Another Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly (AFN AGA) has come and gone, this one being held in Regina, in Treaty 4 territory.
Mini rant here: (Will be a longer blog piece, so just putting this marker down.) The opening and welcoming remarks from the number of non-Indigenous elected people was awesome. However, acknowledging the traditional territory they are on does not equate to Indigenous inclusion; inclusion must go farther than that.
Anyway, this year’s AGA was well attended. I understand more than 2,000 registrants (Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples) were there from across Canada. This is impressive.
My first thought was the positive economic impact on the City of Regina – I saw many registrants in the downtown core with their families in tow, so the 2,000 number is much bigger and thus so was the impact. Restaurants, accommodations, the Science Centre and other venues were busy. I am guessing that would be not be normal for, say, a Tuesday night in downtown Regina.
One of the rooms at Evraz Place where the event was held was used for a media announcement. There was a whiteboard in the room in which someone had written “you people don’t pay taxes.” Note this is also a space where kids are practicing and playing hockey so it’s not clear if the “you people” are the hockey players or the AFN participants…
A couple of things I thought when I saw that comment. First, I wondered just how much Evraz Place and its tenants made from the AFN AGM? I understand the first day Tim Hortons and Western Pizza ran out of just about everything. Second, I thought, “take a picture and tweet it out.” The more we talk about and expose the stereotypes and discrimination Indigenous people face in Saskatchewan, the more challenging it becomes for non-Indigenous people to dismiss it as a “one off.”
In any case, my experience with some of the businesses were positive; some of them were negative and dismissive. Like Indigenous money isn’t the same value? We need to do better, Saskatchewan.
Hosting the AFN AGA stimulates the economy where it’s held. It is also a forum to connect people, build relationships and share experiences. And were there some good experiences to share! I was so impressed with the innovation communities are engaged in, whether it be economic development, governance or community development. There are so many amazing movements happening even within the confines of the Indian Act. Check out the work Opaskwayak Cree Nation is doing, or Muskowekwan First Nation. They are leading the way and I am confident that as the path of reconciliation continues to unfold there will be many more to highlight.