It was an afternoon of celebration and reflection.
Dignitaries and community members gathered on November 3, 2022, to celebrate the success of the Henvey Inlet Wind facility. Nearly 150 people joined the celebration at the Alban Community Centre in the Robinson Huron Treaty territory, just 15 km north of the Henvey Inlet Wind site.
The partnership between Henvey Inlet First Nation’s Nigig Power Corporation and Pattern is unique. The facility was the first to develop a First Nation Environmental Stewardship Regime under the First Nations Lands Management Act. It also represents an important example of industry following the lead of the First Nation community.
The Anishinabe ceremony started with a traditional smudging followed by a drum song. Before enjoying a meal, dignitaries spoke to the audience.
The Start of Something Great
The wind energy facility is the result of the Henvey Inlet First Nation’s commitment to bringing a renewable energy project to their land. The First Nation’s leadership saw the potential for renewable energy to provide long-term financial stability for the community. To be successful, the project would need to be shaped around the First Nation’s cultural and ecological priorities.
“When we started out in the early days with the wind farm around 2008, I heard a gentleman speak at a Chiefs meeting about a 50% partnership between First Nations and renewable energy,” said Henvey Inlet First Nation Chief Wayne McQuabbie. “That really caught my ear.”
Finding the Right Fit
Chief McQuabbie explained how he was part of the effort to find a good partner but it took some time to find the right fit.
“We ended up going with Pattern Energy because they took the time to understand us, and our challenges, and financed our project. Thank you to the Pattern crew for all our success and miigwetch to the Nigig crew,” he said.
CEO Mike Garland of Pattern Energy joined the celebration and spoke about the importance of this historic partnership.
“The community here is very important to us. I want to thank you for trusting us and allowing us to be part of your community,” said Mike. “We have to keep earning your trust and respect to be here for as long as this wind farm is going to be here. To be here and see some of your traditions and be part of them is one of the most important parts of my job.”
The facility’s development involved hard work and determination. Success required close collaboration and a mutual commitment to finding sustainable solutions to the project’s unique challenges. For the First Nation, that meant learning about the technical side of wind energy. For Pattern, it meant learning how to incorporate the First Nation’s culture and values into every aspect of the project.
“You were able to tell us what was important to you, what areas were important to protect, how we build and see the project being part of the community, and protecting the environment that you live in. That made an extraordinary difference in this project. ” Mike explained.
This kind of collaboration is not only demonstrated through this partnership, but it’s also a part of the day-to-day operations of the team.
A True Ally
Pat Murray, Community Relations Coordinator with Pattern Energy, has been visiting the community since 2014 before the partnership began so she could start meeting members of the community.
During the celebration, Pat was welcomed to the front of the room for a special presentation about allyship. Emcee Jennifer Ashawasegai-Pereira presented Pat with a star blanket.
“I want to honour Pat as a true ally for our Anishinaabe community. The star blanket is something really special to us and it represents a few things including honour and respect,” said Jennifer.
“Pat has truly exemplified what allyship means. She came into our community with an open mind and an open heart and most importantly of all, open ears. She always was listening and she never interfered with our processes or tried to make other suggestions or recommendations. She listened to all of us.”
“Because of the relationship we’ve built together with Pat, she really is a high-ranking official and dignitary to us,” Chief Wayne said.
Pat was wrapped in the star blanket and was presented with Anishinabe-crafted deer hide leather mitts handmade by an Elder and celebrated with an honour song.
An Anishinabek Event
After the presentation, guests were treated to a traditional Anishinaabek meal, thanks to Hiawatha’s Catering. Refreshments were from Treeteas Brewing Co., and promotional materials were made by Anishinaabe-owned business Planet Stitch. The event was planned and decorated by Crystal Osawamick from Maawnjidmi Getting Together.