FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – Leaders Ledger -
Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau
As the Holidays approach and the year comes to an end, I am writing to you the membership of Fort William First Nation; not only as Chief, but also as a community member myself. It brings me great pride and pleasure to wish each and every one of you a joyful holiday and a happy new year.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recap on this last 8 months since being elected into office in April 2013, what we have accomplished, and what new initiatives we are currently working on for the betterment of the membership both on and off reserve. It’s been a very busy time getting everyone up to speed on a new transition of Chief and Council. We have new faces and old, experience and youthfulness. It’s a terrific blend and I feel that the future is bright for Fort William First Nation.
FWFN Council unanimously passed a resolution to create a new Corporation that will transition Economic Development into self-sustainable entity that will generate a revenue stream for FWFN, meaningful employment and training for our members. The concept will be an impartial professional body governed by policies, procedures and applicable laws to oversee opportunity and provide qualified professional advice in conjunction with FWFN. A training centre of excellence is being developed, and a building complex which FWFN already owns will be utilized to provide training, not only in Construction and Heavy Equipment, but many diverse areas of trades and skills development.
This summer we completed majority of our roads project which also employed over 40 band members and employees of those included women, men, grandmothers, grandfather and young people, without their dedication and hard work this would not have been possible.
The Mission Road and ditching will be completed in spring of 2014. Once we have the final cost a financial report will be completed and presented to the community. The current status of the spring flood is nearing an end and with much anticipation, majority of costs will be covered by AADNC and the Federal Government. We now have a crisis plan and team developed and in place if this were to happen again.
CULTURE AND RECREATION
Integration of tradition and spirituality is integral to cultural growth and realization. With the ongoing efforts of reinvigorating culture and recreation within our community we hope to promote culturally relevant programs, services and beautification as a long term benefit for all our membership and the broader community.
Current initiatives include:
The Intertribal brings the people together. On the left Clyde and Munzeroy share a memory.
The Mountain Pow Wow grounds are now in the construction phase and will be completed in spring of 2014 in time for our traditional activities. We hope to be able to attract more tourism to the area, all while providing the proper security to prevent vandalism and protect what is so sacred to our Anishinabeg. An arbour with new buildings, landscaping, and lookout was presented at our first quarterly community meeting which was well received. We hope to become the pride of Northwestern Ontario all while maintaining the traditional aspects that we hold so dearly.
Youth land based and cultural activities, Little NHL, Language program, traditional crafts, drumming and teachings, youth drop in centre, proposal of various recreation sites to be developed into the spring of 2014, and an early proposal stage of a Youth Centre being developed which will be presented to Chief and Council and community in New Year.
The Elders Centre is finally a go, and after many attempts we have hit the ground running. The engineering phase is being completed to match the current needs of our Grandmothers and Grandfathers. Funding is being allocated and sought out. We hope to break ground in the New Year and with all the support of the Elders and those of us who want to keep our Elders at home and happy, we hope all is satisfactory. We will continue to hold more meetings to ensure that communication is being maintained.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH:
As we look forward into 2014 – 2015, we have to look into the possibility of a new Youth Complex and Daycare. This would allow our young parents to be able to provide a safe and accessible environment close to home to be able to leave their children as they become employed while accommodating many other prospective caregivers who are currently employed within FWFN.
Training, education and skill development is necessary to the fostering of successful responsible youth. The proposed training centre will have a strong emphasis on young people while striving for a better educational streamlined process to keep our Youth in school and ready for the workforce.
ADEQUATE AND SUSTAINABLE HOUSING:
Housing has always been a challenge regardless of where we live, either on or off reserve. Overcrowded homes, inadequate builds, lack of plans, inclusion and resources all contribute the overarching breakdown of a housing regime which as a result costs the First Nation in all aspects. Currently housing is under review and restructuring to better meet the needs and demands of our membership. The program is being “revamped” to accommodate a broader outreach and provide a more inclusive housing program accessible for all members. Identified priorities include on and off reserve membership, Elders, Singles, families, low income, private ownership, and social housing.
We anticipate a new housing program to be launched in spring of 2014.
The Administration is a vital function of our First Nation, their combined expertise and experience ensures optimal service and program delivery. As we restructure and organize, it provides us with insight into the administrative process and how we can understand, support and improve collectively to better serve you. Administration has been very active in strategic planning, budgeting, reviewing department goals, objectives, policies and processes. With the new transition, Administration has adapted very well keeping community priority as they plan moving forward. Communication has increased, along with enhanced reporting mechanisms that have been implemented to keep community informed.
In the fall of 2013, each department developed budgets and workplans supported by Chief and Council and presented to the community at our first quarterly band meeting. These documents can be viewed and accessed on the FWFN website.
CHIEF AND COUNCIL:
As your elected representatives we are committed to you; with the growing membership, business, and community needs, we want to be as effective and accessible as possible. Since being elected into office in April 2013, we have increased our meeting from 2 to 4 council meetings monthly to accommodate community needs, reporting, business and presentations. Our website has been entirely redone and will continue to be updated frequently, as stated earlier we now post our minutes on the website along with financial audits, we now host quarterly band membership meetings which are also livestreamed to provide access to those who cannot attend in person, in the new year we will review a new council policy and structure, portfolios and reporting requirements along with Chief and Council budget, we will begin comprehensive community planning in the new year which will representative of FWFN vision and long term goals. This will begin the mapping for the future, this will ensure continuity of your community mandate beyond this term of office. Our goal is to build upon our community at the grassroots level, empowering our members to realize their own potential lending to a successful community that grows and works together.
FWFN Days is an ongoing success, with this year being a record turnout. Over a couple days the event provides a community festival of traditional games and music as well as those that enjoy the more modern way of life. It turned out to be a success and we had positive feedback as a result. Events like this promote community togetherness within a healthy environment.
Our financial audit is complete and a meeting date will be provided shortly. This meeting will be solely about finances, and another General Community Meeting will be held shortly after the holidays to give the community members an opportunity to provide feedback. We are looking for more participation and input. It will be streamed online and we hope all technical issues are ironed out.
Our Council minutes are now posted on the website at www.fwfn.com with current audit and previous to be posted in the coming weeks which will enable you the membership to be aware of decision making and current state of your community. Transparency doesn’t happen overnight, and we feel we have provided a lot of information in such a short time, however we are always working on ways to improve. This will mark the first time that the membership will be able to access the information online.
I have been very active in pursuing agreements with various organizations and governments. Recently we signed memorandum of understanding with Confederation College. This will now help us pursue our vision of having our members trained and ready for the upcoming mining boom, as well as a declaration recognizing our Treaty and traditional lands our fellow friends of Thunder Bay across the river occupy. We need to provide our Members with meaningful and long term employment which will enhance quality of life and promote a decent way of life.
As our final land claims near an end, we recently accepted an offer from Canada of 7.1 Million dollars, we will be providing the membership with the information and will be holding a community referendum vote as follow up for next steps.
Early in the New Year, we will begin consultation of the boundary trust. We hope to roll this process into our comprehensive community planning which will give our membership local and abroad the opportunity to realize a vision of hope and prosperity now and in the future. How do you want to invest in your future and what will it take to get there?
Your patience has been greatly appreciated during this new transition; we have a progressive community agenda. As we embark on change, we also realize the need to manage that change and expectations with a reasonable delivery. Through community planning, goal mapping and realistic implementation strategy, it can and will become a reality. We have a professional dynamic administrative team, and a dedicated Chief and Council. Together with community champions we can bring our First Nation forward in a meaningful and inclusive manner. Much of what we strive for will take time; however it’s important we continue to focus on our goals and as a committed team it is our responsibility and desire to facilitate opportunities for you the members to be part of the decision making process.
With that I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I am proud and humbled to serve you as the elected Chief of Fort William First Nation.
Chief Georjann Morriseau