[Aboriginal] Voice must be heard [about resources] – by Ryan Lux (Timmins Daily Press – October 27, 2011)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

First Nations willing to work with resource firms

Resource companies and the province seeking to develop land in Treaty 9 territory must do more than consult First Nations. Mushkegowuk Grand Council Chief Stan Louttit maintains firms must obtain consent before work can proceed.

Louttit made his case at the Mining Ready Summit Wednesday morning based on recently discovered diaries of one of the original treaty commissioners.

Found in the Queen’s University library in 1995, the diaries have been subject to legal analysis for the past three years and the Mushkegowuk council argue they reveal something their Elders have said all along. Their ancestors never surrendered authority over their lands.

Louttit told the First Nations and mining sector representatives gathered at the summit the story of how the treaty was originally signed in 1905.

“The treaty was brought to us with the sole purpose of getting our mark. They never translated it for us or even left it for us to understand,” said Louttit.

In fact, one clause in the document states commissioners lacked any powers to negotiate treaty terms with the communities.

Louttit said his Elders told a different story. Passed down from generation to generation, there was an understanding that the treaty meant they would never lose their land but would work with Canadians in the spirit of co-operation.

The diaries tell a story where commissioners, career civil servants, would say anything to the First Nations in order to get their marks.

Meetings are scheduled with the province beginning Nov. 17 to determine how, if at all, the government is prepared to realign their relationship with Treaty 9 communities.

Up until now, Louttit said the government hasn’t acknowledged the diaries as impacting the treaty.

“The government has been silent. They haven’t come to grips with how they’re going to deal with this.”

Which is confusing for Louttit because based on what he hears from government, they have already acknowledged the Mushkegowuk Council’s autonomy.

“On the one hand they come to us and say thank you for welcoming us to your traditional territory but on the other they call all the lands outside of the little boxes they call reserves Crown land,” he said.

“Do governments and resource companies actually understand what we’re talking about or are these terms just words to them that fly over their heads?”

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