January 24, 2013

Spence ends hunger strike

Chief Theresa Spence Ends Fast With 13-Point Declaration of Commitment to First NationsBefore agreeing to end her six-week-long liquids-only fast, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence and her supporters crafted a Declaration of Commitment consisting of 13 points centering around adhering to treaty relationships, approaching negotiations from a nation-to-nation perspective and taking measures to improve the lives of First Nations people.

Spence is scheduled to stop fasting and return to eating solid food on January 24, the day that chiefs conduct a major treaty meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, at which Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, on medical leave since last week, will make an appearance. He is scheduled to resume his duties later this week, according to reports.

The declaration was the culmination of more than a week of negotiations spearheaded by Native leader Alvin Fiddler and interim Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae, according to The Globe and Mail. In addition to the 13 points, the agreement calls for follow-through from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the commitments that were made at the January 11 meeting between him and 20 First Nations chiefs.

Among the 13 points is a call for a national inquiry into the hundreds of disappearances and murders of aboriginal women that go unsolved, improving education and housing, and fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration of Commitment is endorsed by the AFN National Executive Committee, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada Parliamentary Caucus and the New Democratic Party National Caucus. It will officially be signed by the parties on January 24 by First Nations leaders and representatives of the opposition parties “to carry on her fight,” as The Globe and Mail put it.
Apparently everything wasn't hunky-dory between the attention-getting chief and her tribe:

Theresa Spence agrees to end hunger protest amid reports of ultimatum threat from Attawapiskat band

By Kathryn Blaze CarlsonTheresa Spence is set to end her six-week hunger protest Thursday morning, a spokesman for the Attawapiskat chief has confirmed.

Both she and Elder Raymond Robinson, who has been engaged in a similar protest, have agreed to stop, spokesman Danny Metatawabin said in a statement.

It is believed negotiators are now working with her on a ceremony which would bring to an end her diet of fish broth and tea, say sources close to the talks.

A band council delegation from the beleaguered Attawapiskat community was reportedly slated to fly into Ottawa on Wednesday to hand-deliver an ultimatum to Ms. Spence, threatening to oust her from office unless she ends her liquid-diet protest.

Negotiations to end the fast—which began more than 40 days ago when she left her northern Ontario community to set up camp on Victoria Island—had already ramped up earlier this week, but the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reported that Ms. Spence now faces pressure from within her own council.

“They are coming in tonight,” a source close to Ms. Spence told APTN. “Then it will end.”

Out of the frying pan...

As Spence's hunger strike ended, there was a bit of worry:

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence Hospitalized in Ottawa

By Levi RickertAttawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who spent the past 44 days on a hunger strike, was taken to a local hospital in Ottawa, Canada late last night. This was confirmed this morning to the Native News Network by Jamie Monastyrski, who is serving the media spokesperson for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

The Naisnawbe Aski Nation is coordinating today's events in Ottawa that are intended to honor Chief Spence and elder Raymond Robinson, who have been on hunger strikes to bring attention to the deplorable living conditions of First Nations peoples and other indigenous peoples who live in Canada.

Chief Spence was not feeling well and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure according to Monastyrski.

Earlier in the day, it was announced Chief Spence and Robinson would end their hunger strikes after reviewing a "Declaration of Commitment" that was crafted with 13 points that will keep the concerns of First Nations peoples and other Canadian indigenous peoples a high priority with the Canadian Parliament.
With hunger strike over, Chief Spence's polarizing legacy

By Gloria GallowayTheresa Spence arrived in the ballroom of the Delta Hotel to a heroine’s welcome.

The Attawapiskat chief was released on Thursday afternoon from a hospital where she had spent a day and a half under medical supervision for dehydration and the deleterious effects that 42 days of living on fish broth and herbal teas can have on the human body.

First nations leaders – mostly from Northern Ontario and Manitoba – were in the middle of a celebration staged in her honour, one that involved signing a declaration of commitment to press the federal government for fundamental changes in the way it deals with native people. The sparse crowd greeted Ms. Spence as if she were a rock star – or a saint. At least one chief has referred to her “our Mother Theresa.”

Ms. Spence’s decision in early December to embark on a hunger strike has made her a beloved figure for many first nations people. And, although her fast was separate from the protests of the Idle No More movement, she has become an icon for those who are dancing in malls and rallying in the streets to draw attention to native issues.
Comment:  For more on Idle No More, see Racist Comments in Canadian Newspapers and Young People Lead Idle No More.

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