WINNIPEG — The first aboriginal community to get self-government in Manitoba made a rare public display yesterday — with a protest on the steps of the provincial legislature.
Six women elders from Sioux Valley drove nearly 300 kilometres to stand silently at the legislature.
They held placards with a list of grievances and social problems in the community and spoke quietly and articulately about their concerns.
They introduced themselves as part of the local government at the community, one they insisted is ignored by the local chief.
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in western Manitoba became the first First Nation in Manitoba to be granted self-government powers in federal legislation earlier this year.
The Selinger government introduced a bill to recognize self-government rights at Sioux Valley in March; once passed, the twin federal and provincial laws will mark a new era of independence for the western Manitoba community of about 2,500.
But the protest showed there are growing pains in Sioux Valley.
The group, who said they are known as the Kunshis or Grandmothers, have concerns about community’s financial management, a lack of freedom of speech in the community, poor housing and chronic suicides.
“We’re in a crisis situation,” said Joyce Wasicuna. “We want the public to know and we want the politicians to know that things are not right. Everything is not all rosy at Sioux Valley,” she said.
In July, the community expects to launch its self-government officially with the arrival of funding of $80 million from the federal government. The women worry the community will blow the windfall.
Chief Vincent Tacan, reached later Tuesday, said he was aware of the protest and the women’s concerns. However, he said the community is well positioned to take on self-government.
» Winnipeg Free Press