It is our job as heritage workers, and as First Nation governments and people, to be stewards of the land and heritage. It is the job of the proponents to show us how they will work in a way that respects our values and perspectives. It is their job to also act as stewards of the land with us... They need to come to us and respond to us – not the other way around.
- Jody Beaumont, Traditional Knowledge Specialist
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
First Nations peoples are not part of a homogeneous group. Different First Nations have different issues, interests and concerns. In the case of overlap areas, these interests may conflict.
Show the courtesy of learning something about the history and culture of the people you will be dealing with. This website is a good place to begin. When visiting us, understand and acknowledge that you are a guest within our traditional territory.
In the Yukon, it is not uncommon to end up dealing with as many as four different levels of government (First Nations, federal, territorial, municipal). In areas where there are overlapping claims, you may end up dealing with two or more First Nations. Find out in advance about any licenses or permitting processes that are required by the different governments.
Realize that you are dealing with a government, not another business. Therefore our main priority is looking after our citizens and our territory. While we welcome partners offering sound economic investments, our first concern is the continued health of our land and people.
ENGAGE IN MEANINGFUL CONSULTATION
Recognize that First Nations may not value what you feel is important and that they don’t necessarily consider the same things to be benefits.
Recognize that First Nations will be on the land long after the project is completed and must live with all industry outcomes. What will be the long-term results ― ten or twenty years or hundreds of years down the road?
Recognize that First Nations have invaluable and specific knowledge of this territory and can help you in identifying sensitive areas and understanding resources.
It is important to have a consistent person or team dealing with the First Nation. It is difficult to start all over again to develop a relationship with someone new.
FIRST NATIONS NEEDS
It can be difficult dealing with consultants lacking in northern or First Nations experience. First Nation representatives often end up in situations of having to educate the proponents or having to reject a poorly-prepared product. Show respect by being informed and being willing to learn.
First Nations people need to fully understand the long-term, as well as the short-term, consequences of work being proposed. Again it is very important to deal consistently with the same people/team and develop a good working relationship.
Our representatives are often coming to the table with frustrations regarding larger issues including relationships with other governments. This can be a venue to express problems that can’t necessarily be addressed in the context of the current project.
All parties need to have a good understanding of all the provisions and implications of Impact Benefit Agreements. Do we need or will we benefit most by a handful of entry level jobs preceded by a short training period? Or perhaps what our First Nation really needs are resources to support future generations in our culture, for example construction of a Youth Centre or multi-year sponsorship of the Moosehide Gatherings.
It is important for both industry and the First Nation to understand that there are several stages of permitting and opportunities for consultation from allowing exploration activities to the potential development of a working mine.
It is important for First Nations decision makers to communicate with our community. There is much to be learned from the wisdom of our elders and the expertise of staff members.
Invite First Nation representatives to make site visits, especially to related existing projects.
Consultation must be diligent and meaningful. Involve First Nations early in the process. Be aware of the importance of early development of personal relationships and making oneself available when needed.
BE AWARE OF POTENTIAL LIMITATIONS AND SETBACKS
Industry should be aware of the nature, benefits of using, and limitations of traditional knowledge – especially since it’s a formal part of the YESAA process. For more discussion about this important topic, read the section on Our Worldview in this website. Anthropologist Wade Davis wrote about the meaning of traditional knowledge:
The type of wisdom we’ll need is packed into the old-style containers called elders … Wisdom is not ethereal and utopian like electricity, we can’t send it down wires—wisdom always inhabits particular people and particular circumstances (though they illumine universal truths). It is the shared wisdom of a community that tells us what medicinal plants are nearby and how to use them correctly; or when and what to plant and when and how to harvest.
Be aware that before you, numerous companies have come to our community with promises that were not kept, or started enterprises that failed and damaged our land. While proponents of these short-lived ventures are long gone, we are left with the lasting harm.
Small First Nations are often deluged by a variety of governments and industries with an abundance of inquiries, studies and items requiring a quick response. Unlike governments and large corporations with a large staff of specialists and outside consultants, they often have little capacity to do so in depth and in a timely manner. Be patient, diplomatic and avoid assuming your project must have priority. Our citizens must come first.
It is not enough to involve our community in collecting data; the resulting product must then be used in a meaningful way.