In response to Rosemary Wakegijig’s recent letter to The Expositor regarding her curiosity about whether there was any consultation with the UCCMM’s membership about wind turbines (‘Wiky resident demands council transparency on wind turbines,’ January 4, page 4), as a member of the Whitefish River First Nation, I would have to say there was none. In hindsight, the only intimation of such a venture on our band’s part was when leading up to our last election, a councillor mentioned something about money that was being spent and that there were going to be some surprises coming up in the next while. Election fiascos have become par for the course in this community, so I doubt that’s what he was talking about. The wind farm project, however, was a surprise. The chiefs cry to the government about lack of consultation and accommodation, yet it is rather transparent that there’s no accountability to the people they represent. Sadly, we find out such things through the media, and not through our own representatives.
There are so many issues surrounding wind farms—both pro and con—that the fact our membership was not given the opportunity to voice our concerns before this deal was signed with Northland is disheartening and disrespectful. Why couldn’t they have simply asked Northland to give a community presentation? Did the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) do any independent research into possible environmental and health impacts and were these presented to any of the communities? It seems that each side of this whole wind controversy has a different story, and according to project manager Rick Martin himself, “Anyone could make a case on any topic with the right group of candidates,” although I’m sure the people would have been more than welcome to hear his side of the story, given the amount of investment we would be making in this project, the details of which are all up in the air. The six member First Nations of UCCMM differ in population as well as in their available resources for this project, so how will the cost sharing and benefits work out? Where will the financial resources come from to support this project? If it’s to be from land claims, then under the current situation, those funds are being committed without the say of the people. These decisions being made by a few in no way reflect the culture and values of the Anishinaabek people, yet there’s a part of me that feels apologetic and embarrassed by the actions of these few.
The Manitoulin Island, maage Mnidoo Mnising, has long been held sacred by the Anishinaabek; it’s no wonder our ancestors called this Spirit Island. The natural beauty of the land and waterways inspire awe and wonder in the power of the Great Spirit. They were wanting for nothing; the land and water provided all they needed, so it was no small event when it came to pass that our ancestors were asked to give up that which they loved so dearly. The coercion and duplicitous dealings with the treaties is a deep dark blood stain on the Island that we still feel today, but those treaties were also drafted by a small circle of people who had their own agendas to pursue. It seems that this new catch phrase, ‘lateral violence,’ has taken on a new meaning with the Anishinaabek in this territory, but there will always be those whose desire for attention and limelight is greater than their ability to understand and demonstrate the words they speak; these are the ones who give politicians a bad name.
Unlike a recent letter writer to The Expositor, I don’t feel that the reservations of the Northeast Town council regarding this wind farm have anything to do with race (‘Writer amazed by Northeast Town’s attempts to derail wind power, January 11, page 5). As a matter of fact, it seems that there is a significant non-Native population that has shown more respect for the land and our people than our own leaders, for it is through them I’ve learned of these back alley dealings with Northland Power. Their questions and concerns have provided me with much more information than our own leadership, which is a sad fact in this day and age. To add to all this confusion and almost as an aside, there was a candidate in our last election who sat on the UCCMM Board Of Directors and actually signed the partnership agreement between Mnidoo Mnising Power and Northland Power. The confusing part about this is that the UCCMM Board Of Directors is to be composed of the chiefs and councils of the affiliated First Nations, and since our elections (Whitefish River’s) are to be held in accordance with the Indian Act, it is only through the Act that one is granted the authority to enter into legal contracts on behalf of the Whitefish River First Nation. UCCMM, with all its puffed-up glory, holds no sway there. So, technically speaking, the wind deal doesn’t hold water. There is still further confusion as Article VI of the UCCMM constitution states that, “…the United Chiefs and Councils shall not interfere with the internal affairs of any member First Nation.” I would say that having someone who is sitting on the Board Of Directors, not as a councillor or chief of the Whitefish River First Nation, but as a citizen and a candidate in an upcoming election would constitute a gross interference in the internal affairs of a member First Nation, especially when they are appointed as a tribal chair spokesperson. No doubt the timing of this whole affair was very opportunistic, to say the least.
Obviously the dark cloud of confusion hanging over our community has spread outward and infected the UCCMM, but what redress is there when there is no accountability to the rules of governance and when those that address these are the very same ones who violate them? Aambe shkoozik!
I thank The Expositor for having this open dialogue on a very controversial issue and also many thanks to those who’ve provided comments and information from their varied perspectives.
Whitefish River First Nation
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