Four emerging First Nation leaders and the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission line were highlighted at the APEX | Aboriginal Partnership Exchange gathering, held at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay.
“I am in the business of storytelling,” says Michelle Derosier, co-owner of Thunderstone Pictures. “My business is also, possibly more importantly, about dismantling stories to create new versions of incomplete narratives. My business is about colouring outside the lines to create a new picture, a picture that gives voice to the silenced that hears stories far too long left unspoken. Different pictures make me challenge myself; different projects are continually shaping me into what I hope is a better version of me.”
Melissa Hardy Giles started up Hardy Giles Consulting with her partner Paul Giles about five-and-a-half years ago.
“I knew I wanted to do something to help people,” Hardy Giles says. “We decided two weeks before Christmas, he was quitting (his job), we’re doing our own thing with our own morals and designing it the way we wanted. That’s when Hardy Giles Consulting was born. We do professional skills development, HR planning, strategic planning, anything from self esteem to resume writing to build your own business.”
Brent Wesley decided to leave his job and work full-time at Blue Earth Photography late last year after documenting a story about land-based healing in Kingfisher.
“It was a week on the land and I knew coming back that I didn’t want to go back to my day job,” Wesley says. “We were operating this business for a year-and-a-half at that point. It was a challenge to balance business, a full-time job and a family. But being a week on the land, getting an opportunity to tell a story that needed to be told, I knew I had to give my every day to this business.”
Adrienne Fox plans to do more documentaries through Blue Earth Photography.
“We formed the company because I think we have a lot of shared values around storytelling and using that as a platform to empower communities, organizations and individuals, whether it was through images and more recently documentaries,” Fox says. “Like Brent mentioned earlier, we were up in Kingfisher … to document a land-based healing program for families who were struggling with addiction to Oxys. That was really eye-opening for me — I think that was when I realized that I wanted to get into documentary work.”
Margaret Kenequanash, executive director of Shibogama First Nations Council, and Tim Lavoie, regional manager and director of Northern Development for Algoma Power Inc., spoke about the proposed Wataynikaneyap Power transmission line project to connect about 20 diesel generator-powered remote First Nation communities across northern Ontario to the electrical power grid.
“The goal is to end load restriction,” Kenequanash says. “The diesels that are currently (generating) our energy at each First Nation, 10 First Nations are at capacity.”
Kenequanash says the vision for the project is to provide a solution for the communities so they can build new homes and pursue new business opportunities, which they are currently unable to do due to the maxed out diesel power generating systems.
“We’ve done a gazillion studies to prove to the government and whomever else that this is a valid business case and that this is a need for our First Nations,” Kenequanash says, noting that the Keewaytinook Okimakanak communities joined the project in 2013 and Sandy Lake and Wabigoon joined in 2015. “There is a whole process of community engagement that needs to be done. If you want First Nations’ meaningful participation, understanding and support in any major development that may happen in our homelands, there is a requirement for our First Nations to be part of that. If you are going to ask for major development in the territory, don’t send a book and say review this in 15 days and get back to me. Because you are never going to get it. And on top of that, if you don’t involve our First Nations in any future development discussions in infrastructure, whatever, there is no development that is going to happen.
Our people want to have meaningful involvement and participation in any major infrastructure and development that takes place by way of capacity building, by way of having a say in what is going to happen in their homeland.”
The APEX | Aboriginal Partnership Exchange gathering was presented in partnership between the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund.