TURTLE ISLAND

Algonquins work with mediator
in attempt to resolve differences

By Debbi Christinck - Staff Writer - Eganville Leader - July 31, 2002

PikwÓkanagÓn - Although land claim negotiations are not ongoing at present, there have been steps to bring the nation together, so the negotiations can recommence.

"We are in a mediation process, where we have a facilitator that the government has put in place to try to work out some of the differences between us," said Doreen Davis, acting spokesperson of the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council.

"It seems to be having progress."

The Chief calls herself an optimist at heart, and she hopes the mediator will have the time to meet with not only with the leaders but with the grassroots people and hear what they are saying. She pointed out the grassroots people are what matter and what they think. "That is what went bad in some of the claims before is because leaders started to lead instead of taking direction," she said.

At the same time, there is much common ground and the vision for the nation is quite similar both on and off the reserve, she said. "I don't see anyone, including PikwÓkanagÓn, who doesn't want an Algonquin nation, with Algonquin citizens," she said.

"It is just like families sometimes, you don't talk to each other and the language gets confused and you think you are from opposite sides of the page. When you actually sit together and look each other in the eye and talk you find you are both on the same page. That is the same optimism."

Land claim negotiations broke down beginning last fall.

The land claim has been an ongoing issue for generations, but came to the forefront in the last decade when both the governments of Ontario and the government of Canada entered into negotiations with the Algonquin nation. A formal claim was submitted by the Algonquins. of Golden Lake (PikwÓkanagÓn) in 1983. The government of Ontario came to the negotiating table in 1991. The federal government joined a year later in 1992. A framework for negotiations was signed in 1994.

In the last few years, a corporation was established called the Algonquin Nation Negotiation Directorate (ANND) which encompassed all the Algonquin people, both status and non-status. It also encompassed the Algonquin people living on and off reserve.

Issues in the community arose in the last year, where the chief of Pikwakanagan, Chief Lisa Ozawanimke, stepped down from ANND. Negotiations came to a standstill because the federal and provincial government have a policy in all land claim negotiations that they will only deal with a united nation. At that point the Algonquin nation had two voices at the table, the representatives from Pikwakanagan and the group from ANND.

Since the break-down of negotiations, and the cessation of funding of ANND in April, a new group has been formed called the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council.

Chief Davis explained that while ANND was a corporation, the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council is strictly a political group.

"What we are hoping the tribal council will accomplish is to have a more inclusive representation of the Algonquin people," she said. "The corporation could not do the things we wanted to do. It was not political in any way, shape or form, so it tied our hands in the political field."

Chief Davis has been involved in the land claim process since 1995.

"It has been an evolution," she said. "We have just evolved from management circles to grand councils to ANND and now the tribal council.

It is our government evolving to the treaty government."

"The band has always been the only political structure", she said. "The big thing is understanding processes." She explained now they are looking at the. vision for the nation from the grassroots.

"I really think that if all of us sat Down, including PikwÓkanagÓn, and at one point we do lay our visions out, we are not far off with our vision for the whole nation," she said. "It is internal differences that are holding us back. I think every form of government does have that."

The mediator is coming up with some ways to help the nation move forward, she explained.

"She has had a very tight time frame," Chief Davis said. "The government has left her the month of July."

"I think it is important we have an independent person between us at this point," she said.

Chief Davis said the only difference between her community and PikwÓkanagÓn is the issue of status.

"The only difference is we are not status," she said. "I have status family, but I am not status. We represent status and non-status within the community."

The whole issue of status and non-status was one of the issues in the negotiation. "We are the very same people," said the chief. "We identify ourselves through our ancestry, through our documents. We do the genealogy right here in the office."

The core group the nation works with is 1/8 blood, and Chief Davis said that was the decision made by all the groups at the table.

"The ugly word status and non-status leaves an awful taste in everyone's mouth," she said. "Then you've got on-reserve and off-reserve. Those are English words that come to hurt the nation. We are trying to work through dropping that language. We are an Algonquin people."

Chief Davis is chief in the Sharbot Lake region. She is in her second term as chief of an off-reserve, non-status first nation. She has a council and they meet regularly. They have a traditional pow-wow and work to keep up their culture. They receive no government funding.

The community at Sharbot Lake was offered a parcel of land for a reserve, but Chief Davis explained the ancestors rejected the reserve and the community has lived in the surrounding area as a community.

"The land still sits there," she said. "The tract of land is still there."

The ancestors decided not to live on the land. Chief Davis said she still has a petition explaining why they felt this way. This was in the 1700ĺs when the white pine was being logged in the area, she said.

"I have a petition here from one of my ancestors who said it would be like going to a concentration camp to live on the reserve " she said. "They wanted to stay on the land, which we still own a lot of in the Sharbot Lake area."

She said this was the choice of the ancestors, but it does not make the people any different.

"That is the knowledge that needs to get out to some of the people of Pikwakanagan," she said.

"We really are the same. We really are their families. We just are not on our little piece of land."

Her mail out goes to 640 homes. She said there are large numbers of people who share the vision of the community.

"The vision isn't much different from PikwÓkanagÓn," she said. "We've got to get by the internal of who's who." Chief Davis said she supported the chief of PikwÓkanagÓn, Lisa Ozawanimke, in the last election. "I went to her home and celebrated with her," she said. "We have friendships here. Political differences are political differences. We need to put that behind us and remember we are friends and we are the same people. That is what I think will heal us."

Even though negotiations are not ongoing, there is negotiation for a hunting agreement. The government is meeting with Pikwakanagan as welt as with the tribal council.

"They don't attend with us," she said. ."The government is meeting with them themselves."

As far as the federal government is concerned the negotiations are stalled until a united voice speaks on behalf of the Algonquins.

"The government of Canada is still willing to negotiate when they find a single voice," said Jean Yves Assiniwi. "We are still at the point when we are waiting to hear from the Algonquins on how they intend to organize themselves as to how they will come to the table."

The government will only speak to one voice as a practical matter.

"It is impossible to have a process which would confirm Algonquin rights if the Algonquins are talking with many voices and have many processes with which they can actually agree to disagree with each other."

Mr. Assiniwi said the federal and provincial governments agreed to a facilitation process.

"I think the term at this time would be more of a facilitator than true mediation," he said.

"I don't know if it is at the stage where true mediation can commence. The facilitatorsĺ job is there to help the Algonquin along in their discussions."

Mr. Assiniwi said the facilitators' work was a relatively short time period and he did not know how long the government was willing to extend this.

"We had assumed by the end of July it could be worked out," he said. "Somehow we doubt that is going to be the case, so how far we are willing to extend this- we'll see. I don't know."

Mr. Assiniwi has been involved in this land claim for almost five years. He works on other land claims as well and is just in the process of completing one in the Northwest Territories.

As far as the Ontario government is concerned, the negotiations are not ongoing while the facilitator does her work.

"We are just waiting for that process to finish," said C. B. Pappin, communications advisor for the Ontario Negotiating Team. "Things are on hold."

At the same time, the province hopes negotiations will continue.

"Ontario is very anxious to get back to the negotiating table," she said.

The Leader attempted to contact Chief Lisa Ozawanimke however she was out of her office this week.


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