Dene elder joins religious leaders on world stage
|Francois Paulette of Fort Fitzgerald (second from left) is in Australia this week, speaking at a world religion congress on indigenous spiritual and world beliefs. Paulette says indigenous spiritual leaders, like the Mayan priest (above left) he met in Mexico, have similar values and belief systems.|
By SHAWN BELL, SRJ Reporter 01.DEC.09
A Dene elder from Fort Fitzgerald is part of a global indigenous delegation in Australia this week aiming to share spiritual beliefs and practices with religious leaders from around the world.
Francois Paulette, a former chief of Smith's Landing First Nation in Fort Fitzgerald, joins spiritual and religious leaders and over 10,000 followers in Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 1 to 7 for the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions.
Paulette will address two separate forums, one on ‘Indigenous People and the Arctic' and another on ‘Indigenous Land Rights: struggles and survival.' He will also take part in a round-table on indigenous spirituality.
“They are putting an emphasis on indigenous peoples' beliefs, spirituality and way of life,” Paulette said. “When people come to big conferences like this, they are now looking towards indigenous people for answers to the dilemma of how to live within nature.”
First held in Chicago in 1893, the Parliament of the World's Religions brings religious and spiritual leaders and their followers together every five years to address global concerns.
This year's conference features religious leaders from all faiths, including the Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu holy man Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Lally Lucretia M. Warren, from Botswana's Baha'i assembly, among its 10,000 participants.
The Melbourne Parliament is especially focused on indigenous rights, geographically pertinent considering the ongoing destruction of Australian Aborigines' culture and spirituality just outside Melbourne's city limits.
“Within Australia, Aboriginal reconciliation issues are pressing,” states the Parliament's website. “The Parliament provides the opportunity to engage these issues within a larger context. Those gathered will have the opportunity to explore new approaches to Aboriginal reconciliation through dialogue with indigenous peoples from other countries.”
For Paulette the Parliament's focus on indigenous reconciliation is an opportunity to interact and build networks with indigenous leaders from across the planet, many of whom face struggles similar to those of Canada's native peoples.
He cites his recent meeting in Mexico with a Mayan priest as an example of the similar beliefs expressed by indigenous spiritual people around the world.
“The Mayan priest said, ‘If we are to survive, we must go back to our traditions, cultures and ceremonies,'” Paulette said. “This is a common theme between all indigenous people I've heard over the years.”
While in Australia, Paulette will take time to visit an Aborigine community in the outback northwest of Melbourne, speaking of Dene efforts to protect land in Canada's North. The Aborigines are attempting to create protected areas in the outback, using Canadian Indians' efforts, specifically the ongoing push for an East Arm National Park east of Lutsel K'e, of which Paulette is an adviser, as examples.
Paulette promised to do his part to inform the Parliament of the efforts of all Northerners to protect water and the environment, including efforts to prevent a hydro dam on the Slave River near Fort Smith.
Source: Slave River Journal