Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
David Ahenakew (born July 28, 1933 is a Canadian aboriginal politician, and a former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In recent memory, he is primarily known for some anti-Semitic remarks publicized in December 2002.
Military and political career
Ahenakew was born at at Sandy Lake Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada). He served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1951 to 1967, during which time he was stationed in Germany, Korea (during the Korean War), and Egypt.
In 1967, upon leaving the army, he accepted a position with the Saskatchewan government, and became active in the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), being elected to the position of FSIN president in 1968. He stated that his military experience heavily influenced his choice to pursue politics: "I could see that what was happening to our people was the same kind of exploitation and degradation I had seen in Korea and Egypt."
During his time as FSI president he released a report entitled Indian Education in Saskatchewan and played a role in the founding of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College and the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in 1972.
In 2002, Ahenakew gave a speech to an FSIN group, which was attended by a reporter from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. During a question-and-answer session following his lecture, he stated his opinion that Israel and the United States were going to start the next world war.
After the session concluded, the StarPhoenix reporter asked him to clarify these remarks, and he stated that while serving in the army after the war, Germans told him Jews had started the war. The StarPhoenix quoted him as further saying:
- "The Jews damn near owned all of Germany prior to the war. [...] That's how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe. That's why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the goddamned world. And look what they're doing. They're killing people in Arab countries."
When asked how he could justify the Holocaust, the Star Phoenix quoted him as saying: "How do you get rid of a disease like that, that's going to take over, that's going to dominate?"
Controversy and consequences
The comments were first circulated in the Canadian national media in December 2002. His comments were condemned as antisemitic by Jewish groups, aboriginal leaders, and Canadian politicians at all levels. Both Perry Bellegarde , president of FSIN, and Matthew Coon Come, AFN national chief, were quick to distance themselves from Ahenakew's remarks.
Ahenakew has apologized for the remarks, saying they do not represent his beliefs and that he was "...caught up in the heat of the moment. I was attempting to spark debate on what has been happening to our First Nations people." At his trial, he later recanted his apology and blamed his outburst on his diabetes.
In June 2003, he was formally charged by the Saskatchewan Justice Department with promoting hatred. Jewish groups, aboriginals and others have called for Ahenakew's membership in the Order of Canada to be revoked. If this were to be done he would be only the second person to lose the honour (the first was Alan Eagleson). As of 2005, Ahenakew remains in the Order.
This Magazine interview
In an interview in the July/August 2003 edition of This Magazine, Ahenakew expressed to reporter Alex Roslin his dissatification with 'racial control' of the media, saying that "when a group of people, a race of people, can control the world media, then there's got to be something done about that." The article also quotes sources who claim that Ahenakew had long held racist beliefs which had been shielded from the public.
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