The Independent First Nations agree to work together on issues of fundamental concern while respecting each other’s autonomy. IFN staff provides technical assistance, support and advocacy for Independent First Nation communities.
Prior to the mid-1960s, most First Nations communities in Ontario were independent of each other. One exception was the Union of Ontario Indians. It was incorporated in 1949 and represents 39 First Nations.
The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) was established as a non-profit organization in 1969 and represents 8 First Nations.
In 1973, more than 45 First Nation communities of Treaty No. 9 created an umbrella organization called the Grand Council of Treaty No. 9. Since 1983, it is known as the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
In the 60s and 70s, many First Nations were establishing collective organizations. The only community not to join an organization was Bear Island. Bear Island along with Six Nations of the Grand River would become the initial participants as the Independent First Nations. They would be joined by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. Since then, a growing number of First Nations have chosen to leave existing Provincial/Territorial Organizations (PTOs) to join the Independent First Nations.
In 1999, the Independent First Nations held a Retreat to achieve unity and to identify areas where they could work closer together. At that session, the Independent First Nations Protocol was introduced. It established the relationship amongst the Independent First Nations built around five principles:
- Respect and truth;
- Open communication;
- Working constructively on issues of mutual concern;
- Acknowledging the autonomy of each Independent First Nation; and
- Using the expertise within each Independent First Nation cooperatively.
The IFN Protocol established its purpose in working together: where possible, to unify on matters important to them; to jointly access funding holistically, and to combine their expertise to benefit all.
Since then, the IFN has been working to implement the protocol in practical ways and prioritizing issues and areas that the IFNs can work together on for their mutual benefit.