Local First Nations Do Well on Survey

Aboriginal Futures, Commentary, Frontier Centre, Media Appearances, Saskatchewan

A recently released report on aboriginal governance has given high marks to two First Nations in this area.

The Aboriginal Governance Index, done by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, rated Muskoday and Wahpeton First Nations among the top 10, with Muskoday in seventh spot and Wahpeton in 10th.

The study – which involved surveys of and interviews with members of 51 First Nations in Manitoba and 61 in Saskatchewan – looked at five areas of governance: elections, administration, human rights, transparency, services and economic development.

It was the second year for Manitoba’s reserves and the first for Saskatchewan’s.

Wahpeton councillor Cy Standing said he suspects a number of factors led to his First Nation’s ranking.

“We have our own constitution, we have our own policies,” said Standing, adding these have been in place for several years.

Elections occur every three years, which gives those elected time to get fully into their roles but isn’t too long a time.

Also, “once a person is elected, we all support him.”

The 460-member First Nation has one chief and three councillors, said Standing.

Don Sandberg, the centre’s aboriginal policy fellow who did the survey, said the results show “there needs to be a lot of improvement” in aboriginal communities.

“The North seems to be doing better than the southern reserves,” said Sandberg, adding that may be because councillors have longer terms in office, allowing them to “look at issues and resolve them.”

A key issue involves having everyone participate.

“People don’t really have a voice. Power is regulated at the top,” he said, adding implementing the First Nations Governance Act would be a major help.

Sandberg said the next survey will include Alberta’s First Nations, as well as continuing to poll both Saskatchewan and Manitoba reserves.

“We would like to keep doing each province each year and see how they progress,” he said.

No representative of Muskoday First Nation was available for comment.