Anishinabek Nation stands with the Orange Shirt Society

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (February 11, 2022) – Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe responds to recent calls to action from the “Freedom Convoy” currently occupying Ottawa which sits on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Nations.

“The Anishinabek Nation continues to condemn the appropriation and co-opting of Indigenous grassroots organizations and we do not support today’s call for action, suggesting that Orange Shirt Day is being observed on February 11, under the guise of the Orange Shirt Society organized by supporters of the ‘Freedom Convoy’.

The Anishinabek Nation recognizes and honours Orange Shirt Day on September 30, started by Phyllis Webstad and her personal Indian Residential School story. Orange Shirt Day was initiated to draw awareness to injustices perpetrated against Indigenous children. I echo Phyllis Webstad’s statement, ‘… Orange Shirt Society does not endorse the recent announcement of Orange Shirt Day occurring on February 11 by protest organizers.’ To associate this noble cause with hatred is deplorable and insulting to the spirit of its intent. Many of our children were killed by communicable diseases that could have been prevented if they were afforded the proper public health measures such as masks and distancing under the protection and care of their own families.

In an attempt to gain more support, organizers of this movement continue to deceive Indigenous citizens into joining their efforts by falsely attributing causes, which our Nations have been impacted by for many years. Attempts have been made to entice our peoples to join through calls for our “warriors” and “braves”.  Ceremonies are being held with improper protocol, and now, the exploitation of the Indian Residential School Survivors and children in the unmarked graves and being used as a tool of malignment. These requests are made by individuals who have openly endorsed and repeated racist behaviours towards Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, these attempts to exploit our sovereignty under the perception of shared oppression are false and unacceptable. They are merely experiencing a loss of privilege, not a loss of rights, unlike their Indigenous counterparts inherently oppressed by the Indian Act.

In their latest attempt, they have requested youth to participate in an “Ontario school-wide walkout”. This walkout is allegedly in opposition to all mandates— mandates that have undoubtedly saved lives in our First Nations.

Anishinaabe legal traditions value communal responsibility and reciprocity over individual freedoms. Many stories of illnesses that previously affected our communities have been shared during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of our methods of treating it was to move to separate winter camps so that families would not infect one another. To protect our Nations and kin, we made sacrifices. The Anishinaabek have a long history of critical thought, and we encourage our people to look at the underlying messages of this group and understand that it only mentions Indigenous concerns when it is beneficial for their rhetoric.”

To make a real difference in the lives of Indigenous children, please consider participating in Have Heart Day 2022 on February 14 and donating to First Nations Caring Society to support equity for First Nations children and young people and reconciliation-based activities for all children in Canada. People can also donate directly to the Orange Shirt Society.