Posts tagged ‘Nipissing’

Facebook Photos of Rotting Fish. How Should our Leaders Respond?

Who is responsible for this bycatch?  Assumption:  One image may (or may not) be a First Nations waste dump.  Fact:  One image is definitely a non-native waste dump?

Who is responsible for bycatch? Assumption: One image may (or may not) be a Native waste dump. Fact: One image is definitely a non-native waste dump.

For those leadership hopefuls seeking office as Nipissing First Nation Chief or Councillor, how would you respond to the Facebook photos posted about a fish dumpsite? Do you shoot from the hip or give some real thought and strategy to a fulsome response?

Certainly, we need people, leaders, that know how to be eloquent, strategic and ready to take action. The question for all our community: Do we have candidates that can propose and formulate an effective action plan? Do we have potential leaders that you can have confidence in?

At first indication of such an issue, initial communication may be necessary. Not only does our community need to hear from potential leaders but our neighbours and critics need to hear from us as well. A statement, containing well-prepared and thought-out key messages, may be needed. For example: “Nipissing First Nation is actively looking into the matter.” Perhaps, someone can explain: “The photo portrays something called “by-catch” or waste fish that is associated with most if not all fisheries.”

Communications needs to be clear, certain and optimistic. We need not be angry or confrontational. We need not place blame. It’s important to convey that Nipissing First Nation want to be a part of the solution and that we can confidently manage our own fishery.  “We are all partners in the conservation and protection of the Lake Nipissing fishery.”

Political action then requires an information gathering stage. Many people are pointing out that these photos may or may not be a site in Nipissing First Nation. The first thing that needs to be done is to ascertain the facts about the alleged dump site. Someone should take a ride down the bush roads. Ask if anyone that has information about this site. To make a decision, it is important to gather as much information as you can possible have.

Then comes formulating some intelligent and practical policy options. Once we have the information we need, what can be done? What ideas do our Chief and Council candidates have to deal with this? If this is indeed by-catch, perhaps we need to examine options on how to reduce waste. How can we train our harvesters to reduce their waste catch and how to properly dispose of it? Perhaps this is an enforcement issue? Do we need a strong conservation law that addresses acceptable waste and proper waste disposal?

Community engagement may also need to happen if it will have a significant impact on our community, or in this case, our commercial harvesters. Have the appropriate committee review the policy options of strategic action plan for their feedback. The issue of the Lake Nipissing fishery is a no-brainer. Engagement, communications and reporting will be necessary.

Then strategic action needs to be taken. We can’t rush into anything, especially if ideas cost money. An strategic action plan need to be developed that include a workplan, resources required to implement the plan, budgets and timeframes. Then approvals need to take place. That needs to be a part of the plan.

Finally, every idea that becomes a strategic action item requires a means of evaluation. We need to know if the strategic action is working. This also requires reporting back to the community. The communications with our members and our neighbours should always continue.

Is Nipissing First Nation ready to take leadership to address our own fisheries issues?  I’m looking forward to finding out and helping any way I can.  We are all part of the solution.

Say Yes, to our future. Say Yes, to Nipissing.

yesAdvance Polls open today and Friday

NIPISSING FIRST NATION — Today and tomorrow are important days for the future of our First Nation.  It is the start of the official vote for the Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin, our Constitution.

The Gichi-Naaknigewin will be the supreme law of the land for Nipissing First Nation.  It will give our leadership the law-making authority to create our owns laws without the interference of the great white father, the Government of Canada.  At the same time, our new Constitution will ensure accountability in how our First Nations develops it’s laws and exercising it’s authority.  The Gichi-Naaknigewin has been in the works since 2005.  Many of our First Nation members have worked very hard to bring this well thought out legal document to this point.

Band members are encouraged to get out and vote, and by all means, support this important step towards self-governance and self-determination.


Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 10 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the NFN Community Centre in Garden Village.


Friday, December 6, 2013 from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Nbisiing Secondary School in Duchesnay.

You can also vote by mail-in-ballot.  But you will have to mail it in right away or drop it off before December 11!!  You can also vote online.  I’ll write a blog post about that a little later.  Please refer to your voting packages that have been mailed out to you.

The official voting day is January 10, 2014.

Friendship Centres Are An Important Gathering Place

Today, several of my friends from the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) are visiting Parliament Hill today to talk to MPs about Friendship Centre programming.

In my opinion, Friendship Centres the most important gathering place and point of service for First Nations people living urban centres right across the country.

The North Bay Indian Friendship Centre is central to the urban First Nation community in the city of North Bay.  Over the years, I’ve also spent time in the N’swakamok Friendship Centre in Sudbury, Parry Sound Native Friendship Centre, Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa and the Georgian Bay Native Friendship Centre in Midland.

In the 90s, my partner Deborah ran the largest Friendship Centre in Canada, the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.  I’ve also been a guest at the Council Fire Native Friendship Centre also in Toronto.

Today, there are 115 Friendship Centres in communities right across Canada.

The Friendship Centre movement began in the 1950s, when more and more aboriginal people began to live in cities.  Each Friendship Centre has its own unique history with their own cast of characters, founding members, programs and many, many stories.  By the late 1960s, a growing number of agencies formed provincial and territorial associations.  The National Association of Friendship Centres was founded in 1972.

As a boy, I spent a lot of good times at the North Bay Indian Friendship Centre.

My best memories were always the drum socials and mini pow-wows.  I was always amazed how many people could jam into that little building on Cassells Street.

Folks like Dan Commanda and Peter Beaucage honed their skills in the North Bay Indian Friendship Centre, teaching pow-wow singing, dancing and regalia-making.  They became integral to cultural development in Nipissing in 1980s.  If it weren’t for the cultural programming at the Friendship Centre – there would be little to no cultural development and retention in my community.

I have a lot of great memories singing with Kirby Mianskum and his family.  For me, the Otterhead Singers was the best drum going.  That beat up old drum always sounded good.  I had a chance to sing with Chris Couchie, Gilbert Cheechoo, the Late Archie Cheechoo, Jimmy Dick and others.  Later on, I had the chance to sing with Kirby’s brother Lester Mianskum and the Medicine Hoop Singers.

At the Friendship Centre, I also had a chance to learn from guys like my uncles Jack Couchie and Larry McLeod, Ruth Couchie, Bill Butler and Barney Batisse – people I would later work alongside as an adult.

I also remember the soup.  I remember one time I brought my Mom for lunch one day.  I think she was mortified and thought I was taking her for lunch at the soup kitchen.  I was a big spender.

But the Friendship Centre was more than just a soup kitchen, craft shop and bingo hall.  It was far more than just inadequate office space.  (Remember the old house next door, the steep rickety stairs tot eh second floor offices?)  The Friendship Centre was a gathering place.

I remember how the drop-in centre was a gathering place.  Somewhere, where the Ojibway youth would integrate with the Cree youth and where everyone can feel welcome.

This was our neighbourhood.

I’m sure we made a fortune for the Tim Horton’s owners next door.  We continually frustrated Music City as there were a lot more browsers than buyers of their top-of-the-line guitars.  We ate as much Chinese food as we did fry bread and soup.  And the florists next door wouldn’t miss an opportunity to call the Mesa tow truck company on those who parked on their side of the line.

All these good memories and I didn’t even live in the city!  I live on the rez and made special trips into North Bay to hang with the Friendship Centre crowd.  I’d spend the night at my brother Andrew’s house and walk into town or take the city bus, the Pinewood route as I recall.

Friendship Centres are the most important service agency for aboriginal people in urban centres.  They play a valuable role in finding employment, access to government services, building individual and family capacity, providing health programs, youth programs and cultural programs.

They directly serve the most vulnerable aboriginal people including the homeless, those living on the streets, youth at risk to drugs and gangs, individuals dealing with addictions, single parents and aboriginal women.

But there is still a lot to be done for First Nations people living in urban centres across Canada.

Friendship Centres can do a lot more with increased and more sustainable funding.  It’s a fact that Friendship Centres across Canada have not seen a funding increase since 1996.

With sustainable funding, Friendship Centres can continue to provide necessary services for aboriginal people who live in the city.  They can continue to be the gathering place that’s so important to a community.  They can continue to provide lasting and formative memories for many other people living or just visiting the city.

Rogue Warriors Live Up To Stereotype

Smoke engulfs a minivan as it is overturned during 2006 land-claim protests near disputed Caledonia, Ont., site. Neil Dring Photo/Grand River Sachem

“Whoa!  Gee, those nadways sure get violent, i’nit?”  “Oh yeah.  Those warriors sure mean business, cuz.”

Yes, even their fellow indigenous people think the Haudenosaunee play the occupation and resistance card a little too aggressively.

They came out, guns blazing, during the conflict at Kanesatake, the biggest indigenous flashpoint in the last 30 years.  During the Oka Crisis of 1990, the Mohawk Warrior Society took up arms against police and the Canadian Forces.  In 2006, they began occupation and control over a tract of residential development land in Caledonia.  In 2007, they blocked Canada’s biggest freeway and passenger railway corridor during First Nations’ national day of action.

“They” are members of the Mohawk warrior society.  They represent indigenous militancy in the 21 century.  They have gotten far more headlines in recent years than the American Indian Movement, who immortalized indigenous resistance in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, for First Nations advocates and even the non-violent indigenous resistance, the Mohawk warrior society is a lasting example of militant truism and living up to contemporary stereotypes.  First Nations activists do wave scary flags, wear masks, fatigues and balaclavas in the nice weather.  We set things on fire.  We beat up people.  We are lawless terrorists.

I strongly object your honour!  We shouldn’t be painted with the same camouflage brush.

This week, a couple from Caledonia is taking the Ontario Provincial Police to court over damages they have incurred as a result of the alleged inaction of the police during the occupation of the Douglas Creek Estates development in 2006.  Through the evidence and testimony in court, we are seeing many examples of First Nations-led violence.

By all accounts it was a war zone.  Cars were overturned.  Property was burned.  Citizens and police were brutally assaulted.  A hydro sub-station was destroyed.

It’s hard to say that First Nations activists are not terrorists, when quite clearly, that’s exactly what the organizers wanted to get across.

Or was it?

As far as I know, violence was never condoned by the traditional Haudenosaunee confederacy.  Sure, they are tough negotiators, tacticians and they too, mean business – but the Chiefs and Clan Mothers did not mean to hurt others.

The trouble began when the OPP went in and made arrests.  There were some skirmishes but the first wave of protesters retreated.  But through the wonders of technology, more than a few protesters made urgent phone calls to friends and family.  Within an hour, reinforcements from Six Nations arrived and they weren’t too happy.  They were ready to kick ass.

Violence erupted and the OPP where overwhelmed.  The OPP retreated.

I think the OPP made the right decision.  If they pressed the matter, my guess is that an all-out civil war could have taken place.  Guns would have been brought in, and we’d have Kanesatake all over again.

I would hasten to argue, that the lawlessness and violence brought about during the Caledonia occupation was instigated by hooligans from the Six Nations community and elsewhere.  There was a significant lack of discipline within the ranks of the organizers and the warrior society in not dealing with these rogue warriors.  Believe me, the leadership did not have any control over the Caledonia occupation during this time.

It is these rogue warriors that live up to the violent stereotype.

But why would something get so out of hand?  Why do the Haudenosaunee resist so aggressively?

We have to walk a mile in their moccasins, or whatever footwear the Haudenosaunee use.

The Haudenasaunee are also know as the six nations of the Iroquois confederacy.  The six nations are the Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga and the Tuscarora.

Traditionally and in their history, they are a powerful warrior society.  So powerful and strong, that they made war upon their neighbours with great vigour, ruthlessness and lust for victory.  They nearly destroyed my people, the Nipissing, during the 1700s.

However, at one time in their history, this strength and vigour was turned into itself and civil war waged amongst each other.  Through their Great Peace, they literally “buried the hatchet” under the Great Tree of Peace.  This led to a new era of unity and harmony and formed the basis of their Haudenosaunee Confederacy which is still in place today.

Part of their traditional territory in Ontario is known as the Haldimand Tract, which runs 6 miles on each side of the Grand River from its source to Lake Erie.  Over the years, this land was systematically appropriated by the Crown, in contravention to the Haldimand Proclamation of 1794.  Douglas Creek Estates was the last straw in a dispute running over a hundred years.

The Haudenasaunee were the last holdouts against colonial government.  In 1924, the Six Nations hereditary council was removed, by gunpoint, and the community was forced to adhere to the Indian Act.  To their credit, they have always opposed assimilation aggressively and have never agreed to be subject to Her Majesty’s laws.  In fact, the traditional government in Six Nations remains intact.

None of this justifies terrorism and violence against persons and property.  The Haudenosaunee and the Mohawk Warrior Society have a responsibility to clean up their act, or more people will be hurt the next time tempers flare.  But the Haudenosaunee have the right to stand up aggressively against their oppressor.

Where were the police to protect the Six Nations community in 1924 when the Council was threatened at gunpoint?

They were holding the guns.