In spirit of fairness and respect [First Nations and resourses] – by Xavier Kataquapit (Timmins Daily Press – March 14, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – There are many success stories across Canada when it comes to resource development agreements and partnerships between First Nations, companies and government. Most non-Native people don’t realize this.

Even in my home community of Attawapiskat negotiations in general between my people and De Beers has benefited many. The process is obviously not perfect but at the very least, the company, First Nation leadership and governments have bargained in good faith to make a very large project happen in the middle of pristine wilderness.

This is a big change for my people considering that we were largely forgotten and through a process of assimilation and marginalization, my grandfathers and great grandfathers had little choice but to live off a limited amount of land and survive through hunting and gathering. Even though resource development companies and non-Native people were reaping the benefits of huge projects happening on traditional territories, we saw very little coming to us.

These days, people think that First Nations in southern areas such as Timmins, Kirkland Lake, North Bay and Sudbury were the recipients in one way or another of the many huge mining, forestry and hydro projects that occurred over the past 100 years.

If you check with First Nation leaders and Elders in these areas, you will quickly find out that Native people were very much left out of the loop when it came to all this development.

Only a few decades ago, in general, First Nation people were not very welcome in many Canadian cities and towns. Of course, we have to remember that this was another time in the evolution of our society when racism and bigotry was more or less normal.

Thanks to the survival skills and sheer will of First Nation people, we have managed to live long enough where our newer generations have access to education and today we see many bright young Native lawyers, executives, educators and politicians who are seeking to make life better for their people.

In the past few decades, I have seen many First Nation organizations and tribal councils move ahead with negotiating expertise that has allowed Native people on traditional lands to reap some of the benefits of huge resource development projects.

In my own area known as the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), which comprises most of Northern Ontario, I have watched Wabun Tribal Council in the northeastern part of the province develop with the vision and guidance of its six Chiefs to negotiate all types of resource development agreements. These have led to training, employment and business opportunities for their First Nation members.None of this came about easily.

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