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This article was published 12/9/2019 (334 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Indigenous groups plan to raise awareness about treaty-related issues by holding a unity dance on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Saskatchewan border Friday evening.
Motorists will encounter delays during the sixth of seven peaceful dances planned by the Southern Chiefs' Organization.
It says the event is "not a protest, but a blessing of the grounds we travel and the people who come through."
Traffic will be delayed at the "Welcome to Manitoba" sign, starting at 5:30 p.m. Each stop would be for 15 minutes while they do a round dance and hand out information cards about Indigenous issues.
"It has been well received on the ground," Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said on Thursday about the previous five dances.
"The message is we want them to join us. We want to have a more fulsome understanding of the issues Indigenous people face."
The information cards say that treaties were signed between First Nations and European settlers "to protect and preserve the inherent rights of First Nations communities for sharing their land, which allowed for the settlement and creation of Canada as nation. Without these treaty agreements, there is no Canada as we know it."
Daniels said many Canadians don't know that while Indigenous people have their own governments, they have no say over federal government funding.
"All of the decision-making power still stands with the federal government," he said. "We are not in control of these allocations."
Daniels, noting it is hard to create employment opportunities on reserves, pointed to the $400 million pea-processing plant at Portage la Prairie as one that could have been built at a nearby reserve such as Long Plain First Nation.
"Why couldn't it have been built on a reserve?" he said. "That would help us build the economy here.
"First Nations, like anyone else, want to give their young people a future. Why couldn't First Nation people benefit from the taxes on that?"
During the Labour Day long weekend, there was a similar event on Highway 75, near the Emerson border crossing, and Highway 59, near the South Beach Casino and Resort. In recent weeks they have also held dances on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Ontario border, near the border crossing to Warroad, Minn., and at the International Peace Gardens. Last week, the dancers shut down Portage and Main during the noon hour.
Vic Savino, a spokesman for the chiefs organization, said the vast majority of motorists have been respectful.
"I can still count on one hand the number of people who have given me the finger," Savino said.
The final round dance will take place on the Saskatchewan border near Roblin on Highway 5 on Sept. 20.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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