A recent land claim settlement for Listuguj, Que. has inspired a band member to set up a community development foundation aimed at helping her community.
Mi’kmaq lawyer Naiomi Metallic says the foundation is called “Listuguj Aboqonmadultinech Community Foundation.” The word, Aboqonmadultinech, means “let us help one another” in Mi’kmaq. She says she was inspired to set up the foundation after her band held a referendum vote on a multimillion dollar land claim settlement late last year.
According to Metallic, who lives and works as a lawyer in Halifax, it’s the first such community development foundation set up by a First Nation community in Canada.
“I kind of threw it out there for those who may be interested,” Metallic recalls. “There is this potential we can look into this other avenue if people want to put some of their money into some sort of vehicle that could be used for community purposes,” she said.
In December 2014, Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government held a referendum in which band members were asked whether or not to accept a $64-million dollar land claim settlement from the federal government. They were also asked how they wanted the settlement money distributed.
Several options for distribution included putting all of the money into a trust fund, placing a percentage of the money into a trust and the rest for individual distribution or having all of the settlement money distributed to individual band members.
Listuguj band members voted to accept the settlement and opted for individual distribution of the settlement money of approximately $15,000 per member.
Metallic sets up community development foundation following referendum vote
Soon after the referendum vote was held, Metallic says she began to make inquiries into setting up the community foundation. With the help of a couple other band members, Metallic has already registered the foundation and set up a Facebook group.
According to Metallic, band members can donate money or raise money to donate to the foundation. The money then earns interest that can be used to help out band members in emergency situations or support a community event such as a powwow.
Metallic says she has donated almost half of her land claim settlement to the Listuguj community development foundation. She says it was important for her to donate because the money came from a land claim settlement which belongs to all of Listuguj band members.
“I always wanted to see some of it go back to the community or community purposes,” Metallic says. “For me, that’s why it was so important.”
Metallic admits that some band members are hesitant to contribute a portion of their settlement to the foundation.
“No one is against it in principle,” she explains. “They just want to see it.”
“There’s still a lot of work to be done and some people want to see the whole proof in the pudding,” Metallic says.
According to the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government website, the foundation has already raised approximately $20,000.
Currently, Metallic says she is volunteering with a few other band members to develop terms of reference for the foundation.
Ultimately, Metallic says she would like to see her fellow band members, on and off reserve, come together and hold fundraising events to grow the foundation’s funds. Some activities she would like to support through the foundation include Mi’kmaq language and cultural classes.
“I think it’ll get better as we get stronger,” says Metallic.