Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, resigns as National Chief


May 2, 2014 

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo made the below statement in Ottawa, ON today.

“I have stated clear priority on the recognition of Treaty, of Indigenous rights and title, on the safety and security of our most vulnerable, and I have also made my priority on education for our kids plainly clear. 

I have said it is OUR TIME as Indigenous peoples, that we must smash the status quo and that my job is as an advocate to open doors for First Nations to drive change. 

It is on this basis that we have worked very hard to achieve a new conversation between Canada and First Nations - a conversation grounded in recognition, respect and ultimately reconciliation, and to reach a realization that stronger First Nations are vital for a stronger Canada. 

I have had the great honour and privilege to visit over one hundred First Nation schools in every region.  It is the time spent with kids, their dedicated teachers – the parents and the grandparents that has both inspired me and created a steely resolve and determination.  I think of the late Shannen Koostachin, young boys and girls in remote northern communities like young Jayden – you’ve heard me reference so many times before. It is the spark in their eyes and the knowledge that as leaders – as the adults – we must get this right – right now. 

The work before us is absolutely challenging – if it were easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Today’s conversation began over 40 years ago with the remarkable leadership of the late George Manuel and many others.  Indian control of Indian education in 1972 - a policy statement crafted by our own educators including Verna Kirkness remains a powerful affirmation of our resilience and our determination to achieve change and justice for our children through education. 

Smashing the status quo means ending the glacial pace of change for our people and providing full support for growth and success.  Smashing the status quo means new approaches grounded in recognition and in reconciliation. 

The current discussion and diverse views remind us within the Assembly of First Nations that we too have much work ahead.  The inspiration behind the creation of the Assembly of First Nations was to serve as an advocacy body – bringing together the Nations and supporting one another.  I have encouraged reflection on our processes and approach within the Assembly to reflect a sense of re-building our Nations. 

Smashing the status quo means that everyone has a role to play. The status quo should NOT be acceptable to any political party – the NDP, the Liberals or the Conservatives.  This status quo should also never be acceptable to our Chiefs and leaders. 

This work is a challenge for all Parliamentarians and it is a challenge for our Nations. Everyone knows the recent history here – of an open letter and of a clear resolution and five conditions.

Throughout and, with that mandate of Chiefs, I and many others with me have done everything possible to achieve this change.  

I am very proud of the work accomplished – very proud of our collective efforts to overcome the status quo on this issue and others. 

We’ve been through important and sincere efforts before – in constitutional negotiation, a Royal Commission, and other more recent important efforts such as Kelowna taken forward by former Prime Minister Paul Martin.  The current proposal on education is the latest attempt and a sincere, constructive effort on the part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take a step forward. 

This work must be understood in that context – as a challenge, not for me, or any one individual – but a challenge and a call to action for the entire country. 

I have fought for this work and to achieve this mandate.  This work is too important and I am not prepared to be an obstacle to it or a lightening rod distracting from the kids and their potential.   I am therefore, today resigning as National Chief. 

I have carried out my actions based on principle and integrity.  Personally, I believe this work must happen.   It can and should happen in parallel to other efforts addressing fundamental questions of ‘how’ we do this work.  Now the work started so many years ago must continue.  It must continue in every community and it must continue within Parliament.  I challenge every party and every First Nation to carry forward this work.  Failure is simply not an option.  Fighting for the status quo is simply not acceptable. 

Today I express my deepest gratitude for the support, the generosity and the respect afforded to me by First Nations and increasing multitudes of Canadians across this country.  I have been deeply honoured to serve. 

I will, as I have all of my life, continue this struggle in other ways. I want to thank all of those who have quietly worked for education and for our kids.  While people do not hear or see them today – YOU will emerge as the heroes of this work in the future.”

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

Contact information: 

Jenna Young, Assembly of First Nations Communications Officer   613-241-6789 ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or email


Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789 ext 382 or cell: 613-2920857 or


Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner

Speaking of movies, this is basically Inuit Beowulf.

It was written, produced, directed, and acted entirely by Inuit people. I think a lot of people might be interested in Medieval Inuit art and literature, and this is a pretty great example.

You can watch and download the entire trilogy here for free (but donate if you can!!!); Atanarjuat is the first film and takes place around 1000 A.D.-ish. It also won a LOT of awards. Keep in mind: it’s entirely in Inuktitut, with English subtitles.


Don’t hate, educate yourself #sealfie


Don’t hate, educate yourself #sealfie


In an intelligent and heartfelt video, teenager Killaq Enuaraq Strauss tells Ellen DeGeneres why the seal hunt is important to Canada’s Inuit people. 



Inuit Flood Twitter With ‘Sealfies’ After Ellen DeGeneres Selfie Funds Hunt Haters


A month after Ellen DeGeneres tweeted her record-breaking celebrity-laden selfie during the Oscars on March 2—now surpassing 3.4 million retweets—Samsung’s copy.5-million donation to an anti-seal hunting organization has sparked a new viral meme.

What started with a teenager’s video explaining Inuit lifeways to the star has morphed into a twitter hashtag answering “selfie” with “sealfie,” as social media–savvy Inuit—who have for millennia depended on seals for meat, clothing and trade—fire back with their own hashtag featuring photos of them garbed in seal fur coats, mittens, boots and shawls. DeGeneres, fans and Twitter followers were elated when Samsung pledged to donate copy for every retweet of DeGeneres’s Oscars selfie to a charity of her choice. The trouble started when the star, who hosted the Academy Awards, designated copy.5 million for the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that campaigns strongly against the seal hunt in Canada. 

The online trend was sparked after Iqaluit teenager Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss, 17, uploaded a March 23 video to YouTube imploring DeGeneres to reconsider her choice of the Humane Society of the U.S. as a designated charity for Samsung’s post-Oscar donation.

“We do not hunt seals, or any animal for that matter, for fashion,” Enuaraq-Strauss said in the video. “We hunt to survive. If Canada were to ban the seal hunt, so many families would suffer, would face harsher forms of malnutrition, and wouldn’t be able to afford proper clothing for the Arctic environment we live in. Even more so, another part of our culture would have been killed.”

The Iqaluit youth took particular umbrage not only with the AHS’s campaigns for Canada to ban the controversial seal hunt—long a target of animal rights protesters—but their successful push for the European Union to ban seal imports (although the EU made some exemptions for traditional Inuit products).

The hashtag was started by journalist Leila Beaudoin, who encouraged others to jump into the furry fray: “Show your fur, people!”



Indigenous Canadians stand up to Ellen DeGeneres using #sealfies, fight for their right hunt seals

"We do not hunt seals, or any animal for that matter, for fashion," Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss, 17, says. "We hunt to survive. If Canada were to ban the seal hunt, so many families would suffer, would face harsher forms of malnutrition, and wouldn’t be able to afford proper clothing for the Arctic environment we live in. Even more so, another part of our culture would have been killed."

Read moreFollow policymic


"I am an Inuit seal meat eater, and my fur is ethical," wrote Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, bundled in a sealskin coat, pants and boots. She also wrote a letter to DeGeneres and posted it online.

Samsung vowed to donate $1 for every retweet of DeGeneres’ celebrity-packed Oscars selfie to a charity of her choice. She raised $1.5 million for the Humane Society of the United States, which campaigns annually against Canada’s seal hunt.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s website calls the seal hunt “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government.”

The Inuit have long defended the hunt as a sustainable practice, deeply rooted in Inuit culture, which helps feed people in a region plagued by hunger.

"The meat feeds families, which is important to an area where many households have identified that they face issues of food insecurity," said Sandi Vincent, who posted her own sealfie Thursday.

The pelts also come in handy in the cold northern climate and provide a needed source of income, she said. She also countered the idea of the hunt as “inhumane.”

"In Inuit culture, it is believed seals and other animals have souls and offer themselves to you. Humanely and with gratitude we accepted this gift," she said, reminiscing about catching her first seal at age 15.