Self, government AIP issues discussed.
On June 26 and 27, the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) Anishinabek Nation brought some of their Elders and youth toger for a two-day conference on self-government.
They examined the process of establishing self-government through the agreement in principle (ALP) currently being developed between the UOI and the Canadian government. The conference was held at the Nippissing Education Centre on the Nipissing First Nation.
The objective of the self-government negotiation process called "Restoration of Jurisdiction" is the recognition of the lawmaking authority of Anishinabek First Nations. Participants in the conference learned exactly what this means and that they will have a say in the process.
"One of the purposes of this conference and the workshops was to bring together the wisdom of our Elders and the spirit of our youth. It's very important in terms of bringing the Elders together with the youth to share their knowledge and culture and what it means to them and to our future" said Nipissing Nation Chief Margaret Penass-Mayer.
The UOI has signed an AIP with Canada in the areas of governance and education.
Workshops addressed self-government, components of the education AIP, the Indian Act, restoration of jurisdiction as a tool for nation-building, and the participation of Elders and youth in the self-government process.
Both days began with sunrise ceremonies, drum roll calls, Grand Entry with the eagle staff, opening drum songs and an opening prayer. Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Vernon Roote spoke on what nation-building means to the 43 communities of the UOI.
"Nation-building is a reflection of the Anishinabek Declaration that clearly identifies principles we have agreed upon and that our minds are united.
Our mission statement states that the rebuilding and the strengthening of our own traditional governance process is to be done through the involvement of all facets of First Nation society including Elders, women, leadership and youth. We aim to promote the concepts of nation-building throughout the (UOI) territory and explain the significance of nationhood and the sacred bundle. The sacred bundle is a tool used in ceremonies, meetings, assemblies and circles. The bundle grants the Anishinabek spiritual guidance to travel towards the nation-building goals and the building blocks of the seven grandfather teachings."
Elders and youth involved in the conference thought that it was a good idea to get their two groups together.
"This conference was fun and I learned stuff that I never even knew about like all the issues we as Native people have. When I go to different conferences I bring the information back to my reserve and tell them about it. I get more youth interested in it. I'm going to be joining the youth council on my reserve so now we will have more to talk about. I'm going to tell other young people about what I've learned here and tell them that they need to be involved in things like this. As young people we feel that we don't have a lot of input into decisions that are made on issues like self-government, but I learned here at this conference that that is not true, our youth do have a say and we can make a difference. It was really good to know that my Elders and community leaders wanted to know what I had to say and that they listened to me," stated Kahanni Pelletier, youth representative from the Serpent River First Nation.
"The relationship between the youth and the Elders is critical to the nation-building process. It means the survival of our people, that's how important and critical it is that we build that really strong foundation," stated Merle Assance-Beedie, Getzijik advisory council (Elders) southeast region representative from the Beausoleil First Nation.
Keith Grosbeck is the youth advisory council southwest region interim representative who presented Lieutenant Governor James K. Bartleman with the Anishinabek Nation lifetime achievementaward on National Aboriginal Dayt at the UOI head office celebrations.
"I have begun to realize how much power the youth have when we get together and make things happen in our nation, our communities. We have it in our hearts to surpass any barriers imposed on us. We set the precedents not only for ourselves but for the generations to come."
BY ABBY COTE