Terrance Paul: Building Sustainable Economies: Membertou First Nation
Paul, Terrance. "Building Sustainable Economies: Approaches and Perspectives." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2010. Presentation.
"[Mi'kmaq Language] I would first like to begin by thanking the Native Nations Institute for inviting me to this seminar and you for being here. It's an honor to have been asked to give a presentation on Building Sustainable Economies: Approaches and Perspectives. I hope through my presentation you will receive valuable information.
To begin, I thought I'd start this presentation off by showing you this photo. This is a photo of a stop sign in my community. The reason why I chose to share this with you today is because although it's a simple road sign it represents so much more. And let me talk to you about the background.
In our community...we have the local municipality. In our community, we live in the city and it's called City of Sydney, and they have an agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs to provide us services, infrastructure services. One of them is keeping the traffic signs up to date there. So we lost some stop signs either through snowplowing when we do get snow and perhaps vandals coming from anywhere, they could have came from town, we don't know. Those things happen from time to time probably everywhere in the world.
Anyway, after two years of writing to them and asking them to replace these signs we weren't getting any responses and that showed how much disrespect they had for us. So we decided then after a really good meeting about it and because we were concerned about the safety of our children and our people in the community and others that come in, we decided that enough was enough. We decided to put up our own signs and in fact when we did put up our own signs we would have them in our language. So that's why these signs, and if you go there today, when Manley was there he might have seen them, that's naqa'si, which means stop.
So what happened after that, we got a very nasty and terse letter from the local municipality there telling us that... And I didn't understand some of the words so I know that a lawyer wrote these. So we're not about to argue with a lawyer; we'll get another lawyer to do that. So we got hold of our lawyer and we explained the situation to them and we helped develop a letter responding to them because in the letter they accused us of stealing these signs and that we were subject to perhaps a criminal charge for theft.
They also accused us of surreptitiously doing this. And I didn't know at the time what that meant and I had to ask our lawyer. "˜What do they mean? Are they being mean to us or are they being nice to us? I'm just worried.' And we got two meanings from this word and one being that we did it without telling them or we did it secretly, and I can assure you that we did not do that secretly. We didn't tell them, but we felt that after two years of asking them to do this and not doing anything, we felt that it was time for a change. And there was a good way of filling that field. They vacated it. It's a jurisdictional issue here and this is where we feel that we're starting to get control of our lives by deciding what traffic signs go up and in what language. So we have all of the stop signs in our community in our language. We also have all our street signs in our Mi'kmaq language and all our buildings are in the Mi'kmaq language. So that's the beginning of taking back control of who we are.
Now, who we are: Membertou is an urban Mi'kmaq community made up of 1,205 band members. There are approximately 774 on the reserve and 429 off reserve, but if you were to go to Membertou, there is much more people that even our population. There's thousands of people that are there; either they're working or they're socializing or they're utilizing our facilities, either its gaming or the trade center or the market or the plaza. There's a lot of people that are there day in and day out. Membertou is named after Grand Chief Henri Membertou. As you can see, he was over 100 years old. Some say he was 120 years old when he died.
On a side note, this year I had the opportunity to travel to France on a trade mission. This trip was very important to our community. Actually this summer Membertou is celebrating its 400th anniversary of the baptism of the Grand Chief Membertou. Most Mi'kmaqs in the land of Canada are Catholics. Some are very devout. The missionaries who baptized him originated from the very region of France that I visited. At a reception there I had the opportunity to sign a commemoration of friendship with a representative from the town of LaRochelle, that's where the missionaries... In fact that's a Basque district. We feel that they were Basque missionaries. It was a [memorable] experience and so important considering this year's anniversary.
Part of the Unama'ki District of the Mi'kmaq Nation is Membertou. It's called Cape Breton Island, we call it Unama'ki and it doesn't mean Cape Breton Island. What it actually literally means, land of the fog. I know we have... we get fog, but it's not every day so I don't want to scare people away who just are thinking about coming to Unama'ki. We get a lot more sun than fog. It's one of the five communities around Cape Breton Island, around Unama'ki and it's one community of 13 in all of Nova Scotia. Membertou is the only Mi'kmaq community in Atlantic Canada that's located within city limits. Sydney has a population of over 100,000 people.
In 1970 the chief and council began to take control of federal programs and services. Now, this just didn't happen. It was the result of a policy, a federal policy that the government tried to implement in 1969. It was called the White Paper Policy. And in fact, it was the then Indian Affairs Minister was a person named Jean Chretien. You might have heard of his name, but he later on moved to the Prime Minister of Canada. So that incident to me, as I remember, and I was a student back then, galvanized the Aboriginal people right across the country. We were very upset about this policy and really... putting it in a nutshell, the policy would eliminate your Indian-ness. You wouldn't be Mi'kmaq anymore, you wouldn't be Cree anymore, you wouldn't be Haida anymore, you wouldn't be Ojibwe anymore and so on. So we would be like the rest of society and they thought that was the way to... that was the answer to our problems and that, which was absolute nonsense to us. So there was protests, blockades, everything going on right across the country so finally the government relented and withdrew that policy. So soon after that a lot of the Aboriginal people in the country got organized and began to go after the government for much better services and deals. So they began to loosen up at least their administrative hold on all our programs so at least that created some jobs.
Membertou has also played an important role in the evolution of Aboriginal law in Canada. Membertou has also played an important role in the recognition of Aboriginal rights and treaties. The two most important issues for us was the Donald Marshall, Jr. decision and that was a fishing case and also his wrongful conviction. His wrongful conviction came in the 70s. And what happened to Donald Jr. was that he spent 11 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. So we knew... we found out that the judicial system was against him every turn of the way, in every level of the judicial system, right from the probation officer to the judges and everybody in between.
And what happened after that when it was proven that he was innocent, there was a public inquiry carried out. And what that did was to help change the laws not only in Nova Scotia, but in the country so that Aboriginal people in the country when they have to face the courts -- and we certainly outnumber anyone per capita in the court system -- that we're treated a lot better, and that there are different circumstances to consider when you need to answer a charge. So it is a lot better, but there is a lot more ways to go as far as the judicial system is.
Donald Marshall Jr. was a band member of Membertou and he was also the son of the late Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Donald Jr. passed away last year, in fact it was last August that he passed away. He's left a tremendous legacy for all of us to benefit and to learn from.
As I said, Jr. was responsible for a court challenge that was taken to the Supreme... all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada is the supreme law of the country. That's where it ends. That's the highest court that you can go and they confirmed that we had an inherent right to a livelihood fishery. It was interesting at the time because I was directly involved in Jr. when he was being charged for fishing. He was harassed and hassled. He had his nets being taken away, his boats. In fact he bought new nets and they took those away. So finally when... and he kept in contact with me as he was fishing and as these things were happening.
So of course we had our lawyer involved in this and he certainly understood the treaties and the rights that we have. And after a very short discussion about what was going on, we were advised to tell Jr. to keep fishing. So Jr. had called me about three or four times and that was my answer, "˜Keep fishing.' So finally the government took us to court. This is what everybody wanted to do anyway. We certainly wanted to do it because we believed that we had that right and the treaty gave us that right. Also, as I said before, Donald Marshall Jr's wrongly conviction... major changes were made in Canada's judicial system when it came to convicting Aboriginal people. It's a little better, but it's certainly a long ways to go yet.
Another major historical event was the relocation of our people, our community from Membertou from the Sydney Harbor, which was just below the hill where we are now presently. In 1916, Membertou became the only one, the only community, Native community in Canada that was affected by this law that the government enacted. In fact, the government enacted this law to deal with an issue in British Columbia, I believe it's the Musqueam Band. And they enacted this law to go after them, to relocate them because they were in Vancouver prime real estate, probably the primest in Canada. So for some reason that issue resolved its self. So the bureaucrats got together, whoever in the bureaucracy knew that there was issues in Membertou on the east, furthest side of the country and they decided to use the law against us so that's how they were able to relocate us. So that's the only time that law was ever used.
Going forward Membertou success can be traced back to the adoption of good governance, financial management, accountability, transparency, education and a belief in our people. The people. We hire Band members that have education and the experience. We hire the best people to do the job and job-coach younger community members to gain valuable experience. Now we have a policy of hiring our people that have... that are qualified. If they are not, then we have to hire the most qualified person, whoever they are. It doesn't matter what color, as long as they're qualified and they help us move. But, we have a proviso in that when they are hired, that a band member will be taking this job at some point when they are qualified and we help them get qualified. We just don't say, "˜You're not qualified, go away.' It's not... If a person is interested in that, work your way up, get your education, we will help you get there.
Financial accountability and stability: We provide community members with audited statements, our annual audited statements. Every household in our community gets audited statements and they have the ability to ask any questions they have on those audits. So we feel that this is part of not just saying that we're accountable, not just saying that we're transparent. They're nice words, but they don't mean a thing if you don't do anything with them. We prove it by providing this. We inform our community very much, well informed.
We have a weekly newsletter that goes out every week and we talk about like what our plans are, what are we doing, we have open houses on our plans. We invite the community in to have their input in these plans and that way you get the commitment and the backing of the people because they know what you're doing. And also the newsletter can be used for people that want to complain about us. All we say is that, "˜don't be cursing when you write to us and don't slander people.' And also very important is that you back it up by signing your name to it. We do not accept anonymous letters. You have to sign it. And we assure them that there is no backlash. You have a right to do that and it helps us work better and plan better and helps us understand where the people want to be.
Good governance. We partner with organizations such as the National Center for First Nations Governance to improve and develop new ways of governing because we're in the process of establishing a self-governing process in our community.
Political stability, very important we feel in our leadership roles. Most of the Membertou Band councilors have been on council for over a decade, some over 20 years. I myself as Manley indicated, it'll be 26 years this June I'm chief. So there's continuity and then there's stability. In my... I don't really campaign really. I used the same platform when I started 26 years ago and that's being honest, honesty and fairness. Even when you have to fire someone, be fair to them. And although it's a difficult thing to do, they feel much more respected when you talk to them about the reasons and how the person can change and help them change and help them move on.
Looking at competitive advantages, partnering. We partner with a number of First Nations, private businesses and we feel that in order to grow our economy we can't stay within the boundaries of the reserve. We have to realize, and if all Aboriginals realize that the market is the world, that's where our market is and don't be afraid to go after that market. You know that in Canada that less than .1 of one percent of the private capital that's available is all what Aboriginals get. Most of our capital is public money and with very stringent rules. So it's really difficult to operate that way. The government certainly does not operate at the speed of business and it's very key to have timely... to have your packages and your plan in a timely basis because it's not going to stay there. Business moves.
We also believe in the treaty economy, trading and purchasing goods and services with other Aboriginal communities from across North America. My colleague here, Richard, which I hope he'll be back pretty soon, he's here, like he's here talking to a number of tribes. In fact he has a meeting tonight to talk to a local community here about fish. We sell fish. We know the casinos utilize fish so why can't we trade and why can't we buy from each other and whatever goods are here we could exchange or buy. That way the market is created. We have a philosophy back home in Nova Scotia and they like it, the government likes it and private business likes it an what we say is that, "˜What's good for Membertou is good for Nova Scotia and vice versa,' and so that helps open up doors.
We also feel that you need to be bold and what I mean by that is that sometimes like some communities, and we were like that, we come up with all kinds of ideas and all kinds of plans and then we get so many ideas and plans we end up doing nothing. So pick a winner, pick the one that you feel has the best chance of succeeding and take action, do it. Take action. But at the same time, be accountable and be transparent and not just use the words. Like I said before, prove it, show that you are accountable, show that you are transparent and live that way. Live it.
Membertou, our people, our best resource: Membertou believes that our people are our best resource. Identifying and recruiting community members that have professional level education and real world experience is a key to Membertou's success. And as an example, Richard who is missing, is that. He's gone out and got his education, a really good education. He got really good job experience in the rest of the country. He's been probably in every province and a lot of states. So he has that experience with him, which is very helpful not only to the council, but to the individual people in the community."
"And he's not Tom Selleck."
"Yeah, but you may be mistaken for Tom Selleck, but that's not Tom Selleck. That's Richard. He reminded us of that this morning. He thought it was Tom Selleck.
We also encourage our young people to go into fields that have really good job prospects. A lot of our kids go into the arts and that's needed, but it seems like there's too many that go in that area. We need people in the sciences and engineering and business and education in the emerging industries that are relevant to a transforming economy like the alternative energies field, which is sort of like in the beginning stages of it and if we don't do anything we're going to miss that boat too. So we certainly have made sure that we're very involved in that area. It's a new industry, it's growing and there's part of our future is that.
Every year almost 100 percent of our Membertou eligible high school students graduate and go on to higher education. Some years we don't. Some years it's 90 percent. It's a really good statistic that we have and we're really proud of that. Membertou is the first Aboriginal community in North America to be ISO certified. Membertou recognized that in order to be taken seriously it had to demonstrate and adhere to the highest management practices. By doing this we have increased our credibility with all stakeholders including government, financial institutions, industry and more importantly, probably most importantly, our community members. We selected the ISO standard because it's recognized internationally.
Just for a bit of information, ISO is not an acronym; it's a word. I think it's a Dutch word because it began in Belgium in 1948 where a person wanted to... it's just the letters lend itself as an acronym, International Standards Organization. But if you look up ISO, you'll understand that it's a word and this is what it means. It's very interesting.
Obtaining and maintaining ISO certification wasn't easy, but it was transformational. It demonstrated Membertou's ongoing commitment to the best management practices and continuous improvement. ISO certification gave old and new partners confidence in us and attracted new business opportunities to Membertou. I'll give you a little example of that where it was the very next day when we made the announcement that we were ISO certified that we got a call from a very large defense contractor and that was part of the reason why they called us. They heard that we were ISO certified. So they explained to us, "˜That tells us that we don't have to be concerned about your management structures, your credibility,' because as I said before, it's not easy to get this designation. It's even harder to keep it. We go through an audit every year. We don't pick all the programs, but the programs are selected by the auditor on what they're going to audit to keep that certification. But every three years we have a full audit where they audit all the programs and then we need to do this in order to keep that certification. So we've been lucky enough to go through two complete audits and we're still certified.
Diversifying our economy. Gaming initially provided the financial economic catalyst for Membertou's transformation. Our gaming operations are not like the U.S. scale casinos. In fact we're not allowed to call our gaming facilities casinos. There's a long story behind that, but we still make a lot of money. It provides stable employment for our people and an economic base upon which to build from and an annual community dividend. Every year... we don't call it dividend. Just for tax purposes we have to call it a donation.
So every year every community member in Membertou gets $1,500 as a donation as a result of our profits in gaming, and every child from zero to 19 gets this donation and it's put away in a trust for them. And in the meantime, the people that look after the trust from time to time regularly come to our community and sits down with the kids to talk to them the importance of making your money work for you. So by the time they're 19, they're fully aware of how this money could grow for them if they utilize it right. So we feel that gives them a better chance of keeping their money longer.
Gaming also led Membertou to develop a 50,000 square foot convention and meeting facility. The Membertou Trade and Convention Centre is also home to Kiju's Restaurant. We just recently had a name change to Kiju's. We used to call it Mescalero's and maybe some people here will recognize that name, Mescalero's. My former CEO was traveling through, in fact it was Arizona at some meetings and he ate at a restaurant, it was called Mescalero's and it was a steakhouse. And he loved it; he loved the meal and everything. So he asked, he asked the owners... he told the owners we were building a restaurant back home and could he use the name Mescalero's because we wanted to build a steakhouse so they allowed it.
So for about the first five years of the restaurant we were calling it Mescalero's. It sort of ran its course and the food was the same, the chef wasn't moving for us. So we changed it and the chef was let go. We brought in a new one. We felt that we needed a new change, we needed to renovate the restaurant, which we did. We closed down for a month and we changed the name too to a Mi'kmaq word. Kiju means either mothers or grandmothers depending on whom you're speaking about. So we thought that was a nice name for the restaurant. People identified with that. It's really... it's packed. We can't believe how successful this is. In fact we can't make reservations for this restaurant because there's too many other people utilizing it, a lot of people from town. And they just... it's like chalk on a board, you scrape like the way some people pronounce it. They say kay-jus, key-jes, ku-jus. It's Kiju's.
So we also have Petroglyphs Gift Shop, which consists of our traditional items, regalia, in fact headdresses, baskets, anything cultural we'll sell. We'll even sell for people from other communities and it's doing pretty good. We do the best when the cruise lines come in and the passengers from different parts of the world come in and they... the first place they really want to go to is this gift shop and our restaurant. So we have like a captive audience when they come in on these ships. And we help do that too, we bus them up for nothing as part of our contribution to them. Then we have the Membertou Data Center, which is doing pretty well and we know we're expanding as we go each year.
At the Trade Center we have concerts, weddings and conventions. It fills the Trade Center daily. In fact somebody was kind of joking around about our weddings and even they have pre-wedding shows for the brides to buy their dresses now and sometimes things don't work out. And there was community members that were joking and said, "˜Well, we should do divorces too.' There are people that celebrate divorces. I'm just telling you that these are some of the ideas that we were given. There hasn't been one yet.
The gaming also led to the development of a 1,200-seat Bingo and entertainment facility. There's a niche in Cape Breton. We have probably more Bingo players than anywhere else in the world. They just love the game, so we fill that niche there and it's absolutely doing great. We put up a $5 million entertainment center for the bingo scene. We were in our third year when we started making money and the building is almost all paid for and at the same time we're able to tell the public that we donate all of these Bingos, over half a million dollars a year to charities. Then the charities, we don't donate, the charities do all the work and we get all the credit. So it's just good all around and it helps us... like the relationship between the city and ourselves has just turned around several times. The relationship is much, much better.
Diversifying our economy. Gaming revenue has permitted Membertou to incubate several professional service businesses promoting our treaty business philosophy. As a result of Mi'kmaq treaty challenges the Supreme Court of Canada demanded creation of a Mi'kmaq commercial fishery. Now Membertou operates a successful commercial fishery and seafood brokerage, part of the reason why Richard is here, part of the reason why he'll be coming down with two other communities that sell fish and we're all working together to try to sell fish at the local casinos here, not only here but we're dealing with the Seminoles and we'll be going to the Seminoles and they'll be hosting this presentation with a number of casinos across the United States.
Membertou also operates several successful businesses including an insurance brokerage firm, real estate development and recent investment in renewable energy with prominent international partners. Our treaty economy efforts led to recovering our history and economic development with our Basque partners in Spain, which are tremendous leaders in the alternate energy area. The company that we have partnered with are fully integrated in alternate energy and that is the wind turbines, the biomass machines and the solar panels. And they're a very, very well managed company. And we have sort of the same values as I will explain later.
Continuing on to diversifying our economy. We looked at our history to help identify new opportunities. Membertou focuses on opportunities that have a cultural and philosophical relevance to the community, such as renewable energy and fishing. Once identified, an internal champion, like Richard, there's a few others, we have about half a dozen like him, prepares the business planning documents, budget and presents those to a small committee who recommends continuing our investment in the project. Membertou assists in the building of internal management capacity by providing training allowance to our Native and non-Native employees. We are always in the need of qualified Aboriginal people that have real world experience in business management.
We encourage qualified community members by providing post-secondary educational funding. We do that with all our staff in Membertou. We have a policy that if an individual wants to increase and move up in our system and they need education to do that, we help them get there. We don't ask them to leave the work. Get your education while you're working and that helps them to look after their families and help us by improving their background in the areas that we need. By diversifying our economy we offer community members more career choices and help create an entrepreneurial spirit among our people. I'll show you that has proven itself later. I only got a couple more slides.
So where are we going? Membertou will be focusing on opportunities which will allow us to collaborate with other Aboriginal communities across North America. Recently, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Center of First Nations governance, which is wholly run by Aboriginal people from across the country -- in fact the main office is in British Columbia -- an organization that will assist us in implementing an effective self-governance structure, and that you seen in the picture on the signing of the two people there, myself and the COO, I believe they call him, of the governance center is from British Columbia. So we have one province on the Pacific side of the country talking to another community member that's on the Atlantic side of the country and then we work in. So it's fascinating. It can be done.
Membertou is also gaining momentum in the international markets and will be partnering with the renewable energy leaders in Spain. Our relationship with the Basques extends well beyond business and renewable energy. Very important in this relationship is the 500 plus years shared history the Mi'kmaq have with the Basque, the Basque that live in Spain. I made the mistake of... They're very proud people and they have a similar background as we have, Aboriginal people. They certainly have a similar background as the...with the Mi'kmaq because of their fishing efforts back 500 years ago.
We came to understand that especially in the international markets trying to sell something to them right away is the wrong step to take. You have to develop the relationship and you find a theme that helps develop that relationship and our theme was recovering our history. Recovering our history. And that helped us open the doors to the see the chairmen of all these large companies because they're very, very interested in our history. So we used that theme and that's helped us develop a partnership with a fantastic company called Guascor and they...we're finalizing our partnership agreement with them. In fact, the chairman of the company will be coming to Canada to sign this agreement and then he wants to make a big show of it. So you may hear it here in the States, we don't know, but he wants to make a major thing with it.
Anyway, one time, not too long ago, maybe a year or two ago, in one of the visits -- because we've been visiting back and forth. We've been to the Basque country about a half a dozen times and they have been back and forth about half a dozen times to our country to sort of like kick the tires -- and we were sitting around and we had government people, high level government people there, the Basque representatives, ourselves and representatives of the town that we were...that they were looking at utilizing an empty factory that they have there. So I came up, and they asked me what I thought of this relationship and it just came out that we... I said that, "˜500 years ago the wind brought the Basque to us and 500 years later the wind is bringing us back to them.' It's part of that. It helps move relationship and resulted in mutual and beneficial partnerships.
I believe this is the last slide and it continues on where are we going. And future projects are for example the hotel that we'll be building and it's going to be the Membertou Hampton Inn and Suites, and Hampton Inns are part of the Hilton chain so it's... they're really nice hotels and they're all suites. We're planning on breaking ground this May and hopefully it'll be done by September the following year.
We also have plans for a heritage park because we believe that part of our identity is to show off our culture. At the same time though, doing whatever we can to retain our language because like everywhere else it needs to be really looked at and make sure that we do everything we can to retain or bring back our language. And we know it can be done, especially when you develop economically you have a lot more time to attend to your culture. So we expect to do that probably within three years.
We also have plans to build a multi-functional community athletic center and to me that's just a fancy phrase for saying ice arenas. That's our plan to build ice arena and what our plan is is to build a two pad ice arena because through our studies we found out it costs the same to have two ice surfaces in one, believe it or not. So we could get more people in that way and also using a different type of heating system like the geothermal, that's heat that comes from the ground. That saves, as compared to other arenas that saves you about 75 percent in electrical costs. So that in itself is important to look at and plan the right way. Look at other people, what other people have done and they're very open to tell you about what they've done and what mistakes to avoid. So it's a really good exercise to do that. So we expect to build that within two years.
We also plan on building a new public works building, a new community office, a new elementary school. The business plaza is almost complete now. It should open sometime in May. We're over-subscribed. We have more people wanting to go in there than have space so we call that like... back in our community we call that a happy problem. We like dealing with happy problems. Within that plaza we have Aboriginal incubator units where we set aside a number of units for our people to take advantage of that and help them to develop as entrepreneurs. We give them a preferred rate, we give them a better rate than the tenants that come from town. Although the tenants from town, there's a waiting list of who wants to go in. So already we're looking at perhaps expansion plans because of the interest in Membertou.
We find out that it doesn't matter who people are. People like going to a place where it's happening. People like going to a place where they feel safe like Manley felt. And we ensure that we create that atmosphere so that people will come to us. It won't be a place to just to go by accident, but it'll be like a destination. That's the end of my presentation and it's very exciting times for me and my job. I feel that it's the best job in the world because every day I'm excited to go to work. Thank you."
"I have one if nobody else... A quick one. Two. One is how are you... How is your community's economy compared to the surrounding non-Native economy? And related to that you started your presentation sharing with us the story about the stop sign, which was sort of conflict, initial conflict, but throughout your presentation there was a tremendous amount of cooperation and work with the entire community and in the end you said it's part of your philosophy and that you have really good relationships. And so I guess I just have a question of... Do you have an external community relations department or a person that does that? Do you do that? How does that work?"
"Well, you have a number of questions there. You're like a reporter, I'll answer one."
"Take your pick."
"As far as economically, we're doing much better than the surrounding community and in fact like several times in several different premieres of the province, they would be like a governor of a state, they have indicated publicly that Membertou is an economic driver for the province. So we're a driver here and we employ a lot of people from the outside community. About 30 percent or a little over 30 percent of our employees are non-Indian because our people can't fill them. I can honestly say that... Anywhere I speak I can honestly say that anybody that wants to work in Membertou can get a job. If they're not working, either they're in school or they can't work or they don't want to work, but anybody in Membertou that wants to work can get a job.
So in the other thing, the relationship, yes, that... After the stop sign incident, it took a little while for people to come around and of course people retired and there was change and there's newer people and younger people coming in and they don't have that old... they're not keeping the old habits here. And of course ourselves, we consciously sat down and felt and agreed that it would be much better to build bridges. So we deliberately and consciously made sure that we were respectful in dealing with these issues. And so over time the relationship has... And I think the business community started the relationship before the municipal government and the municipal government started seeing that, "˜Wow, the business community is really attached to what Membertou is doing. Maybe we should change our attitude,' and they certainly have. They bend over backwards to help us now and it's a really good feeling."
"I was down at your place a couple years ago with all the World Box Lacrosse Championship being in Nova Scotia. I saw your arena. One of the things that I'm trying to do is go to all our Aboriginal communities and convince the leaders and their people, especially their youth, to get involved in the game of Lacrosse. This is a game that came from our people and it's working. From the Metis to First Nations people are finding out more and more about it. If you're going to put up an arena, just don't think about the winter and relating to hockey because we're trying to get our team to support the notion that we can resurrect our traditional game of Lacrosse and we're trying to get some communities up your way to take an interest in it and get our kids playing the game. As you know, we've have Iroquois Nationals compete in international competition as a separate nation. We're the only one that's recognized to play against Canada and the United States and all the other countries and it's that whole process of our own nation building because we go into these countries with our own passport and we have our own songs for... When they sing Oh, Canada, well, we have our own song. So if you catch the youth at a very young age and put that in their head that these things belong to us and put the pride back in them. So I pass that along to you."
"Chief, that's an excellent idea, very excellent idea and I'll certainly bring that back home. And I know that our people would be interested in a Lacrosse game. It's a fantastic game and I know it was invented by the Mohawk. We invented the hockey game, they invented LaCrosse."
"That's true. That's not a lie. The Mi'kmaq were hitting our players and our players were yelling "˜hockey! Hockey!' So they called their game hockey."
"Yes, you mentioned that your philosophy is what's good for us is good for Nova Scotia and vice versa. And my question is, how did you get to that point with the province? I think in the states so many tribal-state relations are a bit contentious, that if you are a tribe down here in the United States and you attempted to begin implementing a philosophy like that you would initially encounter a bit of derision because the two tend to be at loggerheads. Did you guys start from a position of conflict with Nova Scotia, and managed to work towards having a situation where everybody including the province believed that philosophy?"
"It depends on how far back you want me to go in history. We certainly had conflicts, wars and to a state of where not even talking to each other. And part of the reason though is that history, and the denial of it, and also like our feelings towards the governments. We refused to talk to them for a great deal of time. It's that like enlightening ourselves. And you may feel good for a while in doing that, but we're still in our state of poverty. So it really doesn't help. And they're part of the... we feel that they're part of the answer. So it is good to be able to talk to those levels of government to ensure that if we work together we've got a much better chance of succeeding. And it took awhile, it took a number of years to be able to get the government to work with us and a lot of it was the result of the court cases that we won. It's pretty well like... a lot of it is not that they want to, it's that they have to. And we feel that we get much further with the government if we deal with them in respect and that they don't feel fearful of us. The biggest thing about the governments or society not changing is the fear that they have. They feel... They think like the fishing... like god, the Mi'kmaq is going to take all the fish when we're less than one percent, less than one percent of the total fishery effort. So that's the reality. So when they find out reality and they find out that we want to fish with them -- in fact we hire some non-Indians in our fishing enterprise -- and they realize we're just as human as anyone else, and we have goals and we have dreams, and we want to see the country improve as a nation, but respect us also. So we've gained that and things are improving... have improved much, much more. But like I said, there's still some fear there that we're going to take everything and we're going to send everybody back home and that's not the case."
"A very quick thing. How do you educate the [unintelligible] society in which you operate about your [unintelligible] friendship treaties in terms of just making society more aware of the inherent rights that you have? Because there's a community on the west coast, actually my husband's community and he's chief of his nation and he's finding that there's a real lack of understanding of political will amongst the municipality to get... enter into any west coast nation, I'm thinking that there are so many parallels. And there's just no understanding and respect, recognition of the inherent rights to look after the parks or look after the land and oceans."
"I guess from the experience that I've had like it's educating them. They need educating too. In fact there's times when a minister understands the issue, but everyone below them doesn't and that's who runs the programs, runs the country is the bureaucrats and that's who needs to be educated; like developing a policy that changes for our benefit is one thing, implementing it is another, especially where you have bureaucrats that are not on side, that have the old world view and we... I'm constantly educating them to do that. I'm constantly telling the ministers that that's what we need to do. So it's an educational process and it's ongoing because there is a lot of people that are ignorant about our people. There's millions of people don't even know that we exist anymore, they're surprised. There's people that lived within a mile of our community and have told me and written to be saying that because of our improvements like, "˜I grew up in Sydney just about a mile from you, never knew you guys existed.' Imagine, huh?"
"One more question."
"I can see that the... I guess I can call it a First Nation community is there a problem or is it a tribal community, a regional community? Membertou... First Nation?"
"First Nation. Well, that's the popular phrase now. We've branded ourselves to be called Membertou, a Mi'kmaq community."
"What is your population?"
"It's a little over 1200, close to 1300."
"The question I have is more related to, in terms of the way you established yourselves as a community, what would you say was the big key priority for you to... in terms of how you established yourselves? I can guess that it has to do more with the business types of things, but now you're looking to new governance and transparency, accountability and all that stuff, even the ISO."
"It's something fairly new I guess in terms of really how you got recognition or is it certification that's recognized internationally? How did all of that come about in terms of where you're at right now and I find that it's very interesting that... I find your presentation very interesting as in very solemn stuff as you're presenting it. It sounds like you're really going in a direction where most First Nation communities want to be where you're at. What is the key thing or key part or key priority that places you where you're at right now?
"I can only pick one, eh? It's the people. It's the people. Believing in your people and getting them onboard and having them be part of the visioning process. Include the community. I know that you can't do it every day, but there are appropriate times when you... If you have the community on side, if you have your management working as a team, it makes it much easier to accomplish these processes that you have. In the Basque country we met an individual, I think he's a genius, Juan Azua. In fact he even teaches at Harvard now and then. He's the one that really established a process called clustering. Clustering. And it's putting businesses in strategic areas where they're all competitive, but being in a cluster helps them, but the cluster isn't just the businesses themselves. You need the infrastructures that draws people to there so what do people want? Well, they want good schools; they don't want to go back to a place where it's dysfunctional. So eliminate that dysfunction. Safe, secure communities and we've created that: churches, schools, hospitals are close by. That's an important consideration for people, anyone. And have the governments, the business community, the chambers of commerce, instead of having their own silos working together to achieve this. And to adopt his phrase and what he means by that and in doing that is the process. He calls it the magic of the process. It's just fascinating."
"[Unintelligible]... What would you say would have been the turning point for your community in terms of looking at it the way you do... [unintelligible]."
"No, this is the turning point. This is the turning point. Stop this dependence. Stop this dependence and look at the world as our market."