From the Chief's Desk
In recent discussions the Chief and Council have establish priorities for the next year which includes; Youth Empowerment; Economic Development priorities; Education System Development and ensuring post-secondary assistance to all qualified applicants; controlling and managing our reserve and off-reserve traditional lands; and updating the Sagamok Administration organization for efficiency and effective service delivery. The following highlights our discussions.
Council generated a list of areas of concern affecting youth that included alcohol and drug abuse, intervention and aftercare. Education and employment opportunities were another area of concern and the issue of youth at home who are not engaged in education or training opportunities. Council affirmed the following:
a. Youth Forum, Chief & Council hosting the event for the purpose of direct engagement to determine youth priorities, to discuss youth representation on Council, and the development of Youth Council;
b. Communication, developing and implementing a method of communication that is geared to youth that will foster participation.
c. Parental Engagement, gaining input and support from parents for youth success in education, training and youth participation in community-based programs and services.
d. Youth Representation on Council, inviting youth representation as part of Chief & Council;
e. Youth Services Unit, propose organizational unit that services our youth population addressing issues affecting youth at the community level, providing support and engagement opportunities for growth and development.
Chief and Council generated areas of priority under economic development and the following items were prioritized during discussions:
a. Grocery Store, in accordance with the recommendations from the community members, through the Comprehensive Community Plan process, the identification of options and pursuit of partnerships for a grocery store in Sagamok to retain money in the community and for potential employment opportunities;
b. Tourism, Recreational and Conferencing Facilities, the purchasing of Ritchie Falls based on a combination of Sagamok revenues and government funding and other potential properties within our traditional territory enables Sagamok Anishnawbek to gain some control in the activities and developments in our traditional territory and create employment opportunities for members of Sagamok. It is through the assertion of our treaty rights in our traditional territory that we have been able to secure jobs and revenue through our Impact Benefits Agreement with Vale. Vale’s Totten Mine has generated jobs in the form of mining, construction and janitorial work. Furthermore, Sagamok will be receiving annual payments over the next 25 years which will enable us to invest in our other Economic Development initiatives, education and so on. The assertion of our rights in our traditional territory and the pursuit of economic ventures in our traditional territory will ensure that Sagamok Anishnawbek will benefit from the activity and development.
Ritchie Falls Resort purchase is creating employment and generating revenue. On a more optimistic outlook, we are in pursuit of funding from federal and provincial government agencies for expansion of the resort to provide recreational activities such as ATV trails and adventures, building a conference centre to attract conference business and the potential for developing an environment centre of excellence for attracting environmental and academic business. The application for funding the expansion is receiving favourable consideration and, if successful, the expansion should result in greater revenues and create more jobs. Council also recently supported a new acquisition. Moosewa Lodge was purchased in September for $75,000. The lodge is valued at approximately $350,000 which in our opinion is a good investment. The lodge is located on Poupore Lake approximately 15 kilometres northwest of Ritchie Falls. There are no plans at the moment to operate the lodge this winter. Future plans do include pursuing funding to upgrade the lodge and begin operations in the summer of 2014. The new acquisition will enhance our tourism strategy and provide more opportunities for employment;
c. Corporate Re-organization, recently Chief and Council activated a Business Corporation which had been previously created. The Business Corporation will handle all business initiatives such as Ritchie Falls, the bingo operations, the janitorial contract and clothing development and sales relating to the FN Beautiful, FN Rugged and FN Tough clothing line. The Business Corporation will be the focal point for business development and management. The Sagamok Development Corporation will continue to exist for accessing non-profit business activity such as training opportunities from the government and the IBA partnership sources. The Economic Development Officer position is now part of the Sagamok Administration structure and the role will continue to focus on assisting small business development for Sagamok members.
Chief and Council believe that consolidating our reserve and off-reserve land will ensure that we have environmental and economic tools to ensure that the needs and responsibilities of the Sagamok Anishnawbek regarding our lands are fulfilled. It is through the use and occupancy study in our traditional territory and securing our real reserve boundaries through ensuring that Fort Lacloche and related lands are included as reserve lands that Sagamok Anishnawbek will be able to apply control and governance throughout all of our lands. We are experiencing some pressures and challenges around land allotments which need to be addressed:
a. To proceed with Sagamok Anishnawbek Land Code development and to ensure that our reserve lands are managed and conflicts are dealt with efficiently consistent with our collective ownership of the land and based on the traditional and customary values, principles and practices of our ancestors;
b. To complete the Land Use and Occupancy study currently underway regarding our traditional territory;
c. To take initiative to have Fort Lacloche recognized as Sagamok Anishnawbek reserve land;
d. To develop an industrial park on reserve to enable proper zoning, potential economic development and proper environmental management of industrial type projects.
Chief and Council clearly understands the importance of quality education and opportunity for our students to succeed. There are developments nationally such as through proposed legislative measures and the maintenance of the status quo on funding levels that requires Sagamok Anishnawbek to develop our own solutions;
a. To develop a financial policy that will ensure that all qualified and interested Sagamok students have the opportunity to attend post-secondary institutions. Sagamok cannot rely on government to increase funding, therefore, Sagamok will have to use own source revenues to achieve this goal.
b. To develop a Sagamok Anishnawbek Education Code to build on our existing policies, rules and capacities to run our school. The development of a Code will address quality, effective governance through some form of a local School Board, proper and effective arrangements with local school boards and provincial and federal governments for matters on education standards and funding.
Administrative and Organizational Adjustments
Chief and Council firmly understands that the administrative organization of the Sagamok Anishnawbek exists primarily to ensure good program and service delivery to the Sagamok members. Secondly, the administrative structure must ensure good management and accountability. In order to achieve effectiveness, efficiency and accountability certain adjustments should be considered:
a. Better integration of the Economic Development function of Sagamok Chief and Council by making the Chief and Council the Board of Directors of the Economic Development corporations and extending the authority and responsibility of the Director of Operations to the corporations;
b. Creating a Youth Division within the Administration to ensure that Youth issues, services and programs are addressed in a priority and specialized manner drawing on the entire capacity of Sagamok Anishnawbek governance and administration.
c. Other potential adjustments as deemed necessary and reasonable.
The initiatives and work I have outlined will be our focus in the coming weeks and months. We will continue to seek input and support from the community to reach our goals and objectives.