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 Nuelueun. This agreement 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 for Rio Tinto Aluminium, is the start of a unique process that, as of early 2023, will lead to approximately 80 representatives of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation and Rio Tinto working together. Over several months, they will work jointly in multidisciplinary teams to identify opportunities for collaboration and establish recommendations regarding six shared priorities: employment and training, business opportunities, the environment, partnerships, energy transition and governance. The goal is to establish 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 the decentralisation of the work. 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 whose goal is to identify the opportunities that support the aspirations of both parties with regard to energy transition.
Today is an important day for us, the Pekuakamiulnuatsh, as we are affirming our ancestral rights—namely, our inherent right to self-determination and our ancestral title,” said Chief Dominique. “The signing of Kuessilueu is a step toward reconciliation and marks the beginning of a renewed relationship between Rio Tinto and my First Nation in which we can be true partners and cohabit Nitassinan, our ancestral territory, in a harmonious way. Our respective teams will focus on the future and work together to establish a long-term partnership with a positive impact.”
“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 confirm our shared values,” said Ross. The collaboration between Rio Tinto and the 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 people.”