In many cases, the best way to learn about something is by doing it.
In the case of settling treaties between First Nations and provincial, territorial or federal governments, those who will negotiate in the future don’t have access to the meeting rooms where things are settled today.
To allow young Indigenous people to get as close as possible, the Gordon Foundation and the Land Claims Agreements Coalition (LCAC) has been hosting simulated treaty negotiations for hands-on learning.
“It is very important for Indigenous youth and emerging leaders to be given opportunities to be engaged in the work we do within our modern treaty organizations, so they know with experience if it’s work they want to pursue. Even if it leads them in another direction, these kinds of opportunities allow young people to discover what they’re passionate about, and that’s where they’re going to make the most difference in this world,” said LCAC Co-Chair Aluki Kotierk.
This year’s national treaty simulation is the fourth annual event that the foundation has hosted. More region-specific simulated negotiations have also been hosted.
Participants ages 18 to 30 from the Yukon, British Columbia, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories joined the online discussion between Feb. 28 to March 4.
Among those participating in the Zoom calls that made up the treaty simulation was Natalie Hare, who works as an administrator in the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council’s health department.
Hare said she found out about the simulated treaty negotiation when a co-worker suggested it to her. She had some interest in the treaty process going in and said she was open to the opportunity to gain some more knowledge.
Education was the subject of this year’s simulated negotiation and the one that was held last year. The 2019 and 2020 negotiations dealt with issues surrounding wildlife harvest and management.
Hare said that issues surrounding First Nations language and education are vital and relevant. It is a timely issue in the Yukon with the recent establishment of a First Nations school board for the territory.
While Hare said she found the simulated negotiation a little intimidating at first but by the end of the day it had her complete interest. A part of that interest was meeting her fellow participants from other parts of Canada.
Participants were assigned to groups that took turns negotiating the education portion of a modern treaty from the perspectives of a Yukon First Nation, the territorial government and the federal government.
Hare found it interesting to hear and discuss the perspectives of the people in her group before approving changes to their proposals and taking it to the negotiating table. She said many people could benefit from participation in the treaty negotiation.
“The whole message that people can still work together if they have different views. They can focus on the common goal and you can be respectful but assertive with your expectations,” she said.
A statement from the organizers of the treaty simulation says building leadership, negotiation, leadership and public speaking skills are all goals of the event. The learning and skill building is assisted by expert advisors who assist with the negotiation.
Some of those expert advisors are veterans of the negotiation processes for some of the most important treaty negotiations in recent history. Among the experts were: Robin Bradasch, Associate Vice President, Indigenous Engagement and Partnerships at Yukon University and Dave Joe who was a negotiator on the Yukon Umbrella Agreement.
Hare said she really enjoyed hearing the experts speak and wants to follow up with someone about more opportunities to expand her knowledge about the treaty negotiation process.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org