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Nipissing First Nation creates history with Constitution to ratification

Saturday, December 07, 2013   by: Kate Adams

Nipissing First Nation

News Release

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NIPISSING FIRST NATION - In 2005, Nipissing First Nation (NFN) took the first step in creating history. In the eight years since, NFN staff and community members have worked diligently in developing the Nipissing Gichi-Naaknigewin (Nipissing Constitution).

The ratification date is set for January 10, 2014. Upon a favourable vote by NFN members, this document will become the first First Nation Constitution in Union of Ontario Indians territory.

“We’ve been speaking about this for a number of years; we’ve had a number of drafts and are finally ready to recommend this for acceptance for our membership,” says NFN chief, Marianna Couchie. “This constitution will allow us to move towards our goal in self-governance.”

Much like the Canadian Constitution, it is a piece of legislation in which all other laws will come from. It sets out the values and beliefs of the people of Nipissing and is an exercise of inherent Aboriginal rights in Canada.

“It’s not really something new and different, it’s values and beliefs that have been here with the Nipissing people forever,” says Fran Couchie, director of education at NFN.

On October 26, Arnold May, NFN counsellor, presented the constitution to the students at N’Bisiing Secondary School which included an in-depth question and answer period. “What I see in the youth is a growing awareness of their rights as aboriginal people. To me that says they are watching, listening and seeing what is happening in the community in terms of taking these steps forward,” said Fran Couchie.

The Nipissing Constitution has included in its definitions “Debendaagziwaad” to refer to the people of NFN and “Endaawaad” to refer to those who live on NFN but are not members. This is a unique addition to the Constitution as using “citizenship” in the English language would not encompass the different aspects of being a citizen of NFN.

The Constitution also states that Anishinaabemwin is the language of the Nation and English is a secondary language. For some members, the inclusion of Anishinaabemwin is very meaningful.

“That was the first language that people spoke,” says Evelyn McLeod, language translation worker at NFN.

“I was one of the ones that only had Anishinabemwin when I was growing up until I was about seven years old. Now, a lot of young people are interested in learning the language and to have it in the Constitution is great.”

NFN has released a video campaign featuring NFN staff and community members describing what the Constitution means to them. This video series highlights the history of the Nipissing Constitution, personal stories and what this historic document means for generations to come.

The video series can be viewed on the Nipissing First Nation Administration YouTube page. For more information, and to read the entirety of the Nipissing Constitution, you can visit NFN.ca.

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