Close to four centuries of history was discussed on Wednesday at the Rodd Miramichi River hotel as residents of Natoaganeg First Nation and Miramichi shared historical events significant to each community.
This meeting is one of many that will be held as part of the federally-funded Community Economic Development Initiative, which aims to develop long-term planning for joint community economic development.
The national program is being carried out by the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
The program began in 2013 and seeks to support First Nation and municipal collaboration.
During Wednesday's meeting, members of the First Nation and residents of Miramichi discussed topics ranging from changing signage to better honour Indigenous identity, to the effects of systemic racism stemming from institutions like residential schools.
This partnership between the First Nation and the city is one of eight across the country and the only one of its kind in New Brunswick.
Communities that are part of the program will engage in facilitated workshops, best practices, study tours and peer mentorship to better understand how each community can be served.
Both Natoaganeg First Nation Chief George Ginnish and Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon say this partnership provides an opportunity to build upon an existing relationship.
Ginnish said this partnership will help prioritize projects that can be achieved at the municipal level.
"Right away it's tourism, business development ... In the past, we've provided support for the multipurpose complex. It's our community and just given the size, we're not going to be able to build a recreation centre or a pool," said Ginnish.
"But in partnering with Newcastle, Chatham, Miramichi ... there's something that we can build in our region that can serve the greater area."
Lordon said the partnership is coming at an ideal time — following both the municipal and the First Nation's elections.
"We've got a chief and council and the mayor and council that are starting out on four-year mandates ... but I will hope and expect that the collaboration will be indefinite," said Lordon.
"I'm hopeful that we can have some discussions around some potential renewable energy projects as well something that can have a great economic benefit and also work together as stewards of the environment."
Navigating different levels of government
Both Ginnish and Lordon said they would strive to accomplish what is needed when asked whether there was concern that certain projects would receive pushback on the provincial level.
Lordon said, "We always stay grounded as best we can ... trying to control what we can control at the local level, which is our role in municipal government." The mayor added the municipality has been advocating for years for the province to spend more money on infrastructure.
"Optimistically, one of the hopes of going through a program like this is that together we can identify funding streams that are available, some that might be available to us that aren't available to them or vice versa. So that when we conceive of the projects we want to pursue together, like the chief said, we're not afraid to go have conversations and try to work with those other members of the government as well, especially as it relates to regulations or funding support."
Lordon said, "We're going to dream big and then we'll roll up our sleeves and get to work."
Ginnish said, "It's always a concern, but we're up for the fight."
"Our organization, MTI [Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Incorporated], that represents our nine [Mi'kmaw] communities have been very vocal about what we think are the shortcomings and some of the provincial decision-making. We'd like to guide their hands, we can't do that. But we'll make sure that we hold them accountable."