Saturday was a historic day for the five First Nations communities that have signed on to the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement.
“Today marks an important milestone in the implementation of the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement Act. We are honoured to be here with the B’Maakonigan communities … to commemorate this unprecedented occasion. We share in the collective enthusiasm at the vast potential this new Agreement will create for these signatory communities,” Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe of Anishinabek Nation said in a news release.
The celebration was an opportunity for people to gather in-person to commemorate the signing of the Agreement, which took place at a virtual ceremony earlier this year.
“We are beginning the process of developing our own laws within the community. Our membership is being consulted now. Then we will go to ratification and it will be our membership that votes them in. It’s important, truth and reconciliation brought some stuff to life but now we can finally say who we are,” Chief Rhonda Williams-Lovett of Moose Deer Point First Nation told CTV News.
Canada’s Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Mark Miller, was on hand Saturday and said that this agreement is long overdue.
“It’s taken them far too long, decades to get to this place. There’s a lot of people who aren’t here today that we’re honouring that have fought for their lifetimes to see this day. These are the ways we document our relationships, there ways that we move forward in a relationship that has often been marked by distrust,” Miller said.
Achieved through about 25 years of negotiation, the historic agreement gives signatory First Nation communities control over governance and the law-making powers in some key areas; they will make their own decisions about how their elections will be held, who their citizens are and how their governments will operate, as well as how best to protect and promote Anishinaabe language and culture.
The agreement also means that parts of the Indian act will no longer apply in these territories.
“It’s overwhelming I guess you could say, because for so long we’ve lived under the Indian Act and to know that the citizens I represent are going to be the ones making the decisions on how they live, that’s what’s important,” Chief Williams-Lovett added.
“They will get to do it all.”