Cindy Fisher addresses participants during the ‘Our Experience with Constitution Development’ Panel.  Darlene Naponse, Atikamesheng Anishnawbek, Arnold May, Nipissing First Nation, Connie Milliken, Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point,  Lynda Trudeau, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Wayne Beaver, Alderville First Nation and Cindy Fisher, Pic River First Nation.

Cindy Fisher addresses participants during the ‘Our Experience with Constitution Development’ Panel. Darlene Naponse, Atikamesheng Anishnawbek, Arnold May, Nipissing First Nation, Connie Milliken, Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point, Lynda Trudeau, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Wayne Beaver, Alderville First Nation and Cindy Fisher, Pic River First Nation.

By Kelly Crawford

SAULT STE. MARIE – Day two of the First Nation Constitution Development Workshop began with a panel entitled, “Our Experience with Constitution Development”. The panel was comprised of Constitution Committee members from all over Anishinabek Nation Territory.

“The biggest challenge is to know where we are now. We need to make sure that we are at a good place in our hearts,” explained Cindy Fisher, Pic River First Nation Constitution committee member. “We need to make sure it will be strong for seven generations. What is important to one community is important in other communities.”

Wayne Beaver, Alderville First Nation, stressed the importance of deciding on our citizenship, “We lost half of our population because the government decided that we should.” Beaver spoke of how community divides are created, “Right from the start you send your child to daycare and they know they are different. This creates division.”

Panelists included Arnold May (Nipissing First Nation), Darlene Naponse (Atikamesheng Anishnawbek), Lynda Trudeau (Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve), Connie Milliken (Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point), Wayne Beaver (Alderville First Nation), and Cindy Fisher (Pic River First Nation). They shared and answered questions with participants on the development of their constitutions regarding processes, support and community engagement.

“We have had a core group of five members on our committee.” Naponse explained how their first draft was 48 pages. At that point the committee gave the draft for legal review to Tracey O’Donnell. “The reviews are really the key to understanding exactly what you want in your constitution.”

Naponse explained how a constitution document is not very exciting. Atikamesheng Anishinawbek broke down the constitution to deliver pieces of the constitution to the community. The committee was very responsive to the different styles of understanding and aware of the need to address all generations when developing information.

Nipissing FN Constitution committee member Arnold May also attributed the use of legal advice to success, “Our initial draft was about 40 pages, after legal advice we are down to about eight or nine pages.” May shared the importance of including the language in the development. “Most of our committee members were made up of staff. We also had a member that had the language. We made the decision to use debendaagziwaad (those who belong) and endaayaawaad (those who live there) instead of citizen.” Nipissing First Nation plans to have a ratification vote on Dec. 6, 2013.

Connie Milliken, Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point, explained how Martin Bayer, Chief Governance Negotiator provided a legal review. “It was very helpful to get a fresh set of eyes by someone who is so experienced in constitutional development.  It is very valuable to have those resources available to call on.”

Lynda Trudeau, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve Constitution Committee member, stressed the importance of ensuring that everyone’s voices were heard. “We advertised for consultation on and off-reserve. We utilized opportunities that were already available in the community.” Trudeau explained how the committee used every means necessary to ensure they exhausted every opportunity. She also shared the importance of providing a concrete look at what the past, present and future will look like without a constitution.

As a wrap to the panel, Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare stressed the importance of choosing proper terminology. “We should be using Chi-Naaknigewin not constitution. We should be using E’Dbendaagzijig not citizenship”.

For information on FN Constitution Development contact Faye Sabourin 1-877-702-5200 faye.sabourin@anishinabek.ca