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Outcomes from the Great Lakes Commons Gathering

on Fri, 10/05/2012 - 22:30

The following is an abbreviated assessment of what was achieved regarding the hoped-for outcomes described in the Brief of the Great Lakes Commons Gathering...

Concerning the goals for the conference, the following outcomes can be highlighted...

Outcome 1 from the Great Lakes Commons Gathering: 

A defined development process for Our Great Lakes Commons charter; 

James Quilligan, of Global Commons Trust presented an extensive outline for a Great Lakes Commons Charter template that invites the widest possible stakeholder participation and deliberative inquiry processes to flesh out details.

These recommendations were used in break-out groups to see what other concerns and considerations people felt were necessary in the development of a Great Lakes Charter. For example, one major sticking point was the idea of a commons bank for the region.  Native elders did not like the idea of using "economy" as separate from lived ways of relating, and felt using the language of a "commons bank" could reimbed similar problems that have disenfranchised native peoples and minorities.  They encouraged the search for new language and processes.

The draft Charter Template for the Great Lakes is included here, with additions and changes coming from Gathering input. The School of Commoning will post it when input has been compiled.  No definitive process was established for next steps for the Great Lakes Charter, though the many suggestions and questions presented for the Charter will enable a substantive framing for the next Great Lakes Gathering, perhaps in 2013 at Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center.

Frank Ettawegeshik, Executive Director, United Tribes of Michigan and Odawa Elder, emphasized the need for claiming sovereignty directly by acting sovereign.  "It is that simple," he said, "Until we act sovereign for our land and our resources, we can never be sovereign.  No one will give us the permission until we make that decision for ourselves and believe it."

Outcome 2 and 3 from the Great Lakes Commons Gathering:

A constellation of linked leadership that will carry this work forward through research, organizing, education, law, business and culture, and move us toward commons governance locally, regionally and trans-nationally;


An initial set of strategies that participants can advance in their field, sector or community.

Robert Lovelace, Ardoch Algonquin Elder and Adjunct Lecturer in Global Development Studies at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, suggested that in order to deepen trusting relationships and take the first tentative steps towards a commons of sharing and justice for the Great Lakes, we begin an exchange process whereby those who sought assistance and those who had gifts to share might meet each other. Because of group input, it was thus framed to transcend the idea of economy as separate from relations. Thus ensued a vigorous series of calls to meet needs and offers to provide gifts. 

A few of the offers for collaboration, sharing and trust-building are listed here. Though the Great Lakes Gathering has not yet fully reached the desired outcomes as stated above, if these exchanges proceed as requested and as offered, there is indeed a good chance that the Great Lakes Gathering will bear fruit that will ripen to feed the next stage of the Great Lakes Commons process to protect and restore this shared resource.

Sue Chiblow, Environmental Consultant with the Mississaugua First Nation asked that people show solidairty with the Blue Ribbon Campaign to stop nucelar shipments across the Great Lakes by tying blue ribbons on their trees

Jim Olson, Public Trust Lawyer from Michigan and Director,, advocated for the Great Lakes by declaring that every place be protected by the Public Trust and offered his organization's legal assistance in that direction

Jake Rogers, Student and filmmaker from the Chippewa Band at Aamjiwnaang Reserve has offered to bring his film, Indian Giver, to any group wanting to learn more abou the challenges facing native peoples who live in one of the most polluted active petrochemical complexes in the world.  His stunning film, Indian Giver, can be found on YouTube,

Alexa Bradley from offered their wiki as a place for the Great Lakes Gathering to connect

Emma Lui, Water Campaigner with the Council of Canadians offered their list serve for announcements and aid in communications

Charity Hicks, from Detroit People's Water Board asked for people to come to teach her community how to get off the grid.  She offered others information about how people in Detroit are organizing to provide water to many who have been cut-off from city water services.

Ron Plain, Policy Analyst, The Southern First Nations Secretariat, offered a very low cost and low tech heating solution he has tested in his home using recycled materials.  Since his community, Aamjiwnaang Reserve, is surrounded by 39 petroleum refineries and is know as one of the most polluted places on the planet, he has committed to fossil-free solutions.

Sandy Spieler, Creative Director, In The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater, offered to come to assist any group with a puppet project for education and inspiration

Paul Baines, Toronto Activist, is developing a Great Lakes Commons Map, and asks for input on the map to make it a visual tool for anyone in the Great Lakes Region to use for education and advocacy

Sylvia Plain, Aamjiwnaang Youth Activist and student specializing in water governance at Univ. of Toronto, invited people to come and spend time in a native community, to learn the stories and the ways of native peoples.  She also invited everyone to participate in the upcoming Spring 2013 Mother Earth Water Walk, which in early April will set off from the headwaters of the Mississippi to end at the Gulf of Mexico (check their site soon for event info and updates).

Jan Inglis, commons advocate from the Integrative Learning Institute, offered her processes for helping a group of people to work thru the complexities of organizing around a threatened commons resource towards protecting it thru co-governance.  Her flow chart is  helpful in realizing the steps needed to create a commons charter.

Leo Burke, Professor, University of Notre Dame, Medoza School of Business, commons educator and Great Lakes Gathering host, invited people to sign up for the next UNITAR Commons Course, offered through the United Nations in January 2013.  The course will be free to those who are working on the Great Lakes Commons (search UNITAR events for upcoming Commons Course dates)


This assessment was written by Great Lakes Commons Gathering attendee:

Mary Beth Steisslinger, MS - Integral Systems Biologist

Global Commons Trust, Commons Action for the UN

School of Commoning