‘Chief Spence’ by Francis Dick – First Nations Northwest Coast Kwakwaka’wakw Art presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.
Condition: no condition noted.
Description by Artist: “I am not one who cares to watch the news. However it was difficult to hear of CHIEF SPENCE and her ‘hunger strike’. I didn’t know very much about the details of her choice to go on a hunger strike. She clearly received a lot of coverage, and I was intrigued with an image I saw of her and I wanted to see if I could capture what I perceived as a leader, deep in thought, the profound stillness of split second captured in a painting. To me this is a very somber but powerful and courageous.” – Francis Dick
Notes from DaVic Gallery: Idle No More and hunger strike
On 11 December 2012, Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada, declared a hunger strike. Her hunger strike consisted of a liquid diet of sips of lemon water, medicinal teas, and fish broth— a historical survival diet for indigenous communities facing poverty and food shortages from land loss and colonial policies, according to Anishinaabe scholar Leanne Simpson.
Her protest was intended to focus public attention on First Nations issues, support the Idle No More indigenous rights movement, and highlight concerns about Bill C-45. Further, she stated her action “won’t end until Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston agree to sit down and talk about Canada’s treaty relationship with First Nations leadership.” From a tipi on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, she issued a call for First Nation traditional women healers and other women, including Laureen Harper, the wife of the Prime Minister, to come and join her “to pray for Canada.” Her protest attracted worldwide attention to the Idle No More movement and she became a unifying symbol to some Idle No More supporters. Some in Attawapiskat also supported Spence.
A bank account for accepting direct donations was set up for Spence, which Spence’s spokespersons indicated would be under the sole financial control of Spence’s spouse, Clayton Kennedy, rather than the Attawapiskat band council. A columnist with Canadian news weekly magazine Maclean’s questioned the propriety of the arrangement, as well as questioning who was authorized to speak publicly on behalf of Spence.
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan sent a letter to Spence on December 25, 2012, expressing concern for her health and urging her to end her protest. Spence subsequently called for a day of protests in support of her cause to take place on December 30, 2012, bringing peaceful demonstrations in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and other locations, while a VIA train was detained by demonstrators near Belleville, Ontario. Spence was visited by 21 senators and members of parliament representing opposition parties. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin met with Spence on January 5, 2013, calling her “an inspiration”. Amnesty International issued a statement in her support and urged the Prime Minister to meet with Spence.
Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, had met with Spence repeatedly and had tried to convince her to end her hunger strike, without success. On January 1, 2013, Atleo invited the Prime Minister to a January 24 meeting with First Nations leaders, but this date was rejected by Spence who said her health condition required a meeting within 72 hours. Spence’s spokesperson stated that the hunger strike would not stop and could continue after January 11.
On January 4, 2013, the Office of the Prime Minister announced that a meeting would take place on January 11, 2013, between Harper and Duncan and a delegation of First Nation leaders, coordinated by the Assembly of First Nations, to follow up on issues discussed during the Crown-First Nations gathering that took place on January 24, 2012. A spokesperson for Spence initially stated that she would attend the meeting, but Spence later clarified her position and rejected the invitation, as Governor General David Johnston had declined to attend, while Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was unavailable.
Chief Spence ended her 6-week hunger strike on January 24, 2013. A Declaration of Commitment was prepared over the preceding couple of days, which committed federal opposition parties and the AFN to address the critical issues that affected the relationship between First Nations people and the Canadian Government, based on Nation-to-Nation treaties going back to the 18th century. At the meeting with the chiefs that occurred on January 11, 2013, Prime Minister Harper had already agreed to top-level talks to modernize and implement the ancient treaties that were always intended to bring peace and prosperity to First Nations.
– Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Spence