The Rebuilding First Nations Governance (RFNG) project (formerly Transitional Governance Project and Transforming Indian Act Governance Project) aims to provide applied research and analysis directed by First Nations governments who are working to master or to leave behind Indian Act governance. RFNG project partners include six First Nations and two Tribal Councils, six Canadian universities, three non-governmental organizations and 35 academic researchers and practitioners in Canada and the United States. The founding members are: Satsan (Herb George), Senior Associate with the Centre for First Nations Governance, Dr. Frances Abele, Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University and Catherine MacQuarrie, formerly the Senior Executive in Residence, Indigenous Government Programs with IPAC.
The vision for the Rebuilding First Nations Governance project arose from Satsan’s work in communities with the National Centre for First Nations Governance (predecessor to CFNG), witnessing the needs which First Nations communities identified. Satsan and Frances Abele had considered how to act out this vision for many years and were able to start moving forward with the help of Catherine MacQuarrie in 2016. Erin Alexiuk, a doctoral student at Waterloo, also joined the team to help drive the project forward.
A founding meeting was held May 5-6, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario. Satsan had arranged the meeting with Catherine and Frances to build on their shared career-long commitments to education, research, and implementation of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly self-governance. The meeting identified preliminary research needs and priorities necessary for developing a Transitional Governance Model to help First Nation master and eventually move out from under the Indian Act. The first step would be to organize a Transitional Governance Think Tank in 2017 to bring together Indigenous scholars and practitioners, experts and representatives from First Nations. This was followed by a “Building Community” gathering of potential partner communities in July 2019, that helped put the finishing touches on a successful partnership grant application to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council that will help support the research over 6 years.