, the school is now home to Alex and Vincent MacDonald. Last year, Austin Downs, a youth conselor with the James Bay Eeyou School in Chisasibi, introduced several high school ... read more ››

Nursing the Community

The Cree students who are part of the English-language Nursing Program that is offered in Chibougamau started their internships in Montreal. The students were greeted by members of the Jewish General and St. Mary’s hospitals with a special event headlined by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Isheroff. The event took place Nov. ... read more ››

Mission accomplished

Westlake Hockey Development co-founder and director Carl Michaelson has been playing hockey all his life. Originally from Hudson, Quebec, Michaelson’s interest and love of the sport devotion has led him to the creation of a hockey development camp. This past summer, he traveled to Mistissini where he trained Cree youth. Now ... read more ››

Remembering Our Sisters

On October 4, 72 communities organized vigils and marches across Canada to remember the over 500 missing or murdered Native women in Canada. Though some groups estimate the number to be much higher, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has said that there are 521 confirmed cases of Native ... read more ››

Looking to the future

Val-d’Or – The Niskamoon Corporation held its annual golf tourney July 30 and celebrated the four graduates of its vocational program. After 18 holes of golf at a course located just outside of town, the grads were honoured with an evening gala. There they were commended for all their hard ... read more ››

Fifty – and proud

Members of the Cree community of Wemindji celebrated 50 years of existence and they did so in style. Bradley A. J. Georgekish, one of the main organizers, was impressed how the community came together to support the festival. It was an event that attracted over a 1000 people, some of ... read more ››

Health and well being on the ice

For five weeks this summer the youth of Mistissini will be treated to a regimen of hard work and healthy living as they take part in Westlake Hockey Development summer camp for six weeks. Co-founder and director Carl Michaelson, who hails from Hudson, Quebec, has been playing hockey since the age ... read more ››

No Free Thought Here

Alanis Obomsawin is Canada’s best known Aboriginal filmmaker. With her long list of over 30 documentarries, including Incident at Restigouche and Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, Obomsawin has spent the past three decades investigating the issues and problems faced by Natives in Canada. Though her latest, Professor Norman Cornett: Since When ... read more ››

Family Reunion

Cree communities across Eeyou Istchee came together to play the good old Canadian game of ice hockey in Val-d’Or December 13-14. Altogether there were 54 teams that competed to be top team in both men and women’s hockey and broomball. This was the 29th year for the CREE Senior Hockey ... read more ››