The opening prayer by Elder Thomas Christmas unites the crowd and set the tone for the discussion of self-governance.
“I don’t say unceded because this is Mi’kmaq territory,” said Christmas.
The first speaker was the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Ovide Mercredi.
He talked about one treaty for the region, and uniting traditional government with modern times.
“Where do we want to go? In my community we ruled like all First Nations across the country, we do our best to create a better life, we have to find ways to accommodate the original structures of government with the modern,” said Mercredi.
“When it comes to the recognition of our rights, the application of our rights, within the context of Canada we are not doing enough, we have been preoccupied. Our leaders need to spend time advocating for the recognition and the full implication of our treaty and aboriginal rights.”
AFN Regional Chief Morley Googoo and Regional Chief Roger Augustine are the co-chairs of the summit.
Googoo said this summit is the foundation for change.
“We have a right to self-determination and pursue their own social, and economic development.”
Listuguj First Nation Chief Darcy Gray said Mercredi’s talk struck a chord.
“Not just thinking community but thinking Mi’kmaq nation and I think that is a key message going forward. Our future is our history if we don’t do something different,” said Gray.
Gray said it is rare that council members get to be a part of these conversations at such a large scale.
“I like Morley’s approach, because in the end it is the council’s decision to go down these paths, to me that is an essential part,” said Gray.
Former Northwest Territories premier Stephen Kakfwi who is Dene, discussed his experience with the governance structure.
“One regret is we have no central government across the territory, it is not close to what we saw in our vision,” he said.
Gray said he’s hopeful and looking forward to learning and building relationships.
“It’s what we have to do to change our future, I hope we can find commonalities between the communities and start building towards that cohesive and collaborative nation.
Mercredi said, “The difference at this summit is that we are taking the time to evaluate what has happened to our people under Canadian rule, we are talking about self-determination and freedom.”
“The role of Elders, as we get older, we assume the responsibility of sharing knowledge and experience and also giving direction,” said Mercredi.