Posts tagged ‘Boundary Claim’

Nbisiing Citizenship and the Trust

NFNconstitution2I just got back from a walk this morning and was giving some thought to some social media comments I read about the Nipissing First Nation Boundary Claim Trust.  Last week, our First Nation began consultations to discuss what to do with about $2.2 million in interest earned by the Boundary Claim Trust that was settled in 2013. This income needs to be moved or else it will be subject to taxation.

Setting aside that $2.2 million is not really a lot of money for a community our size. Set aside further that a decision could have been made to simply move it to another Band-owned investment fund that would protect it from taxation.

I take significant issue with those who want to distribute any further funds on a per capita basis. In other words, divide it up and spend it.

Back when our community voted on the trust two years ago, I felt we had already made the mistake of distributing a massive cash payment of $20,000 to every Band member. Sure it was nice to get new windows and some new siding for my home. I am thankful for that. My point at the time was that the settlement of $179 million over an unresolved reserve boundary doesn’t belong to us individually simply because we were voting on it. This restitution for Canada’s swindle belongs to the Treaty signatories, our ancestors, Nbisiing citizens and our future citizens, from now to the seventh generation and beyond. This money needs to leave a long lasting legacy or else it will be for nothing. I’ll repeat for emphasis: long-lasting legacy. (Think of the three “L’s”.)

But notice in the above paragraph I referred to Nbisiing citizens – NOT Nipissing First Nation Band Members.

Citizenship has everything to do with our Gichi-Naaknigewin, our constitution, and should have very little to do with the Indian Act and some list managed by some dutiful bureaucrat in Ottawa.

Debendaagziwaad refers to the people, the citizens of the Nipissing First Nation. In our language, it means “those who belong” to our community.

These citizens go beyond current Indian Act registered Band members. I’ll give you a real-life examples from within my family:

My beautiful wife – who just happens to be a member of another Band – certainly has a right to be a part of this community and has a significant stake in the future of our First Nation. She most definitely belongs here as a part of our family, our community and our nation. She is truly Debendaaziwaad.

My boys – who just happen to be members of another Band – have just as much Nbisiing blood running through their veins and connection to the community as those registered under Section 6.1 in the Indian Register. They are most definitely Debendaaziwaad.

My future grandchildren – who may not be entitled to be register as a Status Indian – will know they are Anishinaabe and that they belong here. They too will be Debendaaziwaad.

You may have your own personal, real-life examples. All Debendaaziwaad should have the right to services and benefits from Nipissing First Nation. All Debendaaziwaad should have a right to hold land. All Debendaaziwaad should have a right to vote in our elections.

All Debendaaziwaad certainly have the right to see benefit arising from the Boundary Claim trust.

I’m not advocating any further per capita payouts. As far as I’m concerned, no one has a right to spend the money that belongs to generations of Debendaaziwaad yet unborn. However, we are all entitled to see benefit from the long-lasting legacy of this land claim settlement.

Nor should we be so community-centric that we are considering capital and program benefits that will solely benefit on-reserve citizens. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of need here. We need infrastructure, community growth and to create economic programs that will take pressure off our Lake Nipissing fishery. However, how will that lend itself to showing a long-lasting legacy for those Debendaaziwaad who live off-reserve? Consider this even further. How will this ensure a long-lasting legacy for those future generations who live off-reserve?

Perhaps we can consider creating a citizenship program that will reach out to off-reserve Debendaaziwaad, instil community pride, and provide cultural education to ensure all members have a lasting connection with our community and their citizenship as Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.

A long-lasting legacy means fostering strong Nbisiing Debendaaziwaad with a valued, and tangible connection to their home and their Nbisiing family.

Boundary Claim Vote Tomorrow

Get Out & Vote

This is my last opportunity to reach out to Nbisiing Anishinaabeg to reiterate the importance of getting out to vote.

Your vote is your power.

  • If you like the settlement and want to see the community benefit from a significant infusion of new funds…  Vote Yes.
  • By all means, if you don’t like the settlement and don’t want to resolve this long-standing dispute with the government…  Vote No.
  • If you want to make use of the settlement funds and establish a new, more comprehensive Community Trust.  Vote Yes to the Trust.
  • Also, if you don’t like the direction Council is taking us by resolving the boundary dispute, you can vote for new leadership in 2015.
  • Finally, if you don’t want this Chief, Deputy Chief and Councillor on the Community Trust, you can vote for new candidates in 2015.

Please get out and vote tomorrow, Saturday, March 23, 2013.

Polls open at 9 a.m. in Duchesnay and Garden Village.

Mistrust

Sadly, many of our people are still clouded by mistrust.  And because of how we continue to be treated by the government, it’s not getting any better.  We’re all so mistrustful of government, Prime Minister Harper, the Department, and even our own Band Council and staff.  We want to stand up and fight and make things right by our own actions.  We want to call upon that near-dormant Ogitchidaa spirit in all of us.

To be vocal empowers us.  To rise-up empowers us.  To stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the front lines of political idealism and civil disobedience empowers us.

At the same time mistrust clouds us.  Anger clouds us.  Frustration clouds us.

This is not our way.  We shouldn’t be jaded by those that seek to hurt us.  We only serve to hurt ourselves.  We need to be living by the way that was given to us by the Creator, Gzhemnidoo.  It was through that kindness, gentleness and intellect that we as Anishinaabe are able to see things clearly and make good decisions for the benefit of seventh generation.

The only way we can ascend from this despair is through Unity and Nationhood.  We will also need our own lands, our own economy and means of sustainability.  Ultimately, this settlement will mean purchasing more reserve lands, funding to establish our own constitutional governance structures, funding to support community health, culture and youth programs.

What if I vote “no”?

It’s great to say “Idle No More” and turn around and vote “no”.  It’s quite empowering.  Sure, you will have stuck it to Council. You’ve stuck it to the government.  You’ve stuck it to the man!  You get to go home with your head held high.

But sure as the sun rises, you’ll wake up the next morning to the same lack of opportunity, mistrust and lack of outlook that you’re living with now.

Intellectual Empowerment

The Anishinaabe, particularly the Nbisiing Anishinaabeg, have chosen intellectual empowerment over aggression.  Our history talks of how our ancestors used our strategic relationships, the Confederacy, traditional knowledge and spiritual power to overcome challenges to our sovereignty.  We have always used negotiation to defend our interests and benefit our community.  Even during the 1850 Robinson Treaty, only the Nbisiing and Okikendawt head-men stood up to the Treaty Commissioner and said what was offered wasn’t enough.  As a result, our two First Nations received additional benefits that is written directly into the Treaty.

Our Chief and headmen also journeyed to Ottawa to support their fellow Chiefs long before there was a road through our territory.

Even after we were massacred and driven from our homelands, it was our skills as diplomats and allies that led us back to our homelands.  Other nations, were driven from their homelands forever.

Sometimes, negotiation and settlement provides us more benefit than mistrust and opposition.  In this case, the opportunity and intellectual empowerment, once again, significantly benefits the Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  Benefit and opportunity that we will see for generations to come.

A Few Words on The Trust

[youtube]http://youtu.be/1GY9xEBSaP4 [/youtube]

What Your Boundary Settlement Vote Means

Voting “No” means:

  • No settlement.  This means Nipissing First Nation members, present and future, will not have per-capita money nor funds in trust.
  • No certainty.  Without the Nipissing First Nation Boundary Settlement agreement, the only option to force a land and cash settlement is federal court.  But the courts have historically not included land in these kinds of settlements.  So the reality is, we would need to roll the dice and hope the court orders a settlement of more than $129 million.  It’s really a long shot.
  • No sense.  There is really no financial, legal or strategic benefit to a “no” vote.

Voting “Yes” means:

  • A fair and just settlement.  We are being compensated for loss of historical use, inflation, and fair market value.  We are getting the value for the land back, and more!!  For a boundary claim, $129 million is absolutely unheard of in Canada.
  • A Per Capita distribution.  This is not my favourite selling point but would pay a lot of bills for many Band members who truly need it.
  • Unprecedented Opportunity.  This is an incredible opportunity for our current and future generations of Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  It will have a tremendous impact and benefit to our community, more than we’ve seen in any generation.

There is a lot we can do with these funds:

  • Buying more reserve land in more “hospitable” areas.  The boundary lands in question are either already in use or mainly in swampy, inaccessible areas;
  • Leveraging mortgage programs and additional lands for housing loans.
  • More community social housing.
  • Improved infrastructure for Yellek and Duchesnay.
  • Treatment programs and facilities for prescription drug abusers, not only for us, but for First Nations across the North.  A regional prescription drug abuse facility would be a tremendous asset for our community and create jobs and revenue.
  • Community youth and recreational programming.
  • A Nipissing First Nation Post-Secondary Education Bursary Program.
  • Finally, fulfilling our community vision of an Anishinaabe elementary school.
  • A long-term care facility.  It would be a dream come true if my Mom can spend her last days, looking out on the Lake she loves so much, surrounded by her family and friends in a home on our First Nation.

But this won’t happen without a “yes” vote.  It won’t happen if we decided to spend it all “per capita” on the current membership.  It also won’t happen without putting some trust and faith in our advisors and leadership to act on our behalf.  If you feel you’re not being heard or served, please run for Council, sit on a Committee or volunteer to be a Trustee.

Clarifying the Boundary Claim

I just wanted to take a few minutes to dispel a few inaccuracies that are floating around out there about the Nipissing First Nation Boundary Claim.

First of all, this is a boundary dispute settlement.  It is resolution of a long-standing, well-researched and documented error on behalf of the federal government.

Back in the day, the Dominion of Canada’s land survey agents incorrectly surveyed the Nipissing No. 10 reserve lands that were negotiated by our treaty signatory, Chief Shabogesic.

In 1850, Chief Shabogesic agreed that we do hereby fully, freely, and voluntarily surrender, cede, grant, and convey unto Her Majesty, her heirs and successors for ever, all their right, title, and interest to, and in the whole of, the territory above described, save and except the reservations set forth in the schedule”.

The schedule of the reserves was right.  But the surveying and the actual land set aside was wrong.

The government owes us restitution for this error.

In exchange, the government owes us either (1) land and/or (2) a cash settlement for fair market value, loss of historical use, interest and value increases as a result of economic and market forces.

In this case, Canada did not have the authority to negotiate for land, such a negotiation would need to involvement of the Government of Ontario.  On the bright side, for those who want land, we are fully able to use the settlement to purchase new lands that can be added to the reserve through the Additions-to-Reserve process.  We can add up to three additional reserves if need be.

The settlement agreement is NOT a new treaty or an additional surrender.  Nor is it a surrender of our jurisdiction of sovereignty.  If there are any further claims (timber, royalties, annuities, etc.), our rights to future settlement won’t be affected.

We need to all understand that the traditional territory that we share with all Canadians in northeastern Ontario was already ceded and surrendered.  Voting yes or no, won’t affix our reserve boundary in any way.

The surrender language in the agreement is contract and ratification language that provides the resolution of the matter and lays to bed the legal question and obligation arising from the Boundary claim.  The government insists on this so we don’t take the settlement, spend the money and take them to court anyway.

If we vote “no”, nothing will happen.  We won’t receive a settlement.  Sure, we may reserve the right to take the matter to federal court, and yes, we would probably win.  But it will then be up to the courts to decide what settlement we will get.  Most people are never satisfied with the result of a court decision – except the beautiful people in the movies.

Sure we may feel empowered over our Council, land staff, negotiators, legal and financial advisors.  But it will effectively disempower our negotiating position, not improve it.

One day, we may get to the negotiation table again.  But the federal government, particularly under this Conservative government, doesn’t like to give second chances.  We may have to wait a generation or so.  But if that is our choice, so be it.

Believe me, and I’ve been to hundreds of First Nations across Canada.  I’ve seen communities with boundary claims, specific land claims, comprehensive land claims, treaty land entitlement claims, self-government agreements, and modern-day treaty agreements.  The Nipissing First Nation land staff, land code and land management regime is among the most sophisticated and respected across Canada.  They’ve done their homework and have done a lot of hard work on this boundary claim settlement.

When the respected and visionary ancestor of the McLeod family negotiated the Treaty, and “surrendered” this territory – he wasn’t selling out.  He was looking after the future generations of his people.  We’re being asked to do the same.

Let’s empower ourselves and set things right.

A few cool facts about the Boundary Claim:

  • We’re getting more of a settlement for our community, than each Algonquin community will receive under the new Algonquin Comprehensive Agreement.
  • We’re getting more of a settlement than each of the Chippewa bands will receive under the Coldwater land claim, one of Canada’s largest land claims.
  • Although the New Credit/Toronto purchase land claim was worth more, we have the ability to add reserve lands to the mix.