Wawatay was recently awarded a grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Over the next couple months in the Publisher’s Note we will show the progress of gathering the research and producing the paper for submission. This first note will give you the thesis or the main argument we are proving. Our research paper is titled, Blending Tradition with Technology and its Sovereignty in Broadcasting. We will show that First Nation’s sovereignty in broadcasting is in reality the recognition and control of the economic benefit of the airspace above our communities or collectively the regionally cultural territories. For example, each community is individually autonomous and sovereign Nation and could be bordered up like Europe with their own currencies and laws: the basic pillars to self-determination, governance, and the regulation of our own society and humanity.
The two important things we must consider are the Treaties and Reconciliation and how they interweave, and then look at a solution. At one time First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people were commonly known to be teachers, partners, creators and establishers of the early lumber and fur trade. This was essentially the creation of Canada’s earliest economic systems and gross domestic product. In treaties, the relationship soon turned dysfunctional, yet continued to breed a healthy economy. What our ancestors signed up for was not what we are dealing with today. No way they wanted us to have to reconcile the imposed dysfunctions of Indian Residential Schools or be wards of the state.
Somehow we went from being partners in Canada’s early economy, to the commodity, and our sovereignty has been erased from Canadian common knowledge. Many Canadians truly do not know First Nation and Inuit entitlement to the land and the bounty it has provided since time immemorial. The laws of Canada were initially influenced by the treaties, and legally, the sovereignty of First Nation territory cannot be denied. Although, by the time Canada confederated itself in 1867 it felt that First Nations, Inuit and Métis People’s needed European civilization and guardianship. Welcome in the Indian Act.
If we had the continuous ‘partnership status’ and the sharing of their economic system of pre-confederation, instead of the political system that has evolved to what we have today, we wouldn’t need reconciliation. In keeping Canada obligated to treaty and our forever journey back to self-governance, Sheldon Kirk Krasowski, Freda Ahenakew, H. C. Wolfart, Joseph Dion, Neal McLeod and Sharon Venne collected treaty oral histories from Saskatchewan that proved it was common knowledge that resource extraction from the ground were not part of the treaty. Cree Elder Jim Kâ-Nîpitêhtêw discussed the “Treaty Six pipe stem, and was one of the first Elders to recount that land was to be shared with settlers ‘to the depth of a plow.’”
At the time of signing most treaties, the invention of radio had not happened yet and airwaves and the ownership of airspace was not thought about in any negotiations. This is where Wawatay’s research paper for the grant will explore further discussion, understanding and assist in creating economic benefit, law and policy for Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Wawatay is one of the oldest First Nation corporations, if not the oldest in Ontario. And since the beginning have had fore thinking leaders, so to speak. Wawatay was created to tell our news and our stories from our perspective and when radio was implemented to ‘enhance and preserve the language.’
At that time the Board and Administration of Wawatay were brilliant in acknowledging they had to preserve the language, while also recognizing and accounting for the airwaves. They knew we were the only frequencies in the region and could rightfully claim the airspace. Lavinia Mohr in chapter 3 of A Passion for Radio gracefully captures Wawatay’s early interactions with the CRTC and making the decision to use the airwaves.
Morh states, Wawatay ordered 25 transmitters, and in 1977 went up to Muskrat Dam to install the first one in defiance of the CRTC, Canada’s broadcasting regulatory agency. Former Wawatay Executive Director Garnet Angeconeb puts it this way: “At first we had some problems dealing with government regulations and so on with using this transmitter in that it didn’t meet government specifications. Therefore the CRTC wouldn’t license these things. But we went ahead and used them anyway, simply because it was the right thing to do. I mean everything looked logical up north. There weren’t any other frequencies to interrupt or to interfere with. So it was just right. We went ahead and used them anyway and in Muskrat Dam that transmitter proved to be really useful.” Mohr continues, eventually the CRTC relented and gave Wawatay licenses for all 25 transmitters. One by one, the communities of the north raised the money to purchase the equipment and Wawatay flew in a technician to install them.
This was the beginning of bureaucratic assimilation for Wawatay.
We are not included in the Canadian revenue of cellular, satellite TV, and air travel through our regions, the thought is actually not even a discussion yet. So, as the Cree Elder Kâ-Nîpitêhtêw stated about the depth of plow and we must consider the air above us. Treaty #9 was signed in 1905 and radio had just had its first transmission in December 1902 from the Marconi station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada that sent a signal from North America back to Great Britain.
Airspace was not even a consideration to Canadian law let alone the need to protect it like resources in the ground. So as Wawatay ED Garnet Angeconeb did, we have to go ahead, and open these discussions. This is our thesis, 2019 Wawatay’s argument for academic submission on exploring our economic viability, revenue sharing, imposing our sovereignty in our lands, and defining our self determination, rebuilding our governance and regulations in our communities through our airspace.