Posts tagged ‘citizenship’

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.

Gichi-Naaknigewin – Defining Our Citizenship


Natives only. Canadians only. What’s the difference?

Complain and fight as much as you want, but Italians, Mexicans and the Chinese can’t just get off a plane, bring their things, rent a place and live in Canada.

Neither can the Spanish, Portuguese, Czechs, Polish or Brazilians.  Even members of the commonwealth – Aussies, Scottish, Irish, Jamaicans and Pakistanis – all loyal subjects of the Queen don’t have this right to just move in.  Even our greatest allies, the Americans can’t just up and move to Kindersley, Saskatchewan.

They just don’t have the right.  Sovereign law prohibits it.

Nobody calls Canada racist.  Nobody criticizes Canada for their raced-based policies, like relaxing their immigration rules on Haitian orphans.

However, when the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation sent out 25 notices of evictions to individuals living on their territory – Canadians went ballistic with allegations of racism.

It’s true that prospective immigrants have due process to obtain temporary visas to visit family, go to school or even work for a certain period of time.

But when that visa is up – it’s time to go.  By eviction, deportation, sometimes by force.

I have no problem with Canada’s immigration system.  I am absolutely thrilled that the Crown continues to support multi-culturalism and allows so many diverse people to become citizens.

That is Canada’s right.

What most people don’t understand is that the Mohawk Nation has a radically different culture and values than the rest of Canada.  It is different than the Anishinaabe, the Mi’kmaq and many other indigenous nations.  It is as different as Armenians, the Maori, Lithuanians and just about everybody else.  Their culture, values and laws are vastly different than yours and mine.

The Mohawks have different laws, different values and different sense of protectionism.  That is their right.

I personally do not agree with the Mohawk policy.  My nation is going in a different direction on citizenship.  The Anishinabek Nation is moving to develop our own citizenship code that is more inclusive rather than exclusive.  It will adopt a one-parent rule to determine citizenship.  Our citizenship law will recognize adoptions, inter-marriage and allow for a process of transfer and naturalization.  Although I may not agree with the Mohawk citizenship law, I respect their need to protect their diminishing culture and their diluting blood lines.  That is the Mohawk Nation’s right.

But many Canadians – those same Canadians who value differences and respect multi-culturalism – just can’t seem to accept nor respect the culture, values and laws of the Mohawk Nation.

What all Canadians need to understand is that indigenous nations are just that – Nations.  First Nations have our own land, people, language, culture, values and laws.  We have the right to govern our territory as we see fit.  We have the right to develop citizenship and immigration policy, just as Canada has that same right.  It’s a matter of mutual respect, really.

The constitutional and legislative framework in Canada needs to be amended to reflect the reality of indigenous nationhood.  The sooner that politicians understand this and the average Canadian understand this – the sooner we will all begin to work together for the same goals.

We may not have to agree with the Mohawk’s citizenship law.  But we should respect it.