By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News, Jan 22, 2013
Elder Raymond Robinson, who has been fasting with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, lay on the floor of an Ottawa hotel room Sunday and wept after hearing the news his nephew was dead.
Manitoba RCMP investigators are treating Austin Troy Hunter Monias’ death as a murder. The 19 year-old was pronounced dead-on-arrival at the Cross Lake, Man., nursing station on Sunday morning. Monias was rushed there by ambulance from a house party, according to Cross Lake First Nation Chief Garrison Settee.
Once he heard the news, Robinson said he needed to seek solitude away from the constant bustle of Spence’s camp, which sits on Victoria Island.
“I needed to spend some time in solitude just to reflect, just to take time to myself, to think things out, to ensure that I have everything in perspective, that I collect myself again,” said Robinson Monday, day 41 of his fast. “And I did break down there. I was on the floor. I needed to be alone to do that.”
Robinson, along with Spence, has been fasting to force a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and First Nations leaders. Spence began her fast on Dec. 11 and Robinson on Dec. 12. He has been on the island since Jan. 1.
Robinson said was torn between the need to continue his fast or head back home to be with his devastated family.
After a while, he also sat on a chair and stared out the hotel room window struggling with his heaving emotions.
“I was just trying to come to grips with what is happening back home and hoping that everybody will understand that if I am unable to go, they will understand. But it’s hard, my emotions are still so mixed, whether I need to be home or whether I need to be here. So I am praying for that. We will see what happens,” said Robinson, inside a wood stove-heated canvas tent which sits next to Spence’s teepee.
But, after speaking with Monias’ father, Robinson said he would stick to the fast for now.
“I have to. I have to continue even more now, (I am) more determined,” said Robinson.
Responding to Robinson and Spence’s continued fast, Manitoba chiefs last Friday called on the prime minister and the governor general to meet with chiefs on Jan. 24.
Robinson said this was the second death in the family in the past three weeks. An aunt also recently died.
“It is hard to put into words, what I am going through emotionally. Spiritually, I am okay,” said Robinson. “I am a firm believer in the creator and I know my nephew Austin is in good hands.”
Robinson’s son Tyler Robinson, 28, said his cousin’s death was no accident and a product of intense internal rivalries within Cross Lake based on where people live and their last name.
“You can’t go to a different place on the reserve, (if) you’re from a different area you will get attacked for just being somewhere else…just because of which area you are from and especially what your last name is too,” said Tyler, who was sitting on a bed next to his father.
“Us Robinsons are not liked back home.”
Tyler, a community youth leader, said his cousin was just standing up for himself.
“He was getting picked on and he stood up for himself, but there was a lot of them…I don’t know how many there, he had two other cousins there helping him,” he said. “He didn’t deserve to go that way…let alone from our own people fighting against each other back home.”
The Manitoba RCMP said in a statement that investigators are treating the death as a murder and the force flew in additional resources to assist local officers including members of the force’s serious crime unit and a forensics team out of Thompson, Man.
“I know there is a death in Cross Lake that we are investigating and we have units on the ground,” said Sgt. Line Karpish.
The RCMP also arrested four people in relation to the incident, but released them without charges, the statement said. Monias was found in a residence with “life threatening injuries” at about 6 a.m.
Tyler Robinson’s brother, Baptiste Robinson, 21, said he found out about the death over Facebook.
“It is rough hearing about stuff like this through Facebook,” said Baptiste. “People have no respect for others that don’t know.”
Baptiste said his cousin, who also played hockey, was actively trying to become a youth leader in the community.
“He was really talented and really outspoken, outgoing, everyone back home knew he was a nice guy,” said Robinson.
On Jan. 11, which was a day Idle No More protests again swept the country to coincide with Atleo’s meeting with the prime minister, Monias spoke at a rally in Cross Lake held in support of Robinson and Spence’s fast.
“He was one of the key speakers for the youth and he stood up and spoke for the youth,” said Baptiste.
Baptiste said he was chatting with Monias only a few nights ago about bringing all the youth in the community together.
“Most of the time the chief and councils, they don’t let us youth talk, they think so little of us…they don’t know nothing because they never let us speak and that is what brings us down,” said Baptiste. “Us youth back home, they don’t let our voices be heard and some of the youth think that it’s the only place they’ll ever live, they’ll ever see, but the world is way bigger.”
Elder Robinson said there is very little for youth to do in Cross Lake and they often end up consuming alcohol and drugs.
“It ticks me, it ticks me we are losing so many youth. We have to get something for them, something they can enjoy and something they can do away from alcohol, away from drugs,” he said.
Monias always called Robinson “uncle” and wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a leader.
“He told me he wanted to be like me, that I did a lot for our people,” said Robinson. “I always told him you can only be you, you can never be me, you have to find your own groove, your own journey, what the creator is calling you to. He said, ‘yeah I know, I know.’He wanted to better himself, he wanted to finish his education…he wanted to pursue a political career…I told him once that I am retiring, I think it is time to hang up my hat. He said, ‘Don’t worry uncle, I will pick up the torch, I will get my education.’”
At one point in the interview, sadness rises like a slow tide to the rims of Robinson’s eyes. He pauses. Gathers himself.
“It is not easy talking like this,” he said. “Knowing he is not here in a physical sense anymore.”