GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION – Participants in a historic meeting of the Three Fires Confederacy of Anishinabek peoples confirmed their collective desire for governance models based on traditional teachings and have pledged to make the rare gathering an annual event.The agenda featured a variety of political discussions of issues — treaties, water, fishing and harvesting — that reinforced the traditional Anishinabek worldview that our leaders need to engage the Spirit in their everyday work in governing our communities.“The Creator placed us here – this is our land,” said Edward Benton-Banai, Grand Chief of the Three Fires Midewiwin Society, whose members erected a traditional lodge with a sacred fire to house workshops on Anishinaabe history, language, and culture-based education.Delegates stood in unison to offer unanimous support to a declaration pledging to base future Anishinabek governance models on the clan system, and to create health and education systems grounded in traditional knowledge and teachings.Noting that the last formal assembly of the historic alliance of Ojibway, Pottawatomi, and Odawa took place in 1992 – and that the one before that was held over a century ago —  Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage said the “Re-Kindling the Flame” gathering at Garden River First Nation was an example of a “snowball effect”.“We’re getting stronger as people. We’re going to go on a different road – not because political people like us say so – but because the people supporting us say it’s the right thing to do.”Many of the 2,000 who participated in sessions on governance and cultural teachings over the gathering’s four days were citizens of the 42 member Anishinabek communities represented by the Union of Ontario Indians, but there was also a large contingent from U.S.-based tribes.

“We will not let artificial borders keep us apart,” said Garden River Chief Lyle Sayers in welcoming delegates to his community just east of Sault Ste. Marie.

National Chief Phil Fontaine brought greetings on behalf of over 600 communities represented by the Assembly of First Nations.

“I hope and pray that Canada is open enough to accept what we have to offer,” said the National Chief, an Anishinaabe from Saugeen First Nation in Manitoba . “Our voice is getting stronger.”

Anishinabek communities in Manitoba and Michigan are vying to host the 2008 Three Fires Gathering, which the declaration pledged would be held “each and every year in perpetuity.”