Lessons in Indigenous Negotiations Part 4

Lesson 4: Negotiation is a Skill, or “I Can Do This, Can’t I?”

In over 30 years of experience with Indigenous negotiations, I have been at the table with hundreds of negotiators. Many of them should never have been in the room. I know this sounds harsh, but being effective in Indigenous negotiations is very hard to do and is not for everyone.


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Reconciliation as part of First Nation Negotiations

Lyle Viereck recently launched a private consulting firm Lyle Viereck Consulting Services Inc. As the former Director of Aboriginal Relations and Negotiations for BC Hydro and a Chief Negotiator with the Province of BC, he has a depth of negotiating experience. He also has a unique perspective on reconciliation as part of First Nation negotiation that we were eager to learn more about. Lyle kindly took some time to share his invaluable insight.

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Lyle Viereck Consulting Services Inc

Lyle Viereck was born and raised in Prince Rupert in northern BC. His family heritage includes Creek Indians from Oklahoma, American black slaves, Irish and German. As a result of this very diverse background Lyle grew up fighting for equality and against racism and was influenced by his family forming labour and credit unions.

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37 interviews and presentations on Aboriginal relations

Bob Joseph It has been a wonderful year for Working Effectively with Aboriginal Peoples blog and newsletter. Over the past twelve months we have met some amazing people who have given unselfishly of their time for interviews, and to create inspiring presentations on Aboriginal relations for our Speaker Series' events. We are honoured to be able to share their insight and experience with our readers. If there were more people in the world like these remarkable individuals, then the world would certainly be a better place.

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Kate Buttery, Affiliate Counsel, First Peoples Law

I believe that helping Aboriginal people to achieve tangible, positive legal results comes from listening closely to the needs of clients and working with them to craft solutions tailored to the needs of each community and situation. First Peoples Law allows me to focus on the intersection of Aboriginal, constitutional and environmental law, and on providing effective strategic advocacy to First Nations across Canada.

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Dr. Bruce McIvor, Principle, First Peoples Law

For me, advocacy is bred in the bone.

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Richard Wagamese - Learning to be human

For the longest time I wondered what it really meant to be Ojibwa. As a child growing up in a non-native world the word Ojibwa was always just a word. I was never allowed to frame a definition for it. Instead, I was expected to become a cardboard cut-out of the person my white adopted family wanted me to be. That image had nothing to do with being Ojibwa.

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Blockade by individuals amounted to ‘abuse of process’ Behn v Moulton

By Jennifer Brown

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that individual members of an Aboriginal group can’t use blockades or other “self-help” remedies when claiming a government breached its duty to consult, and in fact doing so amounted to “an abuse of process.”

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Richard Wagamese Medicine Wheel

There’s a thin, bubbly creek I walk to that spills out of the mountains and through a small meadow a mile or so above our home. The walk is easy enough. The terrain climbs gradually without the sheer slope you might expect and walking there is a meditative thing. Over the years it’s become a private joy and one of the treasures of our experience here.

I have a favorite log I sit on set back in the shade of spruce, fir and pine. The creek streams by a yard away. The sound there is magnificent; all cascading water, soughing breezes through the trees, birds and the deep, rich silence in the gaps that eases me. It’s a resting place. There’s nothing more peaceful than the time spent on that log becoming entranced by the world again.

When you come to the land there’s a sense that you’ve seen it before, even if you’ve never been to that particular place. It’s in the way it feels on your skin, the way its smell transports you, the way it floods you with recollection.

Sitting beside that tiny creek in the mountains I suddenly remembered how it felt to catch minnows in a jar. The goggle-eyed sense of wonder at those silvered, wriggling beams of light darting between stones and the feel of the water on my arms, cool and slick as the surface of dreams. I was 12. I lived on a farm in southwestern Ontario, far away from there.

I lived my life for the sudden flare of sunlight when I broke from the bush back then. The land beckoned through my bedroom window so that sometimes when the house was quiet I stood there just to hear the call of it, spoken in a language that I didn’t know. But I knew that it was calling me to it. Just knew it with that magic understanding of children we sadly allow to fade as we grow.

The creek ran out of that farmland and wound its way through the bush to a reservoir behind an old mill. I fished that creek when it widened. I spent many an hour watching my line and bobber with the voice of it a chuckle, its edges dappled by the shadows of old elms and its light like the dancing bluish green eyes of the girl on the bus I could never find a way to say a word to.

Back in the trees where it was still a slip of current, I’d lie across a long flat stone to dip a mason jar elbows deep into a pool. I hung there, suspended while minnows flitted about and nibbled at my fingertips. I would let that arm dangle until the feeling went away then I’d raise it with minnows frantic in the sudden absence of their world. They entranced me.
The fish of my dreams all wriggling fingerlings captured in my hand.

I couldn’t keep them. I knew that. I couldn’t just carry them home like a carnival prize, give them names or place them in a bowl on my desk. No, something in me understood even at 12 that some things ache to be free and the charm of them resides in their ability to be that freedom.

So I let them go. I let them swim away and I watched happily when they darted to the bottom of that pool and then joined the throng of other minnows again. Beams of light. Free as childhood wishes. There was a touch of sadness in releasing them. But I carried something of that creek, that cold against my arms, the sun-warmed stone against my belly, the breeze, the light and the idea of minnows away with me forever.

So that standing now on the edge of another creek at 55, it’s like the years haven’t happened at all. This mountain creek contains all the properties of the one I loved at 12. It still grants me a connection to myself. I just have to want to let that magic happen. That’s the trick of it, really, allowing wonder to happen. That’s the special enriching property of the land when you go to it openly – it reconnects you to the gift of wonder you carried as a child.

It’s a journey, this life. There are thousands of territories to navigate. There are landscapes rich and varied we trek in our journeys to ourselves. But I suppose I’ve learned that it’s not what you pick up along the way that comes to matter so much. It’s what you continue to pack along. Courage. Hope. Wonder. When you do that the journey becomes a crossing of creeks on stepping stones where so much comes to depend on maintaining balance with every careful placing of the foot.

Here's another article by Richard Wagamese you might enjoy "Grandfather Talking"


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Jane Allen Biography, Deloitte

As Chief Diversity Officer, Jane is responsible for coordinating the efforts of firm leadership, human resources and service lines — and providing necessary support and tools — to successfully achieve Deloitte’s diversity vision.

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