Interviewer – Eric Anderson – Gitga’at Digital Communications Monitor
Interviewee – Corbin Greening, Gitga’at Treaty Coordinator
Please introduce yourself and your role with Gitga’at First Nation.
My name is Corbin Greening. I am the Gitga’at First Nation Treaty Coordinator. I was born and raised in Burns Lake, and I am a Gitga’at First Nation member.
How long have you been working with Gitga’at Treaty Department?
I joined the organization in July 2015, so I am nearing 2 years with Gitga’at First Nation.
What initially inspired you to join the team?
I have been interested in Aboriginal Rights and Title, First Nations Culture, and First Nations politics for a long time. I went to University with this in mind, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and First Nations Studies and a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies. When the position of Treaty Coordinator showed up, I was really excited. I was excited because the position looked like it would draw on my strengths and challenge me, as well as continue my learning process, which it has. I was also excited because I have been able to get closer to my family and a part of my culture. My grandpa (John Pahl) was raised in Hartley Bay and I have a lot of family relations in Prince Rupert and Hartley Bay. I am proud to work for my First Nation.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working with the Treaty team to negotiate an Agreement in Principle, engage the Gitga’at Nation in an ongoing discussion about Self-Determination and Aboriginal Rights and Title, and participate in other treaty projects. I play an active role in both Negotiation and Communications, while Paul Paterson, the Lead Negotiator, has been mentoring me. Negotiation includes meeting with representatives of the Canadian and British Columbia governments to negotiate in Gitga’at First Nation’s best interest. I also do a lot of legal research to strengthen our position at the Treaty table. Communications includes meeting with members at public meetings, as well as sitting down for tea with community members to discuss what a Treaty might mean for Gitga’at First Nation.
I am also the Gitga’at Election Code Coordinator. This position includes engaging Gitga’at members in a process to consider a Gitga’at Election Code amendment. This project will end in July 2017 with community members voting to accept or reject proposed amendments to the Gitga’at Custom Election Code.
When it comes to your work day, is it divided into specific segments or tasks?
Yes, most of the time. I can usually dedicate about half of my day to digging deep into Treaty review and research, which I really enjoy. It takes a lot of patience and focus, and when I feel exhausted, I like to mix up my day with smaller tasks, such as answering emails, communicating with co-workers, setting up community meetings, or chatting with community members.
My Election Code tasks are divided up more randomly. I like to do Election Code work in the early morning or evening, but sometimes there are immediate timelines that I need to meet, such as printing and mailing deadlines. I spend a lot of time arranging meetings, preparing presentations, organizing lists, and communicating with the lawyer, Chief and Council, and band manager.
What’s the most important aspect of your work?
Helping Gitga’at members engage with the work and issues faced by a modern First Nation. We have lived under a restrictive, colonial system for too long, and Gitga’at people have had to fight long and hard to govern themselves. This struggle continues, and Treaty and Governance are areas that this is being fought. They are also complex issues, and they are discussed in the complex language of Law. I think it is incredibly important that Gitga’at people meaningfully engage with these issues. I think that a stronger understanding of Law and Politics will help Gitga’at people assert ourselves as best we can. I have taken the role of Treaty Coordinator and Election Code coordinator to play my small role in helping Gitga’at people engage with Treaty, Governance, and the Law.
What future projects does the team have in mind?
Gitga’at Treaty is always looking for ways to push the boundaries at the Treaty table. We’re also looking for new and innovative ways to engage with community members. We started by hosting public information meetings, but I think that people would also like to sit down over tea to have genuine conversations about Treaty. We have also launched a website and Facebook page to engage people from all over the place that wouldn’t normally be able to attend meetings.
We are looking for ways to gather data and make data accessible for the Nation. We work with the Gitga’at Science department and the Guardians to make sure that we’re on the cutting edge of managing our territory. We would also like to start an archive so that historical data, such as Adaawx and Ayaawx can be preserved. We are always on the lookout for resources to support these projects.
Gitga’at people also know that we have lands that we have historically used and occupied but were not included in our reserves. Researching this is called the Specific Claims process. I hope that in the future we can invest more time and energy into Specific Claims.
Does your position involve a lot of travel?
Yes, it includes a lot of travel. There are a lot of Gitga’at members in both Hartley Bay and Prince Rupert, so I spend most of my time in those two communities, usually 1 or 2 weeks at a time. I also travel to Vancouver and Victoria once a month to negotiate with representatives from Canada and British Columbia. Though the travel can be tiring, I learn a lot about engaging with governments by playing an active role at these meetings.