Resource agreements balance [Aboriginal] heritage with economic development – by Ryan Lux (Timmins Daily Press – October 27, 2011)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Mining activity is providing a ray of sunshine in a region where little economic activity has occurred in the past 30 years, said a manager with De Beers Canada.

Shannin Metatwabin was one of the speakers at this week’s Mining Ready Summit in Timmins which brought First Nations together with representatives from Ontario’s mining sector. Metatwabin manages Aboriginal affairs and sustainability for De Beers’ Victor Lake Mine, 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat.

Originally from Fort Albany, Metatwabin said he feels as though he has a stake in the development and wants the region’s people to see benefits.

Explorations near Attawapiskat began in 1985 and the Victor Lake Mine didn’t go into production until 2008. Metatwabin said during the intervening years De Beers worked hard at educating communities on mining and developing residents’ employment capacity.

“It was a brand new industry to the community,” Metatwabin said. “I think initially the communities needed more knowledge about what development meant because they are so passionate about their land.”

Through resource agreements, Metatwabin said communities are able to balance protecting their cultures and becoming a part of the economy.

He recalled one of his grandfather’s pearls of wisdom to demonstrate First Nations aren’t fundamentally against development.

“He used to say go ahead and cut down that tree. It’ll just burn down anyways,” Metatwabin remembered.

While the recollection provided a moment of levity in his presentation, Metatwabin said it speaks to the fact First Nations have always embraced the present to maintain their cultures.

“The changing face of industry and the economy dictates you have to move with the times. My grandfather made a decision long ago to send his children to residential school so that the power of the pen would carry them forward. You have to strike a balance, use what the creator gave you and move forward.”

For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: