Savanna McGregor is a member of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin First Nation about 130 kilometres north of Gatineau, Que. Savanna celebrated her graduation from both the First Nation Applied Lands Management and First Nation Tax Administration programs offered by the First Nations Tax Commission, Thompson Rivers University and the Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics — the latter of which she was named 2019 class valedictorian. The potential for acquiring jurisdictional power through the First Nations Fiscal Management Act and the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management is what motivated Savanna to start her educational journey. Having also grown up in Westbank First Nation, located in B.C.’s Okanagan region, she has witnessed firsthand the benefits of taxation when instituted and managed well.
Savanna is honoured to have been voted class valedictorian, and says the support shown by her peers and instructors has been fundamental to her success.
How did you first learn about the Certificate in First Nation Tax Administration program?
Through word of mouth and watching the program grow over time from the sidelines.
What has been the most valuable aspect of the program so far?
The most valuable aspects would be finding out answers to the indigenous question, learning about what work has been done and the tools that have been made available for First Nations to reclaim their jurisdiction and fiscal relationships with their lands. Having the tools to build our capacity through indigenous institutions, such as the First Nations Tax Commission, the First Nations Financial Management Board, the First Nations Finance Authority and the Lands Advisory Board Resource Centre — that is, not the Indian Act — provides communities with self-sufficiency and the ability to create new futures led by the people.
What is your biggest takeaway from the program?
I feel that the tools I have acquired can aid in changing systems where we can optimize the potential for ourselves and our future generations. Tax jurisdiction, land jurisdiction, and the ability to have debenture financing for infrastructure needed to strengthen our economies are crucial and will aid with the future uncertainties from Canada’s transfer-based model of funding with the impending recession and generational shift. Long-term success in our place within the country is the objective. The First Nation institutions empower the people to reach their full potential as sovereign nations. The ability to believe in ourselves in a new light is quite the gift.
Do you have anything else to add?
The government has defined who we are after not even acknowledging and recognizing our humanity. We have the power to re-design the fiscal relationship that we have for the lands, and have a position where we can foster fairness, transparency and accountability, which will aid our economic-development needs. It is time to get creative with the tools that have been made available to us. We were never idle as nations. What has been idle is the system that continues to subjugate us.