Batchewana to Michipicoten: 'We’ve always had an open door'Wednesday, October 03, 2012 by: Jordan Allard
Eyeing a comprise which would allow a potential project with job creation possibilities to become a reality, Batchewana First Nation is reaching out to a Wawa-area first nation hoping to resolve their issues.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Chief Sayers (pictured above) announced he would be meeting with Michipicoten Chief Joe Buckell this month to discuss the roles of their respective bands in a proposed Bow Lake wind farm project.
BluEarth Renewables Inc. has been working with Batchewana for over five years trying to establish a 36-turbine wind farm on the shores of Lake Superior near Montreal River.
In a press release issued by his office last week, Buckell said the Calgary-based company was negotiating with the wrong band and insisted the land in question belongs instead to them.
Northern Lake Superior chiefs from the Anishinabek Nation, which represents Michipicoten but not Batchewana, voted against the wind farm, siting a lack of consolation.
Sayers said he's been in talks with Michipicoten since June 2007 after Batchewana First Nation voted in favour of the wind farm.
“We’ve always had an open door,” said Sayers. “Over the past five years we've dedicated significant resources to working towards this project resulting in an agreement which will see us participate as an economic partner and we’d like to move forward.”
Frustrated by the 11th hour intervention, Sayers has met with Buckell several times and hasn't been given a clear indication of what Michipicoten wants out of the deal with BluEarth.
“It was my understanding we both agreed the interests of our First Nations people would be determined by their respective histories,” he said.
Buckell countered, saying Sayers is ignoring the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, which he said identifies borders between the two groups.
Sayers acknowledged the treaty's validity, but added boundaries between Batchewana and Michipicoten aren't clearly defined.
"It's the responsibility of Michipicoten to provide evidence behind their claims and we haven't received any," he said.
On April 2, Sayers reportedly received a letter from Buckell stating they had no interest in the project, but it was rescinded 10 days later.
“There has been no shortage of energies to try and resolve this historic relationship difference around the territories,” said Sayers. “We really need to understand why they are reluctant and why we're being requested to reopen discussions at the last hour.”
Sayers is asking Buckell come forward with a written request stipulating what he would want out of an agreement with BluEarth.
He issued the request in July, but hasn't received a response yet.
When contacted for clarification regarding Michipicoten’s position, Buckell did not return a call to his office.
Sayers still remains optimistic of the upcoming negotiations and thinks a deal can be reached by the end of 2012.
If an agreement is struck by year's end, the project could become operational by first or second quarter of 2014.
The 60-megawatt wind farm would create 50 to 60 construction based jobs and around 12 positions in operations when it opens.
"First Nations across Canada are always looking for financial independence," said Sayers. "This project would help us become more self-sustainable and we need to move forward."
Earlier SooToday.com coverage of this story