The first ManOMin watershed conference is slated April 28-30, 2000, with hopes of it becoming a regular event in the future.
Jennifer Mercer, co-ordinator for the Rainy River First Nations Watershed Program, said the name of the conference has a double meaning.
First of all, ManOMin is an abbreviation of “Manitoba-Ontario-Minnesota.” But it’s also Anishinabe for wild rice.
“It shows how First Nations are an integral part of the watershed,” Mercer explained.
The ManOMin watershed runs from Atikokan through Fort Frances and Lake of the Woods up to the Winnipeg River. Right now, Mercer is recruiting delegates from all the different areas in the watershed to form a planning committee for the conference.
Already on board are representatives from the Northwestern Ontario Tourism Association, the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners, and people from Minnesota.
Mercer is still waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Town of Fort Frances, which is where the conference likely will be held.
“The reason why I picked Fort Frances is [it’s] right in the middle of the two watersheds and [it’s] right at the border,” she said. “So I thought [it] would be the logical choice.”
Guest speakers at the conference likely will feature a balance of government, non-government, and First Nation reps although nothing will be set in stone until after the planning committee has been formed.
“We’re going to have to do it as soon as possible,” Mercer admitted, noting she also still has to get someone from the eastern end of the district on the committee.
“We need to have a balanced committee if we’ll have a balanced watershed conference,” she remarked. “It will be open to the public because the community members decide what happens to the watershed.”
Mercer said the role of Rainy River First Nation in this conference will be to act as a mediator, promoting the three basic concepts it has in its watershed program—protect, conserve, and revitalize.
“The only way we can do it is through co-operative relationships, and we’ve been successful with that,” she noted. “We want to share that with other watersheds.
“I don’t think people realize that by being in the same room and talking, so much can be accomplished,” she added.
“Our goal is to get all the key players in the same room and get them talking about what’s happening with the watershed—co-operative relationships will develop between people,” Mercer concluded.