Deputy Chief June Commanda, Councillor Arnold May and Chief Marianna Couchie with the Jan. 10 results of the ratification vote for Nipissing First Nation’s Gichi-Naaknigewin.  – Photo by Faye Sabourin

Deputy Chief June Commanda, Councillor Arnold May and Chief Marianna Couchie with the Jan. 10 results of the ratification vote for Nipissing First Nation’s Gichi-Naaknigewin. – Photo by Faye Sabourin

By Marci Becking

NIPISSING FN – A blue bingo dabber recorded the historic occasion as Nipissing First Nation citizens became the first Anishinabek Nation community  to ratify a constitution.

Official results for the community referendum on Nipissing’s Gichi-Naaknigewin showed 319 votes in favour and 56 against.

Electoral officer Fred Bellefeuille says use of a bingo dabber on numbered sheets is standard procedure in Nipissing elections because it makes the results more visible for webcast viewers at home.

The Gichi-Naaknigewin ratification process began in November, 2013 with online and mail-in voting.  . Advance polls were held Dec. 5 and 6, and in-person voting and counting was Jan. 10, 2014.

“It is with much enthusiasm that we announce a favourable vote for the Nipissing Gichi-Naaknigewin,” said Chief Marianna Couchie.  “The Nipissing Gichi-Naaknigewin has been in discussion for the past eight years, and to see the membership take the time to vote in favour proves they have faith in the document and in moving towards self-government.”

Chief Couchie recognized the importance of the off-reserve vote, and said communications and education about the constitution will be ongoing.

“We had some interest in the online voting. We will look at what worked and what didn’t for future elections.”

Many First Nations across Canada  have their own constitutions, but Nipissing is the first of the 39 current member communities of the Anishinabek Nation to ratify its own law-making authority.

“It sets out the values and beliefs of the people of Nipissing and is an exercise of inherent Aboriginal rights in Canada,” said Nipissing councillor Arnold May.

A video campaign series was launched in December, featuring Nipissing staff and citizens, and Anishinabek Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee  discussing the importance of the constitution and the work that has progressed over the past eight years.  The video series can be viewed on the Nipissing First Nation administration YouTube page.  For more information and to read the Nipissing Gichi-Naaknigewin, visit www.nfn.ca