Chief Phyllis Williams, Curve Lake First Nation, and Councillor William Diabo for Magnetawan First Nation at the Governance Working Group meeting in October 2017.

By Laura Barrios

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON—Earlier this fall, the Governance Working Group met in Sault Ste. Marie, to discuss the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement. Amidst the discussions, some powerful sentiments and opinions were expressed by many participants regarding terminology that’s used in day-to-day dialogue that at face value, could be interpreted as trivial, but in actuality carry great implications.

Former Chief of Magnetawan First Nation, now Councillor, William Diabo, led the discussions on consistency in terminology both in our First Nations and in the mainstream realm.

“All of our PTO’s have consistently represented to both Federal and Provincial governments that we are Nations and our people are citizens of our respective Nations. Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynn both consistently state and recognize us as nations and Nation governments, yet we are not consistent in reflecting so,” expressed Councillor Diabo. “We’re making reference to members – we’re not members. We’re citizens; our citizens reside everywhere. We’re belittling ourselves with these colonial terms. It’s not who we are – we’re something better than that. As an example, our governance documents start off strongly – indicating ‘Nations’ and ‘citizens’ – but do not remain consistent in doing so throughout by changing the reference to ‘Community(ies)’ and ‘Members’.”

Other Chiefs echoed those sentiments.

“We need to stop using the term ‘communities’,” stated Sheshegwaning First Nation Chief Dean Roy. “We are Nations and have always been Nations. If we’re going to use the term ‘First Nations’, I’m okay with that because at least it speaks to who we are. Municipalization is a tool of oppression that they (Canada) use to belittle us – to make us less than what we are. We don’t need to be doing that to ourselves, but it’s been so ingrained in us – we need to unlearn this.”

“There should be a way of having us use the same terminology such as citizens versus members,” noted Chief Phyllis Williams, Curve Lake First Nation. “We need to be disciplined as leaders and educate our citizens – that can be part of education and awareness.”

As discussions unfolded, more GWG members agreed.

“I’d refrain from using ‘band members’, use Anishinaabe– we don’t use those other terms because they’re INAC terms,” expressed one GWG member.

Councillor Diabo put it simply, “Refer to us as nations and citizens”.

We want to know – what are your thoughts on the terminology that is used amongst our First Nations and in the mainstream? What terms would you like to see be changed or used more consistently? Feel free to write in to the editor – we want to hear from our citizens.