Last but not least, after a decade of litigation, 21 Anishinaabe communities along the north shore of Lake Huron will be receiving their share of the wealth generated from natural resource development in their territories through a $10 billion (yes, billion with a B) settlement paid by the federal and provincial governments. Announced by all three parties on last Saturday, June 17 in Sudbury, Ontario, this settlement puts a more accurate price on natural resource development and redirects financial capital towards Indigenous People, who for decades have demonstrated how to lead the climate change and biodiversity loss prevention movement with investments into renewable energy and conservation in their communities, despite having less capital available than non-indigenous communities.
The Robinson-Huron Treaty, signed in 1850, outlined an agreement for sharing land and resources. The 21 Anishinaabe communities in this territory agreed to share these lands and economic benefits from resources in exchange for an annual payment. Despite the billions of dollars in revenue from various resources taken from the territory, the annual payment (annuity) has not changed since 1874 and still remains only $4. The $10B settlement will resolve past unpaid annuities. The logistics on how these funds will be distributed amongst the diverse communities will be handled through extensive engagement with each community. Negotiations for annual payments going forwards are yet to be announced and are certain to drive more thoughtful, equitable and environmentally conscious decision-making for natural resource development in the region.
The impact this decision will have in a region that has significant amounts of critical minerals needed for the energy transition and irreplaceable carbon, biodiversity and ecosystem services — often referred to as “the lungs of the planet” — cannot be understated. The conflicting goals of nature conservation and mining for clean energy to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be addressed in northern Ontario. This settlement and long-term agreement to share natural resource annuities more equitably could result in both key goals being met by including Indigenous values at the decision-making table. It also highlights the importance of sharing responsibility and co-governing our shared lands and resources.
Indigenous Peoples have invented and are inventing some of our most promising climate solutions from Two-Eyed Seeing to regenerative agriculture and conservation economies like Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs).