Eabametoong chief regards “nation building” as key to developing local economies
Harvey Yesno wants Eabametoong to take the initiative when it comes to development in their traditional territory instead of constantly reacting to it. The respected former grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) was elected chief of the remote Far North community in mid-June, succeeding Elizabeth Atlookan.
“What has happened in our region is we’ve just been responding to what’s going on,whether it’s one permit and one explorer, or the Ring of Fire,” said Yesno. “I’d like to be in a position where we are engaging.”
Eabametoong, a remote Ojibway community of 1,500, is located 350 kilometres north of Thunder Bay on the Albany River system. It’s one of the nine-member Matawa First Nations tribal councils and one of the five remote communities closest to the Ring of Fire mineral belt.
Yesno is a familar figure in northwestern Ontario’s political ranks. He headed up NAN, a political organization of 49 First Nation communities in the northwest and Far North, from 2012 to 2015, and prior to that, he was president and CEO of the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund from 1993 to 2012. Previously, he served five terms as chief of Eabametoong (also known as Fort Hope).
Regardless of the title, Yesno still talks of “nation building,” and of communities finding ways to be autonomous, self-sufficient and “guardians of the (Canadian) Shield.”
The latter term came out of the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, a provincially driven 1985 study that outlined a socioeconomic and environmental vision for the region north of 50 degrees latitude.