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.

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7 Comments

  1. Charlene Penassr says:

    Should I return my funds because I do not live on reserve?, have never had the chance to live on reserve, I do believe the Reserve should use a lot of the funds, but does not make it ok to read this.
    “Do not get you wrong”? Then what are you saying? My children are in University thanks to my membership? should I revoke that? very offended.
    Chief Marianna all the way!

    • Bob Goulais says:

      Huh?? I think you might want to re-read what I wrote. Although I (as well as many others) are opposed to any further per capita distribution – much of my post was advocating for equitable benefits to you, your children, and their children who may live off-reserve. What I AM saying is, rightfully so, your children and descendants should benefit from a long-lasting lasting legacy from the Trust. That it shouldn’t just benefit us living on-reserve, or we who spend the money. I don’t see what is offensive at all. And I don’t know what Chief Marianna has to do with it? As a proud supporter of Marianna myself, and advisor from time-to-time, I’m reasonably confident that she would share my views. Miigwetch.

  2. Matt McLeod says:

    I am a Nipissing First Nation Band member living approximately 4000km away in Vancouver and have never resided on Nipissing land. Apart from a few visits I had as a child, I have never personally met most of my fellow band members.

    You might be surprised then, that I too share Bob’s views. Although I may have never met Bob or his family, many Nipissing band members or have never lived from the land that many of my family members from past generations have…I still have Nipissing blood running through me and feel a connection to the land and the community.

    I am strongly against per-capita-distributions as I feel it provides no lasting benefit to the community. In fact I am against any decisions made on behalf of the trust where growing the trust isn’t the #1 priority.

    This trust is no small amount and has graced Nipissing First Nation with one of the largest trust funds in Canada. With that said, it pales into comparison to what is out there in the “white” world. Why not put all of the extra income into a Nipissing-ran investment fund to grow the finances around the community into a *truly* powerful tool for future generations?

    Historical data shows investments in stocks and bonds that are components of the NFN Land Claim Trust, gain 7-9% annually. Compounded over 50-years, our trust has the capability of growing from ~$85m today to shy of $4 billion by 2065. Financial discipline is where the power to really make change comes from and I pray Nipissing has at least half the financial discipline to make this trust grow.

  3. Dave Narlock says:

    You should go for walks more often Bob. Wise words indeed!

  4. Daniel Stevens says:

    I understand your point. However the mistake to band membership resides on the band’s membership policy. Although the indian act is in power, we (our community) can through the process manage our own policy to allow those who may not be registered but have a direct blood line or cultural ties to our community be protect and recognized as our citizen which our current policy does not allow. My circumstance in point I wasn’t fortunately to find the love of my life within my culture. My children as a result do not have the right to registration and as a result do not get to be status or band members. Their is as a result a divisional line between my culture and who I am and who the rest of my family are. Yet their family, their aunties and uncles a large part of their family is a part of a cultural identity that with the exception of myself they can only associate with but never fully integrate, from a political and a legal sence. Our constitution is one step but for the true reassertion of jurisdiction to happen citizenship must be the next issue. Who has the right to say who is of and from Nipissing and who doesn’t, in my eyes we do. As Canadians we allow those . To date that responsibility falls on the government because we let it.

    Now as for the trust. Fiscal responsibility must be the core value. It’s hard to think that the numbers are so large. Growing the trust and ensuring its health in my opinion must be priority one. We are talking about long term and long term is easily decades into the future. We must help at the very least maintain our community and make wise small investments into ventures that can create long term profit and benefit to the community locally (Nipissing) and regionally. We must start small with a long term goal at mind. We with this money have an opportunity to grow but the returns must outweigh the cost. We must intice and start our own brands of products that can be distributed. This is no small task and must be a well calculated risk. I’m not sure what that might be but it doesn’t have to be the best but it needs to be good and worth others to invest in us in return.

    Those are my thoughts.

  5. Nancy giard blanchette says:

    I’m sorry to say that I’m a nipissing my self, out reserve, because since you we win that claim, us people out of the reserve, we get no reponse or anyhelp from mme couchie or others, like we are forgotten for the price of the $$$, is that so, money is only for member on reserver.Nipissing all over the country live with problem and that bit of money could help me and many others survive…. I would like that someone contact me and tell me what to do for me and my kids, we’re nipissing ad much a you are, but out reserve that it, but our rights are the same ???