History of Windigo First Nations Council
In August 1977, Thirty-eight years ago, four Chiefs from distinct, independent communities, met to discuss a collaborative venture. Arthur Beardy (Muskrat Dam First Nation), Tom Kamenawatamin (Bearskin Lake First Nation), Martin McKay (Sachigo Lake First Nation) and Saul Keeash (North Caribou Lake First Nation) decided in was their mutual best interests to develop a winter road to link all four communities. Thus, the Windigo Lake Transportation Company was born. It was a product of much common sense and foresight on the part of these leaders.
The Chiefs realized that they needed to find ways to help each other. Prior to this initiative there was minimal communication on both political and community development level. However, with the cost of air transportation of freight goods being increasingly uneconomical, it was apparent that it would be more cost effective to transport building materials, store goods, and fuel over land. Efficiency could only be realized, if communities worked together. The development of a winter road had additional benefits in that it provided many jobs, which helped to supplement seasonal earnings.
The success of the Windigo Lake Transportation Company laid the groundwork for the organization’s evolution into the Windigo Project Development area. This occurred in 1979. The new name reflected the expanded range of projects undertaken and services provided to the communities.
In 1983, the Windigo Tribal Council was incorporated as a legal entity with the same four communities as the founding communities. The major purpose of the Council was to take-over departmental services: Technical services, planning and economic development.
Slate Falls, Cat Lake and Osnaburgh First Nations joined the Council in the early 1980’s. New Saugeen joined in 1985. In 1988, Muskrat Dam left the Council. In1993, Osnaburgh formally withdrew membership from the Council. As of 1995, Saugeen First Nation withdrew from membership in all political organizations, including Windigo First Nations Council.
Koocheching First Nation was recognized as an associate member of the Council in December of 1994. Associate members of the Council had received limited services delivery and participation in the Council. Whitewater Lake First Nation joined Windigo First Nations Council in 2000. The Council changed its by-laws at the General Assembly held in North Caribou Lake First Nation, whereby all members would be recognized as equal members.