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8th Fire: Whose Land is it Anyway?

Indigenous in the City - It's Time - Whose Land is it Anyway? - At the Crossroads - Host - Credits

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Sunday January 27 at 11 am on CBC-TV

There's no getting around it. Land is the biggest sticking point in the relationship between Aboriginal peoples in Canada and the "settler" population. Who owns it, benefits from it, gets to say when, if and how it gets developed? These questions are all the more crucial because the lands in dispute sit on a treasure-trove of resources, which the world is eager to buy from Canada. But don't despair. This episode of 8th FIRE, full of breathtaking HD landscapes and compelling characters, explores the creative ways of working this out.

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Clarence Louie, the dynamic Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band, is convinced the answer for his people is self-reliance and economic development. And his reserve in BC's gorgeous Okanagan Vally seems to illustrate just that. The band owns the First Nations winery in North America and Nk'Mip Cellar wines have won many international awards. Justin Hall--a young man in the community--has been part of the wine-makers' team since 2010.

In Northern Manitoba, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has embarked on a courageous experiment by partnering with Manitoba Hydro, the same company which, just four decades ago, flooded out their ancestral lands. The community believes that the new revenue-sharing agreement embodied in the Wuskwatim hydroelectric project will lead to sustainable economic development. ANCN Chief Jerry Primrose admits that "people expect great things from this project." Will the Wuskwatim dam succeed in meeting their expectations?

In Iqaluit, we drop in during the Toonik Time festival. Inuk businessman Harry Flaherty strolls through the crowd, celebrating the onset of spring. He is proud of his people's accomplishments. The Inuit of Nunavut have realized their dream of establishing their own territory. Nunavut is rich in natural resources, but there are many debates about how they are to be administered and used. Harry Flaherty believes that the resources should be developed, but not at any price.

In 1975, the James Bay Cree signed an historic agreement with the Quebec government about development on their land, and the economic benefits are still flowing to the community. The Cree are almost masters of their own land, and prosperity helps secure their strong sense of identity. Pakesso Mukash often travels between Montreal and Whapmagoostui, his own community, and with his band CerAmony sings about Cree pride.

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But obstacles and difficulties are an integral part of the road to change, and communities sometimes have to admit failure. Young people in Northern Ontario's Attawapiskat community know something about that: their movement to obtain a new school became a symbol across Canada. After years of fighting, they learned their dream would indeed come true . . . in 2015.

Aboriginal people understand only too well that they need to move forward to secure a future for their children and their children's children. As Armand MacKenzie, a well-known Innu consultant on legal issues says, "Aboriginal communities should have the right to develop their society and land at their own pace, and in the way they want." Out on the land, we try to find out if they are being heard.

DIRECTOR: Michel Philibert
PRODUCERS: Caroline Nepton Hotte, Marie -Claude Pednault