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Demonstrating Leadership with the Treaty 20 Friendship Accord

By Kelly Jessup
group photo of officials in an office

On November 2, 2019, on Treaty 20 land and the traditional territory of the Michi Sagiig Anishinaabeg, an historic Friendship Accord was signed between Indigenous communities and municipalities in Peterborough County.

The purpose was to allow each partner to “enhance and honour one another’s historical, political, economic, social and cultural relationships.” Dignitaries, community members, and young people were invited to witness the signing as representatives of Hiawatha First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Selwyn Township, Otonabee South-Monaghan, the County of Peterborough, and Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development formalized their commitment to work together for the wellbeing of all their communities. The historic ceremony was followed by a celebratory reception and feast.

The name of the accord is Ezhi-Wiijikiwendiyang. In Ojibwe, this translates to “how we are friends.”

Though the Friendship Accord was officially signed in early November 2019, the six partners have been meeting regularly since 2016 to build stronger relationships and discuss projects that would benefit all.

Since the signing, a number of projects have been undertaken including:

  • A business incubator and mapping & marketing tourism initiative in Selwyn Township.
  • A partnership between Curve Lake First Nation, the Township of Selwyn, Community Care, and the City of Peterborough to launch a bus service called The Link from Curve Lake First Nation into the City of Peterborough.
  • Ongoing consultation with Curve Lake First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation regarding the Official Planning process for the County of Peterborough and the City of Peterborough.
  • The development of a new three-year culinary tourism strategy for the region included extensive consultation and participation from both local first nations communities as well as the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations, and Indigenous Tourism Ontario.
  • The development of the O’de Piitaanemaan Pledge visitor pledge through which Peterborough & the Kawarthas became one of the first Canadian destinations to launch a visitor pledge rooted in the teachings of Indigenous Peoples.
items of cultural heritage on a table

The vision, as articulated in the Friendship Accord, is to build “a partnership where we respectfully and collaboratively recognize our traditions and richness of culture and where, together, we share in a progressive, sustainable community with mutual prosperity achieved in balance with the preservation and protection of Mother Earth and the waters, now and for the next seven generations.”

The signatories believe that the Accord will demonstrate how six partners can work together to strengthen their communities. “I’m hoping it leads to a greater cultural understanding on all sides,” remarked Hiawatha First Nation’s Chief, Laurie Carr. “This accord will enable us to work together in the spirit of unity, co-operation, and build a partnership to help each other.” Her Accord partner, Emily Whetung, Chief of Curve Lake First Nation, agreed: “I think it’s a recognition of our inherent rights and our desire to work together.” Chief Whetung was joined at the ceremony by the notable former chief of Curve Lake, Keith Knott, who believes it is vital for all partners to focus on the future: “We must start looking forward—seeing where the horizon is and seeing what is beyond the horizon.”

Inclusive economic development is often a goal to be achieved, a strategy set in place where the best-case scenarios mean that no one is left behind. What is so powerful about the Friendship Accord is that inclusive economic prosperity is not a future ideal but an active practice.

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