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Attention Atikameksheng Citizens: Action Required!

Posted June 25, 2020


The polls for the Atikamekshek Anishnawbek have been open for 25 days.  We are now down to crunch time!  We’re in the final few hours before we select a new Gimaa and Council in the 2020 Election.

This is an important call to action.

If you haven’t yet done so, please vote now.

  1. ONLINE, ELECTRONIC VOTING:  If you do not know how to vote, there are instructions here including an informative step-by-step video.  Join your fellow citizens have already cast their vote through online, electronic ballot.
  2. AT THE POLLING STATION:  If you do not have a computer or smart phone, internet nor access to email, you can vote at the polling station on election day.  The official voting day will take place:

Saturday, June 27, 2020
from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

at the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Community Centre.
Please bring one piece of ID with your name and picture.

If you are voting in person, please follow the instructions of the election staff to maintain physical distance and adhere to public health best practices.  Consider wearing a mask to the polling station.

Booshke giin” – It’s your decision

As Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, you have asserted your authority in an inspiring and historic way when you created, ratified and enacted the Atikameksheng G‘Chi-Naaknigewin on July 24, 2015.  This is our constitution, the highest law of our people and authoritative statement of sovereignty and self-determination.

The G‘Chi-Naaknigewin reflects our strong inherent values and principles. Together, we stated we believe in our vision as Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, and that we proclaim we are free and independent.

To be truly empowered by those words, it is fundamental that all debendaagziwaad (citizens) assert their role, power and responsibility by selecting the leadership of their government.

The word debendaagziwaad is an incredibly insightful and descriptive Anishinaabemowin phrase.  It doesn’t simply mean Atikameksheng citizen.  (It certainly doesn’t mean Band member.)  It translates to “those who belong”.  It refers to those who belong as Atikameksheng Anishnawbek.  Nationhood belonging is our birthright and connects us to our ancestors.

When we vote, we honour and celebrate all those Atikameksheng who have asserted their nationhood and way of life and gifted us with life we enjoy today.

Miigwetchiwendam – Gratitude

We offer a g’chi-miigwetch (thank you) to the past and present Gimaa and Council for their vision and dedication to bringing us into this time and providing for these important new tools of governance. 

We are thankful for the administration and staff, our hard working Anishinaabe public servants, who do such great work on behalf of our families and our community.

We must also acknowledge and offer our heartfelt thanks to the Committee Members and advisors who brought us the Atikameksheng G‘Chi-Naaknigewin (constitution) and Gimaakeng Naaknigewin (election code).  This election is a testament to your dedication.

Finally, we want to wish all the candidates for the office of Gimaa and Councillor, all the best in the election.  No matter the result, we honour you for putting your name and ideas forward and your willingness to lead our community. 

Show your own thanks:  Act. Interact.  Vote.

The best way you can show your thanks is by exercising your right to vote.  Make the 2020 Gimaa and Council election a huge success by being a part of an overwhelming electoral turnout.


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

This is Bob. Bob’s vote matters. Find out why.

Posted June 24, 2020


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

Why your vote really matters

Posted June 22, 2020 

If there is one enduring virtue of democracy it is the periodic check-and-balance that is fundamental to an accountable government – the election.  Inevitably, the electorate will go back to the polls to choose the person or persons that will oversee their governance. 

Politicians will come and go.  But voters will stand in line, battle the elements and fight for their right to vote and have done so for generations. 

But why does your vote really matter? 

Some will say that a single vote, or a single voter doesn’t really matter at all.  After all, they are just a single voice in the great chorus of society.  But there are so many good reasons to vote and to truly appreciate that your vote really does matter. 

We’re a small community 

Compared to other First Nations, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is a relatively small community.  Our population is 1,322 citizens.  The voting electorate includes a total of 1,046 voters.  Often, there is a fascinating phenomenon that takes place during elections with a concentrated population.  A surge of individual votes can mean the difference of who will be the next Gimaa or who will win a Councillor seat.  Individual votes are incredibly important.   

Tie-breaking 

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it inevitably results in voter’s regret.  There have been times when an election results in a tie.  Section 15 (q) of the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin (election code) states that in the event of a tie for Gimaa or for the final position of Councillor, a name will be drawn at random by the Electoral Officer.  This isn’t the way we would want to decide an important election.  Especially when you, your auntie or uncle could have cast the deciding ballot. 

Speaking of family, consider this…  your cousin is running for Councillor.  Setting aside that they are family, they are a great candidate and more than worthy of being elected.  They have great ideas and even a plan.  Election day comes and they lose the election by a single vote!  Infuriating, right?  Bring on the resulting voter’s regret. 

Consider the important issues 

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is in a historic time for governance.  Never before have we had the tools of governance that may lead us to greater self-determination.  With the Atikameksheng G‘Chi-Naaknigewin (our constitution), the possibility of self-government can move beyond leadership selection.  We can begin to consider a broad spectrum of matters including citizenship, accountability, programs and service delivery and managing our lands and resources. 

With the global pandemic, good leadership will be needed to restore confidence in our collective public health.  The next Gimaa and Council will also need to re-establish our own economy and help send people back to work. 

These are important issues of the day.  Your vote will determine which direction the community will take.  More than ever, it’s important to learn about the candidates, their ideas and be an informed and motivated voter. 

Consider the right people 

Your vote is about selecting people.  In this election, you will be asked to select a new Gimaa.  You only get one vote – to place one ‘X’ or checkmark on that part of the ballot.  That choice is going to be incredibly important for each and every Atikameksheng voter. 

As you sit before your screen with your mouse hovering above all those names, or you stand with the pencil and ballot in your hand, or you will need to consider the person you’re voting for. 

  • Who are they? 
  • Are their values compatible with yours? 
  • Are they honest and trustworthy? 
  • Do they bring good ideas with them? 
  • Do they bestow the virtues of the Seven Grandfather teachings? 

Overcoming voter apathy 

There has been some criticism over the number of votes being cast in recent votes. The threshold of consensus, and the participation rate of the electorate can certainly improve.  We can only achieve this and improve our community democracy through personal choice.  That can only happen if you act, interact and vote.  Encourage other, your family members to do the same. 

With all that being said, your vote really does matter.  Voting has never been easier.  Take personal action now.  Vote online today


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

Atikameksheng election models new governance tools

Posted June 18, 2020

In the last post, a very old and historic concept was discussed – Anishinaabe traditional governance.  The value and application of the Dodemag (clan) system is still as valid today as it was for our ancestors.  As governance evolves for the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, it will also involve newer, contemporary tools of governance, including the use of information technology. 

This election has provided us with a number of opportunities to model the possibilities of modern governance tools.  Some of the tools we are using today include: 

Social Media

The “Our Election. Our Way.” Campaign demonstrates the importance of, and the potential of, using social media to highlight our community priorities.  We’ve been able to create informative and education posts and forums that encourage information sharing, discussion and to inspire community empowerment to act, interact and vote.  Facebook and Twitter provide us with powerful sharing tools that helps facilitate community governance. 

Online Voting

The use of technology has forever changed the way we select our leaders.  Online voting has become a much safer, popular and acceptable democratic process thanks to election service providers like OneFeather.  The online, electronic ballot is a timely and accessible option for anyone with access to a computer, email and the internet.  Secure voting can take place using a simple, efficient registration and verification process using OneFeather’s safe, secure online platform.  This is truly quite advanced compared to most mainstream elections administered by Elections Canada or Elections Ontario. 

Election website

This elections sub-web of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek website is a powerful, up-to-date source of information to members about the upcoming election for Gimaa and Council.  If you haven’t already, please take some time to browse the website.  You’ll find regularly updated questions and answers on the Elections Q&A page, official notices from the Electoral Officer on the Elections Notices page, various informative posts on the Election Updates page, and of course, detailed instructions on how to vote.  That page includes a video on how to cast your online, electronic ballot

Online Candidate Night

On June 10, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek hosted an online candidate’s forum.  This is not only necessary given the global pandemic, but it can be the way of the future as a means provide access to off-reserve members who live away from the territory.  The pandemic has forever changed how we look at interactivity and online meeting tools.  We are now able to use online tools such as Zoom, Skype, Webex, WhatsApp, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams even Facetime to host community meetings, townhalls, seminars and even large-scale conferences and conventions. 

Election Night Vote Count

As another health and safety precaution, we will be webcasting the election night vote count online.  We can use tools such as Facebook Live and Youtube Live to broadcast important live events, including council meetings and community meetings.  To observe the election night webcast, you will need to register via the Members Portal

Members Portal

Atikameksheng is truly on the cutting edge of technology and modern governance with the introduction of our Members Portal.  There are not that many First Nations across Canada that provide this useful, interactive tool to share information, encourage dialogue and reach our citizens in an effective way.  Over the past year, the Members Portal has provided access to members-only information including how to access webcasts, Band meetings and minutes, and other online discussion forums.  If you haven’t done so already, please register to access the Members Portal. This is also the new way that we will be keeping in contact with you. You can update your contact information like your mailing address or email address at your convenience.  

If you have any ideas to enhance future community governance dialogue using technology, we encourage you to share on social media using #OurElectionOurWay or email: communications@wlfn.com


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

Atikameksheng Newsletter – Election Special Edition

Posted June 16, 2020

Read the Election Special Edition of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek newsletter.


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

What is Traditional Governance? Anishinaabe Dodemag

It has been pointed out on occasion that the slogan “Our Election. Our Way” is a little bit of a misnomer.   

Yes, it is our election.  Also, for the first time in our history, we are using the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek election code.  The election code was created by, and for AAFN citizens.  So, it is being done in “Our Way”.  We should be proud and celebrate that.  

However, the way we run elections is not how Anishinaabek have historically selected our leadership. 

Anishinaabe Dodemag (the “Clan System”) 

Our internal community governance and representation was based on our dodem…our clan… our family.  We are born into our dodem which, for the Anishinaabek, come from our father’s side of the family.  If you are born of a non-Anishinaabe father, you could be adopted into the community through a willing adoptive clan, like the Waabzheshii (marten) dodem. 

Each clan had its given traditional roles and responsibilities.  Some are leadership clans, like the ajijaak/zhaake dodemag (Crane clan) or the maang dodemag (loon clan).  Yes, our Chiefs were hereditary in nature.  The crane was the gimaa for external governance and international relations, including treaty-making with the Crown and other nations.  The loon was gimaa for internal governance addressing administrative matters. 

Other clans had other responsibilities. For example: makwa dodemag (bear) played a role in the health and security of our community.  The fish clans were gifted mediators, planners and thinkers.  Bird clans bore responsibility for teaching.  These are just a few, very simplified examples of an elaborate and comprehensive system of government that included concepts of decision-making, justice, and effectively responding to community needs. 

When the Indian Act came into force in 1876, the Dodemag system was outlawed in favour of western-style democracy.  The basic principle of this foreign system was the “majority rules”. 

When this system was imposed on Anishinaabek, we moved away from an inclusive, consensus-based approach where every clan had a say in the decision-making of the community. When a decision was made, it required not only the participation of every dodem, but the assent of each and every dodem. 

In recent decades, there has been a dialogue to explore the concepts of traditional governance as communities move closer to self-government.  Elders have expressed this desire both locally, and at a broader nationhood level.   

For the sake of discussion, perhaps it is time to explore what traditional governance and the Dodemag system would look like in a modern First Nation context. 

Certainly, it would require a period of comprehensive education and awareness of the Clan system.  The reality is that many of us may not even know our own clan much less their traditional responsibilities and how the dodemag relate to one another. 

It would require studying how this traditional system of representation would work within a First Nations administration.  For example: the hereditary leadership system may or may not be something that all First Nations citizens would embrace.  Perhaps traditional governance can be a blend of the Dodemag system and newer, democratic systems. 

We now have some of the tools necessary to take steps towards exploring and implementing more traditional forms of government.  We have the Atikameksheng G‘Chi-Naaknigewin, our constitution and highest law of our people.  We have the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, our election code.  Now that these are truly our documents, we can use them and adjust them as we see fit.  Atikameksheng can always make the necessary changes to ensure that future governance systems and future elections truly reflect the needs and aspirations of their citizens. 

With these powerful tools of governance, someday, we will truly govern ourselves in “Our Way”.  

What are your thoughts about traditional governance and the Clan system?  Share them using #OurElectionOurWay 


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

Election Safety: Protect yourself from COVID-19

Posted June 10, 2020

The highest priority for Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is to ensure the health and safety of our citizens.  This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when our collective and individual health has been challenged. 

With regards to the election and voting safety – please review the following public health measures and associated election advice. 

  • Learn more about COVID-19 –  Do your best to learn about the virus including the basics, symptoms and treatment.  Find out how to reduce your personal risk, and we can work collectively to stop the spread of infection. 
  • Stay home – Please don’t put others at risk, stay at home.  Reduce your necessary trips for the essentials of life.  Avoid any type of unnecessary travel. 

Election Safety Tip:  During the election, you can vote from the safety of home via electronic voting on One Feather

  • Wash your hands – The most effective health measure requires no special equipment necessary.  Use soap and hot water, spend time to scrub your hands, fingers, fingernails, wrists and lower arms thoroughly and often. 
  • Practise physical distancing – Stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from others in public.   

Election Safety Tip:  At the polling station on election day, there will be physical distancing measures in place.  Please follow the instructions provided by election officials. 

  • Cleanse Surfaces – In areas and surfaces that you use every day, clean using an effective disinfectant.  You may want to consider cleansing items you may have purchased from the store. 

Election Safety Tip:  Election officials will be disinfecting common surfaces and the voting area at the polling station on election day. 

  • Don’t touch your face – Easier said than done but try. 
  • Face Coverings – Consider using personal protective equipment including masks and face-covering to protect others from infection.  Learn how to use, clean and dispose of used masks. 

Election Safety Tip:  Consider the health of others by wearing a mask if you need to visit the polling station on election day. 

  • Considering Doing things Differently – Especially during this crisis, we all need to adjust our actions and behaviours in order to reduce our risk.  Businesses are considering curb-side service, offices are communicating using video conferencing, staff are working from home. 

Election Safety Tip:  Vote from the safety and comfort of your own home by using online, electronic voting

The biggest question, that we don’t necessarily have an answer for:  Why take the risk? 

Learn more: 

If you have any questions about COVID-19, visit: 


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

Call for 2020 Election Candidates Night

This call for candidates is time-sensitive. Candidates for Gimaa or Councillor are asked to respond no later than June 10, 2020 by noon to: WNootchtai@wlfn.com or call: (705) 919-0719.


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

Custom election a tangible step towards Self-Government


 Posted June 8, 2020

A dose of reality:  The history of Band Council governance is ripe with oppression, colonialism and trauma for all First Nations across Canada.  Since the introduction of the Indian Act in 1876, the goal of the Band governance provisions of the Indian Act was to stamp out traditional systems of governance in order to colonize and control First Nations.  Such has been the way through many revisions of the election and governance provisions of the Indian Act – all done in their way! 
 
But beginning with the spirited opposition and ultimate rejection of the infamous 1969 White Paper, to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have begun to re-assert our right to self-determination.  This was a victory carried out by our leaders like Gary Potts back in the Constitutional talks and became recognized and affirmed in s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. 

“We are Nations. We have always been Nations. As Nations, we have inherent rights we have never given up. We have the right to our own forms of government. We have the right to self-determination.”

Anishinabek Nation Declaration (1980) 


 
It was this fierce advocacy from First Nations during these times that drew attention to the emerging concept of self-government.  Self-government may be a relatively new term but it’s certainly not a new concept.  Anishinawbek have governed ourselves since time immemorial long before the establishment of the Indian Act. 
 
In 1988, the Indian Act enabled provisions for First Nations to create their own Band Custom Election codes.  Since then, approximately half of all First Nations in Canada have taken up the task of creating, ratifying and implementing their own election codes. 
 
So Atikameksheng is not alone.  This has been done (and done successfully) in many other communities across Canada including many of our neighbours and kinfolk across Robinson Huron treaty territory. 
 
Is it perfect?  No.  Band governance, as a whole, continues to be imposed on our people under the Indian Act.  The Band custom election process still requires us to meet certain standards imposed by colonial oppressors. Much of this is not according to our true customs as Anishinawbe people.  Historically, we governed ourselves by using the Clan System, which recognizes familial representation and clan responsibilities.  Anishinawbe governance also included a broader confederacy and associated Council Fires. 
 
Despite this, it is certainly a monumental and historic step forward to establish the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, our own custom election code.  This was written by, ratified and established by Atikameksheg Anishnawbek.  To recognize our election code under our own authority of the Atikameksheng G‘Chi-Naaknigewin, our constitution and highest law of our people, is also empowering.  These are tangible instruments of self-government.  As a community and as a nation, we are moving beyond the confines of colonialism and the Indian Act to using our own self-government processes. 
 
Now that we have our own constitution and election code, we can choose to take further steps towards self-determination and our own forms of government.  That’s the choice we have as Atikameksheng citizens.  

Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

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