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My first mediation with First Nations occurred in the early 1990s. It took place at a school gymnasium in a small community on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park. Virtually the whole community, from toddlers to grandmothers, attended and had their say.

I learned many lessons in that school gym and they have informed my process to this day. Here is a brief summary of them:

  • Begin by designing the process with them. That’s how I ended up in the gym. Take the time to learn how they want to participate. They have been reaching consensus solutions for hundreds of years.
  • Acknowledge and accept their deep commitment to the land.  It is central to their way of life and how they see their future.
  • Listen to the elders. They are the keepers of their oral history, which is central to their cultural identity.
  • Know that they expect the faults of the past to be acknowledged and addressed. Apologies are all well and good but they want and deserve real change for the future.  It does not always look like our future.  
  • Be patient and learn. The lessons of the past need to guide our co-creation of a future that fosters partnerships and produces shared benefits to all participants.

Your questions and comments are welcome and appreciated.

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David Gould (LLB, QC, C Med) has helped hundreds of lawyers and their clients – business and government organizations, and individuals – in conflict situations to co-create solutions for the future. For more information, contact: or visit

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