Any resource development that takes place in the Far North needs to happen with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people providing input and working together, said Jonathan Solomon, grand chief of the Mushkegowuk Council. That’s the message he brought as a keynote speaker to State of the North, the annual conference hosted by the Northern Policy Institute, held Sept. 27 to 29 in Timmins.
“As we talk about the state of the North, the First Nations that I represent have to be part of any movement as we move forward so we can say that we did it,” he said. “We did it in unison, working together; that’s very important.”
Solomon leads a tribal council that represents seven member communities, including Attawapiskat First Nation, Chapleau Cree, Fort Albany First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, Missanabie Cree, Moose Cree First Nation, and Taykwa Tagamou First Nation (formerly New Post).
Land agreements between Mushkegowuk and the provincial government fall under Treaty #9, through which the parties negotiated issues like revenue sharing, consultation, child welfare, health and education.
Yet, Solomon said, a failure by the province to keep those promises have resulted in poor living conditions and a lack of opportunities for their citizens. “For far too long, our people have become second-class citizens in their own backyard and that’s not fair,” he said.
Solomon said as interest in developing the North ramps up, there is ample opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together to benefit from economic development initiatives.