I write on behalf of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation regarding the press release issued by the Grand Council Treaty #3 on March 7, 2019.
Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation is deeply troubled by statements in the March 7 press release which suggest that the Crossroute Forest licence and Fort Frances mill transaction are contrary to our traditional law and the interests of local First Nations.
Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation fully supports the Manito Aki lnakonigaawin of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 in relation to the use of resources in Treaty #3. We agree with the Grand Council that as treaty peoples, we share duties as stewards of our ancestral lands, as well as the right to benefit from those lands.
We also agree that our traditional law calls for the use of our resources to be authorized by the Anishinaabe people of Treaty #3, consistent with the principle of free, prior, and informed consent.
However, Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation is concerned that the comments of Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Treaty #3, regarding the Crossroute Forest and Fort Frances mill will have serious negative consequences for our community.
For decades, we have made efforts to develop positive working relationships with government and companies seeking to undertake development activities in our territory. These relationships are critical to our ability to ensure that our lands are used in a way that is respectful and sustainable, and that our members directly benefit from resource development in our territory.
Statements such as those in the March 7 press release undermine this work and place these relationships in jeopardy. We are particularly troubled by the Grand Council’s failure to speak directly with Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation prior to issuing the press release.
Before taking a public position on this matter, the Grand Council should have sought our input and clarified whether and how Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation and other local First Nations are involved with and benefit from the current operations.
Engaging with us in advance also would be consistent with the principle of free, prior, and informed consent pursuant to our traditional law as referenced in your press release.
Going forward, we respectfully request that the Grand Council engage directly with Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation to determine our position on issues related to the use and development of our territory prior to issuing public statements which could prejudice the rights and interests of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation and our members.
I ask Ogichidaa Kavanaugh to please do not hesitate to let us know if you wish to discuss this further.
Chief Will Windigo