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Photos: American Indian groups protest at 16th Street Mall, bombard Canadian Consulate

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It was quite cold in Denver today where hundreds of people gathered just outside the Canadian consulate to stand in solidarity with indigenous groups in that country who are fighting with the government there over a wide range of issues. But organizers of the local protest said supporters of First Nations should have no problem enduring the cold, knowing that in Canada, a chief is suffering through a hunger strike to get officials' attention.

"You think that we're uncomfortable here," shouted Glenn Morris, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver and a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. "Theresa Spence is willing to give her life."

Spence, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, has been on a hunger strike for more than twenty days, demanding a meeting with the Canadian prime minister and protesting several pieces of legislation that she and her supporters say are anti-First Nations.

Today, Morris had on hand a letter asking that officials meet with Spence and also honor previous treaties as well as provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (More on that letter in our original post from this morning).

"When was the last time you met someone that was willing to give their life, to starve to death, to make the point that the Canadian government [is wrong]?" he told the group, which gathered on the 16th Street Mall. "Hopefully, we can endure a little bit longer."

Tessa McLean, 24, who was born in Canada and is a member of the Ojibwe tribe, said it's important for Denver to be active since the city is home to one of fifteen Canadian consulates in the United States. "For every action that we have, we make it hit closer to home," she said. "We need to explain that the people affected in Canada are our relatives."

McLean, a political science student at the University of Colorado Denver, said that there is also a lot of environmental activism in Colorado, which aligns well with support for the First Nations. "A lot of native people understand we are all related."

After signing onto the letter, the crowd gathered inside the lobby of 1625 Broadway, where the consulate is located -- only to be told that the office had closed early for the day. A guard told them that a representative would still come down to accept the letter -- and meanwhile argued with protesters, telling them they could not carry signs or take photos or video inside the private property.

"They closed early, because we're here!" one protester shouted, as others said they were thankful to be inside and continued to take photos, despite the guard on scene telling urging them not to.

And after around fifteen minutes, a representative came down and accepted the letter.

Continue for more photos from today's protests.

Continue for more photos from today's protests.

Continue for more photos from today's protests.

Continue for more photos from today's protests.

And here's the full letter. Stephen Harper Letter.31Dec2012

More from our Photos archive: "Photos: Aurora, Columbine families hold emotional conference urging gun reforms"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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