Cover Image for Community membership in OneFeather gets a little better

Community membership in OneFeather gets a little better

Matthew Lehner

5 min read

9 years ago, when I started working on OneFeather with Lawrence, our founder and CEO, we had many conversations about what it meant to be a voting member of a First Nation.

In almost every voting event that Lawrence was managing at the time, an individual's membership and eligibility to vote in a specific First Nation's election or referendum was governed under the Indian Act, or First Nations Election Act (FNEA). Your status, and band membership, was given to you by the federal government. In practical terms, this means that who was on each First Nations' membership list was also managed by the government.

Under these pieces of legislation, if the federal registry says that you are a member of Musqueam First Nation, you have the right to vote in any voting event for Musqueam First Nation.

These pieces of legislation allow the colonizing government to dictate who is and isn't a member of a First Nation.

Until this week, this idea formed a core assumption baked into the way that OneFeather worked. In broad strokes, your membership with a nation was dictated by your status (though we're pretty creative and had come up with a couple of ways of working around this over the years!)

Clearly, there's a problem – how can a nation have sovereignty or be self-governing if some other state has the authority around who is and isn't a member of that nation?

Walking the path towards sovereignty

In the 9 years that we've been working on OneFeather, we've seen many First Nations across the country hold referendums on adopting their own legal code around specific things like Membership, Elections, Land Use. It's been a privilege to be a part of the OneFeather team and help with the process.

By adopting their own legal code First Nations are able to do a whole lot more than they were under the Indian Act. Stuff like…

  • defining the conditions that someone is allowed to vote in their elections
  • deciding how people can vote (like, electronically using OneFeather, for instance!)
  • choosing who receives the benefits of being a member of the Nation
  • choosing how they use their land

Changes to governance models are waypoints on the journey back to sovereignty and independence from the colonial system that was created by the Canadian government.

We've had the privilege of working with treaty nations like Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government, Tłı̨chǫ Ndek'àowo, and Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government who are all creating new ways of existing, moving forward in their process of decolonization.

As a result of this progress, we've seen a trend happening where our original assumption of the platform – that an individual's status defines their membership/citizenship with a nation – doesn't fit reality. Honestly, we couldn't be happier to see this change happening.

You may need to access different communities for different things

This week, here at OneFeather, we reached a milestone of our own. We quietly released a feature we've been calling Multi-Community Memberships. On the face of it, it seems simple.

You can be a member of more than one community.

You might be a member of a First Nation.

You might have status.

You might belong to a Treaty government.

You may be Métis or Inuk.

You may be more than one of these things at the same time.

From now on, your experience with OneFeather will be personalized and better able to support of you, the communities you belong to, and the people that help to lead and run those communities.

What this means, practically speaking

A while back we had the privilege of running a voting event for the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government.

We assume that some of the people who voted also have status and are registered as a member of one of the Nisga'a Villages. Before we made this change you would not have been able to use OneFeather to vote or use our online status card application at the same time. Now you can.

It sounds simple, and that's why we didn't make a bigger deal about it. We fixed this piece of our technology and now it works the way that it should. This is how we work at OneFeather – we regularly make improvements to our software to make sure that you or anyone else using it has the best experience possible.

This change allows everyone who uses OneFeather to vote and engage with their Nation, renew their status card, or use the OneFeather Wallet to pay for things, and to belong to the communities that they do for different reasons. We're excited about what this means for the future of communities here on OneFeather!