MUSHKEGOWUK – Aboriginal – The Mushkegowuk Council held its 28th Mamowihitowin of the Omushkegowuk (Annual General Assembly) in Fort Albany this past week. The Nations of the council collectively addressed several regional issues that are important and critical to the people of the Mushkegowuk communities in the areas of Health Care, Treaty Implementation, Education, Child and Family Services, Housing and Economic Development. A recurring message and resolution throughout the assembly was agreeing on taking action and regaining control of our homelands and governance systems.
Despite his serious state of health, Grand Chief Dr. Stan Louttit attended the assembly to provide strong leadership on behalf of the Omushkegowuk.
One of the on-going serious concerns for the Omushkegowuk is regional health governance and service delivery. In his presentation to the delegates, Chief Norm Hardisty of the Moose Cree First Nation stated; “the First Nation governments do not have a strong enough voice regarding health planning and service delivery in the region and it seems that corporate entities are attempting to make decisions without discussion and direction from First Nation governments.”
For many years First Nations worked diligently to exercise greater control and authority over health planning and health service delivery for their citizens within the Mushkegowuk territory, including through the Partners in Change initiative in the 1980`s and early 90`s. This was followed up by the transfer of the health and the creation of the Weeneebayko Health Ahtuskaywin (WHA) in 1993. Under the WHA, First Nation Chiefs participated on the Corporate Board on behalf of their citizens.
Under the Weeneebayko Area Health Integration Framework Agreement, signed in 2007, this structure changed and some argue that this took the decision-making role out of the hands of elected First Nation leaders and councils giving more authority to corporate entities and government officials.
“We have to take responsibility, we have to take charge, it bothers me to know that a corporation is not showing respect to the authority and decisions made by the governments of the Mushkegowuk First Nations,” said Grand Chief Stan Louttit.
Under their mandates, authority and jurisdiction, the Nations affirmed prior positions that the future location of a new regional hospital should be located on Indian and federal lands to continue and foster the Treaty relationship that exists between the Nations and Canada by virtue of the signing of Treaty #9, the James Bay Treaty in 1905-06. Further, The Nations also called for a Health Forum to be held in the next few months in order to review the present system of health governance and healthcare services in the region.”