| Apr 17, 2008

Feature Article - April 17, 2008

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Feature Article -April 17, 2008 Economic Development and the Shabot ObaadjiwaanBy Jeff Green

The Shabot Obadjiwaan First Nation have big plans for their smoke shop on Highway 7 at Silver Lake.

According to Chief Doreen Davis, the smoke shop could be expanding in the future to sell gasoline, and a chip wagon and native craft store are being talked about as well.

The Shabot Obaadjiwaan have also established local trading dollars, called Anishnabe Wampum, on the model of bartering systems that exist in Tamworth and other localities.

“By using Anishnabe wampum, people are trading rather than exchanging money. It is something that has been done in reserves out west for years,” Davis said in an interview late last week. “Eventually we hope to remove ourselves from the monetary system.”

The Anishnabe wampum attracted the attention of regulators last fall because of a website that was set up under the name “Anishnabewampum.com” which promoted “The first Algonquin Bank of Canada.”

Banks are subject to stringent regulations in Canada, and the Office of the Superintendant of Financial Institutions (OSFI) was alerted. When they were unable to contact anyone from anishanbewampum.com after making several attempts, a warning was issued on the RCMP Phonebusters website and through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in the United States.

According to RCMP officer Jason Lamontagne, the RCMP always make several attempts,” at least a half a dozen” to contact people before issuing a warning notice.

The warning notice, which was published at Scamfraudalert.com said, in part: “This entity is not a bank organized under the Bank Act (Canada) nor is it an authorized bank under that act. Accordingly, OSFI does not supervise this entity and states that caution should be used in any dealings with this entity”.

OSFI's warning notice states that the "entity has been requested to stop holding itself out as a bank, but has made no response."

The website has since been removed from the internet.

It was all a mistake, according to Doreen Davis.

“We had no intention of opening a bank, or lending out money,” Davis said. “They wrote us a letter asking for an accounting and we explained what we are doing - that what we have is a kind of clearing house for our trading, not a bank, and they were satisfied. We are an incorporated community; what we are doing is no different than printing Canadian Tire money.”

The smoke shop has also been the subject of interest on the part of RCMP, the Health Unit, and Revenue Canada. Last summer, it was located near the White Lake fish hatchery, the location where the Shabot Obaadjiwaan are planning to develop a cultural center and band office, and it was moved to the site of a former gas station next to the Silver Seven Restaurant in the fall.

In so doing, it moved from the jurisdiction of the KFL&A Health Unit to the Leeds and Grenville Health Unit.

Yves Decoste from the Tobacco program of the Leeds and Grenville Health Unit, has participated in meetings between Shabot Obaadjiwaan members, the RCMP, and the Federal Department of Finance to talk about the shop, which sells bags of 200 cigarettes for under $20 a bag, a practice that is common on reserves such as Tyendinaga, but not off reserve.

“At the Health Unit, we are specifically enforcing the SmokeFree Ontario Act,” Decoste said in an interview early this week, “which deals with a smoke-free work place, sales to minors, and having the proper vendor signage. As far as we are concerned, the smoke shop is complying with the SmokeFree Ontario Act. If there are other acts that they are violating, they are not under our control.”

The News contacted the RCMP in Kingston, but we were informed that the officer who has dealt with this matter is away this week on a training course.

“We sat with the RCMP, and the smoke police,” Doreen Davis said. “ and they have no issue at all. The smoke shop is not owned by an individual, it is owned by the community and profits are going to the Shabot Obaadjiwaan community. I met with everybody I could think of and they are leaving us alone.

“We have the right to do this. We have the same rights as any reserve, even if we are called non-status.”

The Shabot Obaadjiwaan do not seek status under the Indian Act nor do they want to establish anything resembling a reserve, according to Chief Davis.

“Heavens, no,” she said. “Development needs to happen in this community with all people involved. We need to brand the Algonquin presence in a good way. We have worked and lived shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours for many, many years. We are here to protect and share, not to segregate ourselves.”

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