City council adopted the Indigenous Relations Framework, which outlines 29 action items as the city begins its response to the reconciliation and redress the legacy of residential schools.
The journey to creating the framework began with Warren Nekurak, city Indigenous Relations Advisor, asking the community’s indigenous leaders, elders, and representatives, “what does Truth and Reconciliation look like in the City of Grande Prairie?”
The city gathered numerous stakeholders to develop the framework, including local First Nations and Metis communities.
“It’s really all about the community; it’s all about just fostering those connections, (and) fostering those relationships.”
Nekurak then compiled those responses into actionable items and related them to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls-to-Action and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).
“When I map out in my mind where these directions can go, I actually get quite excited with the potential as to where they could go and the benefits to our city in our community,” said coun. Grant Berg.
The framework includes educating the public and city staff on indigenous history and indigenous relationships within Canada.
In discussions with elders, Nekurak says it is widely agreed that truth needs to come first.
“Part of that truth is the awareness, the education, the understanding of what indigenous people have gone through, and why we need this reconciliation.
“In order for us to do it authentically and for it to have meaning, we have to have the awareness of the why.”
The 29 action items have five focus areas, Building Connections, Community Culture, Commerce & Creativity, City Services, Education & Acknowledgement.
City council also approved a Land Acknowledgement Policy, ensuring that a land acknowledgement specific to Grande Prairie’s location is used consistently and appropriately.
“Some of the things in the framework have already been implemented,” he said.
“This framework provides us sort of like a milestone, things to celebrate that we’ve accomplished.”
Items like the indigenous naming consultation and protocol will help support implementing indigenous languages and names to areas and landmarks within the city. It also reflects on the TRC’s 14 call to action.
Places such as Musoseepi Park and Maskwoteh Park incorporate the Cree language, but in the future, it could include syllabics on signage and documents.
“I think our community has vocalized that is what they want to see, so you’re going to start seeing indigenous language incorporated in our events, in our activities throughout the community.”
Nekurak noted that some capital asks could be coming in the future, but they may also come with partnerships to help reduce costs.
“Some of the actions are assessing city facilities and looking at culturally appropriate spaces, and we know there’s going to be some capital dollars associated with some of those actions, some of the inclusion of indigenous artwork and spaces at the museum,” said Rory Tarant, Intergovernmental Affairs Director.
He noted that there are also granting opportunities in the future for some of the action items.
“I think there’s an opportunity for partnerships that will recoup a lot of that through economic development, working in partnership with our surrounding communities,” said Nekurak.
One element that Berg was excited about was Indigenous history in the Grande Prairie museum.
“Currently, our museum has two shelves dedicated to indigenous history; there’s a lot about dinosaurs, there’s a lot about settlers, but there’s a few century or millennia gap in what we currently do,” said Berg.
The 29 action items come with timelines up to 2025, and some are ongoing goals.
Nekurak says the framework will act as a living document as new ideas and opportunities arise.
“Although this looks like a short-term plan, it’s actually going to be ingrained in our culture (and) community.”
“Council values the importance of being active partners in healing and reconciliation with our Indigenous community members, and we are eager to see the changes the framework will guide in the coming years,” said Mayor Jackie Clayton.
The full document is available on the city website.
City administration plans to report back on the framework annually.
By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Apr 27, 2023