Several Northwestern Indigenous governments have formed an alliance to better share information and resources.
The Northern First Nations Alliance (NFNA) counts the Haisla Nation, the Nisga’a Nation and Gitanyow Band among its members, as well as three Tsimshian governments: Kitselas First Nation, Kitsumkalum First Nation and Gitxaala Nation.
Leaders and representatives from those groups met in Terrace June 29 and June 30 for the signing of a memorandum of understanding, a document signifying the official creation of the NFNA. There are four general issues on which the NFNA members plan to collaborate: housing, youth, employment and training, and health and wellness.
“Up to this point, individual nations or individuals have approached opportunities in isolation, possibly duplicating efforts or missing out because of the inability to provide the appropriate funding or infrastructure,” the memorandum of understanding states. “The NFNA has an opportunity to collaborate and work in partnership to identify and prepare for future regional opportunities.”
Crystal Smith, chief councillor of the Haisla Nation and one of the signatories of the memorandum, said one example of how NFNA members could collaborate would be by sharing training sessions.
She gave the example of a hypothetical training session for marine work related to the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat.
“We can put on a training session that would hold 15 of our members … but we don’t fill the seats with all of our people. We maybe get five Haislas that are interested in that type of work,” she said. “So we would reach out to Gitxaala, reach out to other nations and say ‘we have eight seats, do you have people to fill them?’” she said.
Eva Clayton, president of the Nisga’a Lisims Government and also a signatory of the memorandum, said she is very happy to see a modern and constructive collaboration between First Nations in the Northwest because she remembers darker times.
“Way back in the day, our leaders saw fit to try to bring all of the first nations together in the Northwest,” she said.
“It was to take a look at how we could come together when the Department of Indian Affairs used to put all the funding on the middle of the table and all of the nations had to fight over it. And it was based on needs, and this is what created a lot of the circumstances that we had to live with.”
“Coming from that kind of history, I’m really really happy.”
Clayton said she hopes subsequent generations of Indigenous leaders in the Northwest carry on the spirit of collaboration signified by the NFNA.
Jeannie Parnell, co-ordinator for the NFNA, said the NFNA is a non-political group.
“We come together for the betterment of all our communities and our members of our people, to improve their lives,” she said.