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This article was published 14/9/2019 (332 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MANITOBA-SASKATCHEWAN BORDER — Members of the Souther Chiefs’ Organization joined a handful of supporters in bringing eastbound Trans-Canada Highway traffic to a stop on Friday evening.
The goal, Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said, was to raise awareness about various issues that affect Indigenous people.
"We want to educate a few people who are travelling on the highways today and hopefully raise a bit more awareness about the difficulties we have, developing solutions and creating economies in our communities," he said.
A group of approximately a dozen people gathered together at the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border to perform a round dance to four songs over the course of 30 minutes.
It was the sixth round dance held by the Southern Chiefs’ Organization in the province.
During the round dance, a member of the group greeted idling cars with information pamphlets breaking down the concerns they hoped to draw attention to.
Daniels said he wants people to pay more attention and understand the bureaucracy First Nations face in terms of helping their people.
"I hope they pay more attention — I think people believe that First Nations are in control of decisions and we’re not, quite frankly."
He said he wants to see a focus placed on pushing political leaders and different levels of government to step back and let local Indigenous communities address the systemic problems that exist.
"We want to get them out of our First Nation communities," Daniels said.
The series of round dances are designed as a way to reach out to people and Daniels said that he hopes the conversation sparked at the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border continues into the future.
"We’re all trying to move in a similar direction," he said. "We all have the same goal to make things better for our people."
Coty Zachariah, political advisor to Daniels, was on hand for the event and said that while attendance was low they stopped the most traffic yet.
"We had one of the biggest impacts we’ve had," he said.
Zachariah said he has been surprised at the positive response to the series of round dances, adding that he appreciates the support they have received at each event.
"These are not just Indigenous issues, these are Canadian issues," he said. "It’s impressive to see what we can do even in small groups."
The delay on the Trans-Canada Highway was a pleasant surprise for Elkhorn resident Ashlie Jewar, whose vehicle was seen stopped in traffic on Friday.
"It great to see it," she said, adding that she respects their message of peace and encouragement to help First Nations in the province and was appreciative of the information they had to share.
Tracey Haden from Moosomin, Sask. was stopped on her way to Winnipeg.
She said she did not mind waiting on the highway because she understands the important information the group was looking to share, especially because she is a Métis woman.
"I know that things do need to change," Haden said, adding that she supports the round dance’s message. "If I was in that kind of situation I would want something done about it."
She said that she hopes the round dances can generate more awareness among Manitoban’s and respects The Southern Chiefs’ Organization for trying to get their word out, in what she said was an effective way to get attention.
"They want to be heard."
» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp
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