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MASHTEUIATSH, Canada – Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation and Rio Tinto are marking the beginning of a new era in their relationship with the signing of a first agreement named Kuessilueu, which means “the wind is turning” in Nelueun. This agreement in principle establishes the foundation for an innovative and sustainable alliance for both partners from a human, cultural and economic standpoint.
The agreement signed by Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation Chief Gilbert Dominique and Sébastien Ross, Managing Director, Atlantic Operations, Rio Tinto Aluminium, is the first step to a unique process that, as soon as early 2023, will bring approximately 80 representatives of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation and Rio Tinto to work together. Over several months, they will work together in multidisciplinary teams to identify opportunities for collaboration and establish recommendations regarding six shared priorities, namely employment and training, business opportunities, cultural heritage and environment, partnerships, energy transition and governance. The goal is to finalize a long-term partnership agreement within 18 months.
The process that will be undertaken by these teams is characterised not only by its participatory approach, but also by its decentralisation. The involvement of this many people aims to create a movement that will continue beyond the agreement.
Concrete projects will soon come into effect, such as the launch of an Indigenous awareness program for Rio Tinto employees in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region and the implementation of a team to identify opportunities that support the aspirations of both partners with regard to energy transition.
Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation Chief Gilbert Dominique said: “Today is an important day for us, Pekuakamiulnuatsh, in the affirmation of our ancestral rights, notably our inherent right to self-determination, and our ancestral title. The signing of Kuessilueu is also part of a reconciliation process and marks the beginning of a renewed relationship as true partners between Rio Tinto and my First Nation towards a harmonious cohabitation of Nitassinan, our ancestral territory. Our respective teams will focus on the future and work together to achieve a long-term partnership that will have a positive impact for tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ross, Managing Director, Atlantic Operations, Rio Tinto Aluminium, stated: “With the signing of the Kuessilueu agreement, we have a real opportunity as an organisation to create a movement that will shape our shared future on Nitassinan and assert our shared values. The collaboration between Rio Tinto and Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation is a long-standing one and today, we are taking the next step through this co-creation approach. We hope to have a positive impact and inspire our employees and partners to continue building relationships and mutual understanding with the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation.”
Notes to editors
Kuessilueu: the wind is turning
The name of the agreement is Kuessilueu, which means “the wind is turning” in Nelueun. It is a name that inspires change, movement, energy, the power of working together, a change in direction from a traditional collaboration to an innovative partnership, the force of nature and renewal.
Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation
Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan is the political and administrative organization that represents the Pekuakamiulnuatsh. The Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation has 9,452 members, many of whom live in the community of Mashteuiatsh, on the banks of the Pekuakami. Mashteuiatsh – which means “Where there is a point” – is a historic gathering place.
Rio Tinto is an industry leader in responsible aluminium production whose operations in Canada are powered with 100% renewable hydropower. For nearly 100 years, Rio Tinto has had facilities in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, and these are located on Nitassinan, the ancestral territory of Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation.
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