Pic Mobert Chief Wayne Sabourin speaks about the community’s Chi-Naaknigewin (constitution) during a July 7 workshop/information session at the Airlane Hotel and Conference Centre in Thunder Bay.

Pic Mobert Chief Wayne Sabourin speaks about the community’s Chi-Naaknigewin (Constitution) during a July 7, 2016, workshop/information session at the Airlane Hotel and Conference Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY—Pic Mobert held its fourth Chi-Naaknigewin (Constitution) workshop/information session on July 7, 2016, for Band members at the Airlane Hotel and Conference Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“This Chi-Naaknigewin is a tool to help us combat colonialism,” says Pic Mobert Councillor Louis Kwissiwa. “It is our chance to break the chains of colonialism. For 140 years we’ve had bureaucrats from Ottawa dictating to us First Nation people on our own land…how to govern our councils, how to live our lives.”

Pic Mobert previously held two Chi-Naaknigewin workshop/information sessions on June 2 and 20 in the community, and another on June 23 in Sault Ste. Marie, which is located about 350 kilometres south on Highway 17. An information booth is scheduled for July 29 and 30 at the Pic Mobert powwow grounds and mail-in ballots/packages were sent to off-Reserve Band members on June 20.

“Only us as Anishinaabe people know what is right for us,” Kwissiwa says about the Chi-Naaknigewin. “It is time to stop letting the Canadian government run our lives. We’ve been here for thousands of years — it’s time for a change and that change lies within the Chi-Naaknigewin.”

Kwissiwa says the Chi-Naaknigewin is a foundation for the future development of new laws by the community.

“That’s all it is — nothing is going to change overnight,” Kwissiwa says. “Some laws could take 20 years before we get to that place and have it developed and ratified. Some could take a couple of years, but we’ve got to start now. Let’s get this foundation on the ground. Let’s build our community, let’s build our Nation, slowly, thoroughly, carefully.”

The July 7 workshop/information session featured a power point presentation about the community’s Constitution by Martin Bayer, legal counsel for the Union of Ontario Indians, via telephone.

“The band members raised some interesting questions,” says Pic Mobert Chief Wayne Sabourin. “In saying that, we have to move forward and I think we can address those [issues] as we build this Constitution.”

Sabourin says there will be avenues for community members to change the Constitution to meet future needs.

“It’s going to make a big difference in our community as we move ahead,” Sabourin says. “And to get along with other neighbouring communities. We will respect their wishes and they will respect our wishes.”

Pic Mobert Deputy Chief Johanna Desmoulin was pleased with the discussion and turnout at the July 7 workshop/information session.

“We’ve had questions [and] debates, but I think the overall consensus is that we [are] going forward with our Constitution,” Desmoulin says. “It’s something better than the status quo for sure. It’s building for the future generations.”

Desmoulin says the Chi-Naaknigewin will allow the community to take control of its own destiny.

“It’s going to be our laws,” Desmoulin says. “It’s going to be the way we run as a people and who we are as a First Nation. It’s going to empower our people, so I look forward to July 29 and 30. I hope to dance at the [Pic Mobert] powwow in celebration that community members said yes to the Constitution.”

Pic Mobert plans to hold the ratification vote for the Chi-Naaknigewin on July 29 and 30 at the Community Centre.

Results will be announced on the evening of July 30 at the powwow grounds.

The Chi-Naaknigewin is required for self-governance in education and participation in the ratification vote for the Anishinabek Education System (AES), which is scheduled from November 28 to December 2, 2016.