By Jennifer Ashawasegai –
SHAWANAGA FN – A ceremony was held to re-open negotiations with the Ministry of Transportation regarding the twinning of Highway 69. Shawanaga First Nation hosted a Renewal and Recognition Ceremony October 16th.
“We’re having this ceremony to make a good relationship with the settler nation,” said Jim Dumont, Eastern Doorway Chief of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, who conducted the ceremony assisted by Shawanaga community members Deanna Jones-Keeshig and Karl Keeshig.
“We need to make a good agreement between us and for those that come and talk with us to have the same commitment to the Land and Water.”
Bundles were prepared for the Land and Water, to treat them with love and respect, and to also let them know what was going to happen on the land in relation to the construction of the twinning of the highway. Dumont stressed that ceremonies with those affected, along with prepared bundles should be done every year.
Chief and other dignitaries in attendance were given the opportunity to speak, and also smoke the pipe with each other.
About 60 people participated in the day-long event at the community centre, and which included a Pipe ceremony.
“I think it accomplished a lot today, in terms of sitting down and going through the ceremony and respecting our traditions,” said Shawanaga First Nation Chief Wayne Pamajewon. “I think he [Ontario Ministry of Transportation Minister Glen Murray] showed real character, and most certainly, his honesty and respect was clear. The words he spoke had a lot of meaning to them, and it’s not like we’ve heard before.”
Murray made presentations of tobacco to Chiefs, and spoke of his work with First Nations communities during his term as Winnipeg mayor.
“We started on a traditional Ojibway approach, and we committed to being respectful, to recognize that this is a road not through communities but to communities,” said Murray. “ And there have to be benefits and outcomes that are meaningful to the people that live in First Nations.”
Murray said he is no stranger to ceremonies, proudly saying he was given the Spirit name “One Who Gathers the People” in ceremony with Cree and Ojibway.
Henvey Inlet and Magnetewan First Nations are also situated along the planned expansion route of Highway 69.
Henvey Inlet FN Chief Wayne McQuabbie was impressed with the Minister’s participation in the ceremony.
“Today’s ceremony is about developing a relationship between First Nations and the Ministry of Transportation. We need to build from there. Now the actual talks start. We’ve had discussions with MTO over the past year, and we’ve failed. I think it prudent that with any ongoing negotiations, the Minister also be involved.”
Minister Murray also addressed the treaty relationship.
“I think we all have to understand that we all have treaty rights — the First Nations and other Canadians. When we are building highways or damming rivers, we are exercising rights that we had negotiated through a peaceful treaty. It’s very important as we advance our infrastructure projects that we are being respectful of the treaty rights of the Indigenous people of this land.”
Magnetewan FN Chief William Diabo agreed.
“Today’s ceremony is the start of a new beginning. It brought to the forefront the recognition of treaties itself, that our treaty is not just a First Nations treaty for just First Nations people, but for both the non-Aboriginals and those who signed for us, and that the fact that the recognition was there, and the resources are ours.”