Manitoba First Nations leaders offer King Charles III condolences

·3 min read

Both the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) sent condolences as the world learned on Thursday that Queen Elizabeth II died and both say they now hope to build a relationship with the man who is now King.

“We are saddened to hear the news from Buckingham Palace regarding the death of Her Majesty the Queen,” AMC Deputy Grand Chief Cornell McLean said in a statement put out jointly by both organizations.

“We join many others across our treaty lands and traditional territories in sharing condolences about Her Majesty’s death. The Royal Family are in our thoughts and prayers during this time.”

The Queen’s death brings to an end her more than 70-year reign and her son, King Charles III, has been ushered in as the King of England.

With King Charles III now assuming the Throne, McLean said First Nations in Canada will be looking to continue working with the Monarchy, as they look to see agreements made in the numbered treaties upheld.

“First Nations people have a special nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown,” he said. “We are two sovereign nations who come together to honour the treaties between us.

“We look forward to His Majesty upholding and honouring the treaties of this territory, and we look forward to working with the new King as treaty partners.”

The relationship between the British Monarchy and Indigenous people here in Manitoba and across this country has often shown to be a difficult and complicated one, as some view the Monarchy as a symbol of the colonization that has harmed generations of Indigenous people in Canada, and of unfulfilled promises agreed upon in the numbered treaties which were signed between 1871 and 1921.

On Canada Day in 2021, statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg were torn down by groups taking part in Every Child Matters marches.

At the time those statues were toppled emotions were high, as just weeks before what is believed to be 215 unmarked graves were discovered near a former residential school in B.C, and soon after, more than 600 similar discoveries were made near another former residential school in Saskatchewan.

AFN regional Chief for Manitoba Cindy Woodhouse said despite that history, she now hopes that First Nations people can work with the Monarchy and the new King.

“As sovereign nations, First Nations in the treaty territories located in Manitoba greatly value the sacred treaty relationship with the British Crown,” Woodhouse said.

“I extend my heartfelt sympathy to His Majesty the King, as he assumes his responsibilities as Monarch, including nurturing the treaty relationship with First Nations.”

King Charles III addressed the issue of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people recently and did so on Canadian soil, as last May the then-Prince, and his wife Camilla, the Dutchess of Cornwall, made reconciliation a focus of a three-day tour of Canada that saw them meet with Indigenous leaders and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the Northwest Territories.

During that trip, Charles III said that he believed reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada was “a vital process,” and asked all Canadians to listen to “the truth of the lived experiences,” of Canada’s Indigenous people.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun