A group of First Nations chiefs have issued an open letter urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to agree to the treaty meeting demanded by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who is on day 23 of a hunger strike.

The letter, signed by the “First Nation leaders of Turtle Island,” asks Harper to work with the First Nations leader to end Spence’s hunger strike and meet with the leadership to reaffirm “the spirit and intent of our treaty relationship and based on the principles of honour, peace, friendship and Indigenous sovereignty.”

The letter, released shortly after midnight Wednesday, also mentions the planned Jan. 16 national day of action that could see country-wide economic disruptions through rail and highway blockades among other planned events.

“Work with us to end the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence. We fear for her health. We do not only speak for our conscience and the pain we feel for her, but we implore you for her children. For the love of humanity, we make this plea,” said the letter. “We firmly support a national day of action scheduled for January 16, 2013. We also realize that our people and supporters for the liberation of Indigenous peoples in this country continue daily assertions of peaceful demonstrations.”

Concern is mounting about Spence’s health and the Attawapiskat chief is said to be getting weaker by the hour.

“From this day forward make no miscalculation- as First Nation leaders in this country, we will increase our efforts to speak, teach, and reconfirm the truth about the Indigenous People of this country. In fact, the rest of the world is now closely observing,” said the letter. “We support Chief Spence as she implores cooperative efforts of your government towards real and dignified change for First Nations. The rest of the world awaits your response as well.”

The letter comes following a series of meetings and teleconferences between about 70 chiefs over the past few days.

In a statement accompanying the letter sent to APTN National News, said the recent meetings were called in haste because of Spence’s situation and the tensions between the Idle No More movement and the existing First Nations leadership.

“The reality is this, we are behind the eight-ball and needed to respond to our fellow chief who is on a hunger strike,” said the statement. “We also had to dispel the myth that we are trying to take over a movement that we are in fact a part of and have always supported.”

The letter states that Canada is facing “a time of renewal” and that “Indigenous leaders in this country must make clear that this land is not the personal possession of a political party or a government.”

It calls on Canadians to find common cause with First Nations people.

“First Nations or Canadians should not tolerate trade treaties, race-based legislation and colonial policies designed to assimilate and strip away the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island any further,” said the letter. “We must focus on change for our people, returning to the spirit and intent of the original treaties in Canada, not new deals with other countries to be granted legal land tenure for the sole purpose of their economic gain.”

The letter states that First Nations leaders would continue to take their message around the world, including to the Queen, U.S. President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela.

The letter calls on Harper to uphold the honour of the Crown which is bound up in the treaties and refers to the prime minister’s holiday address in which he highlights the “joy of giving” and helping the less fortunate.

“Prime Minister, Canada requires leadership that will address these matters in a manner that seeks constructive dialogue and collaborative efforts to change,” said the letter. “We call on your congruent response; a response that upholds the professed values of Canada and a response that is consistent with the honour of the Crown and the sacred covenant of treaties in Canada.” (SOURCE)
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