It's Important to: Rebuttable FNLMA Fact Sheet

Gary August Schlueter, * garyaschlueter@gmail.com

Rolland Pangowish prepared a fact sheet about Canada's First Nation Land Management Act (FNLMA). It was dated January 24, 2019 and he mentions December 2018 as when these major amendments to the long-standing Indian Act were made. I see by Justice Laws Website, FNLMA is current as of May 17, 2020.

At the core of FNLMA is the term Land Code. According to Samantha Fex, the Land Code for those tribal bands who chose it, replaces the 32 sections of the Indian Act that pertain to land management.

 

According to Fex, "The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management was signed in 1996 by First Nations and Canada." Muskoday First Nation was the first nation and their land management tenure began in 2000. By 2018 there were 70 First Nations of Canada who had implemented their own Land Codes, she reported.

A take-away line from this Q&A is, "This means that the Government of Canada no longer has a say in how the community’s reserve lands are managed." The government is giving away something and that makes RP skeptical.

RP's Fact Sheet says FNLMA "is alternative legislation the replaces 40 sections of the Indian Act." The Fex 'Land Code Q&A' mentioning 32 was published on OneFeather January 22, 2018, a year before RP was published. Government can certainly add eight sections in one year.

As defined by Samantha Fex, I say the Land Code is a good thing and a lot, but not all, of what RP is ripping at is erroneous or something even less. I sense fear in RP's 'Fact Sheet' which, by the way is not a fact sheet because it asks questions. (A fact sheet should be answering questions, not asking them. There are other rhetorical persuasion tools better suited for questioning.)

So in response to RP's 'Fact Sheet', here's my topic sentence: Devices to distribute land into the hands of the indigenous people of those lands are on the up-swing in Canada and should be used as an example for the other nations of the Western Hemisphere to follow.

The Indigenous people of the New World were one, 20,000 years ago. Around 15,000 years ago they diverged into two sub-groups, Northern Native American and Southern Native American. Today there are many nations of Native Americans, many tribes and many bands and like the band, tribe and nation, they are one, of one basal Ancestral Native American lineage. So sayeth J. Victor Moreno-Mayar, et al in their 2018 paper 'Early human dispersals within the Americas.'

To deal with them as nations is imperative in these latter days of human consciousness. Canada seems to be doing that.

These emerging Native American land-use devices which RP is so skeptical of, serve their goal; they ensure the economic and environmental viability of Indigenous nations. In 1996 when Chief Paddy Peters witnessed a clear-cut on lands neighboring his tribe he had an epiphany, his people could do a better job managing the forest. "We have to do something about this for our community," he said.

Consequently, ten years later the Pikangikum signed an agreement with the Province of Ontario creating a strategy for the Pikangikum to manage Whitefeather Forest, their ancestral homeland.

  

"The Whitefeather Forest is described as a cultural landscape, with special meaning for Pikangikum people, past, present and future," according to Charlie Lauer, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. "Pikangikum sets out a vision for a strong community future, where new resource-based activities will support economic renewal in harmony with Pikangikum people's cultural legacy."

Pikangikum Elder Solomon Turtle explained, "We started this Initiative because of the land. The people of Pikangikum have lived on this land for a long time and this is how we survived . . . We started this for our youth."

RP seems to consider these devices as examples of the Canadian government "off-loading of financial responsibilities by helping create corporate entities to raise capital, manage finances and control governance on reserve lands." Except for the negative connotation in 'off-loading of financial responsibilities', I completely agree with RP.

The corporate entities created are "the result of years of hard work by many people," according to Chief Dan Owens message in the formal Whitefeather Forest transfer document.  "It is nothing short of a profound duty to ensure that the Planning Area (WF) and its ecological legacy are sustained into the future. This is a duty that is shared by every person from every culture."

The corporate entities created of, by and for the Pikangikum are necessary to deal with the world economically. Corporations often, and for good reason, are the bad guys, but that's western economic corporations. Native American corporate power comes from a different place. Jon Gibson in The Ancient Mounds of Poverty Point  described a corporate strategy that "emphasized welfare of the group as a whole and discouraged vainglorious behavior."  I call this a cooperative corporate strategy.

(By the way, Gibson felt Poverty Point culture employed "a networking strategy which emphasized individualized-centered exchange relationships." Long story, but it boils down to, there was no rock anywhere near Poverty Point and they were a rock-oriented culture, ergo, network and trade.)

While the recent rise in Native American forest reserve initiatives is a good sign, the recent rise should not be seen as a fad or ephemeral economic phenomenon. The Menominee have managed their forest in Wisconsin successfully for 140 years.

When Chief Oshkosh started having his tribe selectively take down the trees in 1854 there was an estimated 1.2 billion board feet in their forest. By the 1990s, under Menominee Tribal Enterprise corporate management the forest had grown by half a billion board feet, though I'd rather call them trees.

RP mentions several times that the title to these reserve lands that the government is foisting upon the tribal bands is still in Canada's name. I agree Canada owns the reserve land and say, it doesn't matter whose name is on the deed. No one really owns the land anyway. Title conveys a bundle of rights. In those rights are contained the power to use or not use the land.

In the case of the Whitefeather Forest Initiative, Canada is holding the title but giving up certain of those rights to the Pikangikum band of Ojibwe. This seems is what RP calls "federal government's off-loading." I agree but put it differently: The federal government is off-loading certain sticks in its bundle of rights to this reserve land. The government's hold on the land is weaker and the Pikangikum has been made stronger.

    I'm sure there are many aspects of these agreements that I have not considered, things that no outsider could know about, but if the mission is 'More Land Into Indigenous Hands,' it seems to me Canada's on the right track.

I am drawing from three sources in my response, one is 'Land Code Q&A' by Samantha Fex published on OneFeather January 22, 2018; the second is the Whitefeather Forest Initiative; the third is various reports about the Menominee Tribal Enterprise.

Fact Sheet asserts "alternative legislation like the FNLMA"…"are all part of the federal government's off-loading of financial responsibilities by helping create corporate entities to raise capital, manage finances and control governance on reserve land, chaining reserves to what in effect are federal muncipalities where the federal Crown holds underlying title, but retains no liability."

Chief Dan Owens of Pikangikum First Nation sees his nation's efforts at land managment as "vital" "to offer our your new land-based livelihood opportunities." In an official document he said," The Whitefeather Forest Initiative began as an effort to secure economic renewal for Pikangikum people through a forestry opportunity. The completion of this Strategy represents a major milestone to Pikangikum people achieving this goal. It is our guide for supporting the economic renewal of our First Nation and contributing to the larger economy of Ontario."

Land Code Q&A by Samantha Fex, dated January 22, 2018.

Published www.onefeather.ca/blog/land-code

The Indian Act is still in place, the Land Code for those tribal bands who chose it replaces the 32 sections of the Indian Act that pertain to land management. "This means that the Government of Canada no longer has a say in how the community’s reserve lands are managed."

The tribal band signs an Individual Agreement with Canada which describes the Land Code land, says when the transfer will occur and "how much funding the community will receive to manage the reserve lands."

The tribal members have to agree and vote in favor for the Land Code to come into effect.

"The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management was signed in 1996 by First Nations and Canada." Muskoday First Nation was the first nation and their land management tenure began in 2000. By 2018 there were 70 First Nations of Canada who had implemented their own Land Codes.

The Framework Agreement guarantees that First Nation title and rights are not affected by the Land Code process.

A Land Code isn’t a Treaty and only deals with reserve lands

Land surrenders are not permitted under the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management. The reserve land base can never shrink, it can only be added to.

The United States should follow Canada's First Nation example in taking over land management of Canada's reserve land? Editorial to follow.

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