Letter responding to article “Terminology: What we call ourselves matters” posted Jan. 9, 2018

I was reading the article in the Anishinabek News “Terminology: What we call ourselves matters, posted January 9, 2018. I thought I would write and send my thoughts on the matter. Thank you for taking the time to read my long e-mail.

I called the Assembly of First Nations maybe a year or so ago , I wanted to know their definition of “First Nation”. No one there seem to know what the definition was and subsequently I was transferred to a few different people. One young girl told me it meant “people”, which didn’t make sense because that would be Assembly of People.

When did the terminology First Nation come into existence – was it the mid 1980’s? Who suggested the terminology First Nation and why?

Why did the terminology First Nation come into existence – I was told many years ago it was to replace “Indian Reserve”.

Whitefish River First Nation. I have a hard time with the term First Nation. Some tell me it’s because we are a Nation.

Whitefish River Indian Reserve #4 (our legal name), is the land base and name given when it was mapped out for us by the Robinson Huron Treaty. Yes, some of my ancestors were living here at the time, but there was no boundary prior to the treaty so how could they be “citizens” and “citizens” of what?

Once we got a land base did we automatically become citizens of Whitefish River Indian Reserve #4?

If anything it could be said we are citizens of Turtle Island not just a little land base doled out by the Federal government.

The aboriginal population of Whitefish River First Nation are descendants of the Ojibway Nation, we did not sever ties with the Ojibway Nation to form part of our own nation otherwise we would have given ourselves a new and different name and not remain to be known as Ojibway people.

The term citizen is problematic. Our people (ancestors) did they call themselves citizens? I doubt very much if you would find a translation of “citizen” in the old Anishinabe language.

What is the origin of the word citizen and does it really apply to us? Why are we trying so hard to accept and adopt non-Anishinabe terminology?

Why are we trying so hard to put ourselves in a Federal government box? Why is the Federal government willing to let us call ourselves “citizens”?

Prior to Canadian Confederation, the settlers on this land, were they known as citizens? Was Christopher Columbus a citizen of Italy?

If we are so set on being citizens of such and such First Nation, why haven’t we done anything to legally change our land base title – such as Whitefish River Indian Reserve #4 to Whitefish River First Nation?

Many First Nations have one or several settlements on their territory such as Nipissing, Wiikwemkoong, were as others don’t. Those little settlements are not First Nations, they are communities. What else you going to call them?

Whitefish River has one community known as Birch Island – Birch Island is not a First Nation. So in some instances we need to use the word community. I wonder if that makes me a citizen of Birch Island and not a citizen of the land base Whitefish River First Nation. Do people want to be called citizens because we have our own land base given to us by the government?

The word citizen and membership is problematic in our Citizenship Code.

When a child is born they are automatically a Canadian citizen because they are born in Canada, in a Canadian hospital, goes for everyone aboriginal and non-aboriginal. When a child is born whose parent(s) are citizens of this First Nation their child is not automatically a citizen of this First Nation – those parent(s) must apply for their child to be a citizen in accordance with our Citizenship Code, consequently we have some “band members” that are citizens and some (hundreds) that are not. Extreme care must be used in developing “Citizenship Codes”.

I remember a speaker (David Foote), some years ago, at one of our conferences tell the audience that we need to get together and come to a common language as to what we want to call ourselves. He referenced we don’t want to be called Indians but our main political entity is call Union of Ontario Indians.

1. A recommendation is to research the original intent behind the term “First Nation”. So many different views on what that means, even the Federal government has it’s own interpretation(s).

2. Recommendation that there be a common definition of citizen other that the non-Anishinabe definition. 500 years ago, I think one would find it difficult to find that word in our ancestors vocabulary even 200 years ago.

Thank You,

Valarie McGregor
Whitefish River First Nation