Muskeg Lake: Looking Back to Look Forward
Muskeg Lake Cree Nation takes action to ensure its governance framework reflects traditional governance structures and knowledge
Muskeg Lake realized that if they want to develop a relevant constitution, they needed to step back and re-examine their governance framework. In doing so, they recognized the need to bring back some of their traditional governance structures. The community will participate in a Justice Forum in 2011 to talk with elders and other First Nations communities about traditional laws and governance. Muskeg Lake is located in Saskatchewan.
NCFNG has been working with Muskeg Lake Cree Nation since 2009 to help facilitate the journey to self-governance. A key priority for the community is creating a constitution that reflects the citizens’ values, history and identity.
The Centre facilitated a series of constitution development workshops to assist Muskeg Lake as it addresses the multi-faceted issues inherent in the process. A core group of individuals soon established a committee, and this group has quickly achieved many tangible outcomes, including:
- establishing terms of reference for their work,
- passing a band council resolution in support of the work of the committee,
- hosting workshops to communicate their progress to the broader community,
- following a work plan and reaching key outcomes, and
- engaging the community through a newsletter, website, Facebook page, open door meetings, targeted presentations to youth and elders and sending out a survey to all band members for their input.
While all of these outcomes are significant, the last one – with its emphasis on community engagement – is fundamental to the entire process. By engaging members in the process, the committee is exemplifying best practices in terms of citizen consultation and involvement. This will serve the community well both now and in the future, no matter what issues they are seeking to resolve.
As part of an NCFNG-facilitated workshop, the committee also stepped back to examine their governance framework as a whole. They soon recognized that their new governance framework must do a better job of incorporating traditional values and structures if it is to be relevant and effective.
To that end, Muskeg Lake will co-host a Justice Forum with NCFNG, bringing in Elders, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and other First Nations communities. The goal of the forum is to identify knowledge about traditional laws and governance structures held by the Elders. This is an important first step in seeking to re-integrate traditional governance structures into a new framework and constitution – ultimately ensuring that they do not just “sit on the shelf” but are living, relevant documents that serve the needs of the community.