Tracey O’Donnell, Education Main Table Negotiator for the Anishinabek Nation, speaks about constitutional development to members of the Education Working Group.

Tracey O’Donnell, Education Main Table Negotiator for the Anishinabek Nation, speaks about constitutional development to members of the Education Working Group.

By Kelly Crawford

SAULT STE. MARIE – Anishinabek community members must see themselves reflected in their constitutions, says  education negotiator Tracey O’Donnell.

“If the document doesn’t reflect the community, the community will not vote for it,” she told a May 16th  Education Working Group meeting.  “It is a statement as a First Nation community that says we are Anishinaabe and this is how we conduct business in our community.”

Every community has its own concept of justice and history — what is right and wrong — she explained.

“The ideal would be that every community develops its own constitution under its own process. We need 39 First Nations to have constitutions. This not only supports self-government negotiations but has the potential to create change in every part of the community. It is important for the community itself, in the areas of community development, economic development and all of the activities going on.”

The development of a constitution may seem like an overwhelming task, the working group heard,  but assistance is available for communities at any stage of the process.  Faye Sabourin, a coordinator with the Union of Ontario Indians’ Restoration of Jurisdiction project, is available to assist First Nations in the development of a constitution plan. Sabourin has a goal of supporting a minimum of 10 more Anishinabek communities in their constitutional development process this year.

“We live together, we work together, and we are going to move forward together,” explained Isadore Peltier of Beausoleil First Nation. Peltier is an Education Working Group (EWG) member who discussed the connection between education and constitutional development with O’Donnell. “Education fits in the constitution because it is one of the jurisdictions. We have this right.”

For more information on constitutional development please contact Faye Sabourin at http://www.anishinabek.ca/roj/index.asp.