Blood Tribe and Regional Memorandum of Understanding Initiative
Todd Eagle Child• Communications Officer• Blood Tribe Communications.’& Community Engagement
The Blood Tribe and Regional Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been a collaborative effort that has been in development since April of 2022. The communities involved are Blood Tribe, Cardston, Fort Macleod, Magrath, Pincher Creek and the Piikani Nation. The MOU is an initiative set forth to build and strengthen connections between the Blood Tribe and surrounding communities to address issues facing Blood Tribe members living and doing business in these communities. Discussions Included members of the Piikani Nation. The MOU is an agreement between two or more parties and is the starting point for negotiations as it defines the scope and purpose of the discussions.
On April 21, 2023, the third MOU meeting was held in Cardston and was attended by the leadership from the surrounding communities. After a welcoming by the Town of Cardston Mayor Maggie Kronen, she also gave a land acknowledgement that Cardston is on Traditional Blackfoot Confederacy Territory. The land acknowledgement is an initiative that under Mayor Kronen, the Town of Cardston has now acknowledged, adopted, and has implemented into their regular council meetings.
The Blood Tribe Regional MOU follows the model of the current MOU between the Blood Tribe and Lethbridge to serve as a guide towards what they want to get out of the document. Town of Cardston Councillor Paula Brown went over topics that were of great interest and thought that would benefit the Blood Tribe and Regional MOU. Topics such as meeting quarterly, adopting the land acknowledgement, to discuss and strive and share information, to create mutually beneficial opportunities and to resolve issues in the following areas: health and wellness, housing. education, justice, racism and discrimination, economic development, and employment. Also, community planning, land use planning, the environment, cultural resources management and emergency responses and communications. Also, to review the MOU agreement to ensure the continued effectiveness as issues arise.
“Yes, we can all sign a piece of paper and say yeah we’re going to do this but then we don’t do it and then we don’t live it, and we wanted a living breathing document that can change as we change, as our relationship changes,” said Brown, “If we see something that we’re not doing good enough that we need to be better, then, we need to be doing better and so that is something that I really liked about the Lethbridge MOU.”
Councillor Brown and Cardston County Councillor Tom Nish were invited to attend the Blood Tribe Community meetings which they have for the past four months and noted that the Tribe were great hosts with providing meals and were gracious that they were allowed to sit in and listen to the Tribes community issues and programs.
“It’s incredible to learn and just be quiet and listen in those meetings, to hear the heartfelt changes and wants within their communities to help one another to lift and listen, we’ve really enjoyed being a part of that,” said Brown.
The Blood Tribe community meetings take part every month in Moses Lake, Levern, Stand Off and Old Agency. Community Representatives meet with Blood Tribe leadership and Recreation and Parks reps, to go over what they would like to see in the community and get the youth involved in sports and other activities that bring community members together. They want to provide an alternative to negative activities, one of them being drugs, to which the Blood Tribe has had to call a State of Emergency to combat.
During the round table discussion, Town of Cardston Tim Court agreed with Brown regarding the issues identified in the MOU and added, “There’s almost a new outlook on council, at least for me for sure, because I’ve lived here for a long time and taught a lot of Indigenous kids in school. It’s about some time we’ve gotten something going here.”
Town of Magrath Councillor Gerry Baril brought up one of the major Issues with communities with smaller native populations, is the struggle to recognize Indigenous issues. He said when Indigenous issues are brought up, but are not fully understood, they lack the importance to be included in the community, such as orange shirt day; therefore, it isn’t recognized. This brings up the need for education surrounding these issues, even though there are Indigenous members in the community, and the communities are next door neighbors, it is seen as not “our” issue. A stark contrast to Baril, who worked in Northern British Columbia with his community as a recreation director which had a lot of indigenous youth and built parks and playgrounds which employed the youth, it was very successful in Canada.
“Although we closed our office for the day, but if that’s all we are going to do, we’re really not recognizing it,” stated Baril, “We actually need to bring it forward to have the recognition of the people as this is why we’re doing it, to build that information out in the community. We are moving forward, but, is with baby steps.”
The distance between the Reserves and surrounding communities does cause a feeling of detachment towards Indigenous issues, but there are Indigenous people living and doing business in these communities. Blood Tribe councillor Diandra Bruised Head gave an example of how our communities are members of the South Grow regional economic development alliance (REDAs), which is a non-profit regional economic development alliance in south central Alberta. The REDAs focus is working with member communities in industry, business, and government, to achieve common purposes in economic development and shared services opportunities. Bruised Head shared one of the initiatives of the South Grow, the Blackfoot Signage Project, launching the production of a marketing package on what that will look like with Blackfoot Elders and will be available to be brought forward to the communities. This will be a tool that will be available for non-Indigenous community leaders to provide Indigenous information and background history to answer the “why” these issues should be recognized, so we can move forward together.
“It’s a sensitive thing because of that negative feeling, maybe someone’s having a bad day and the attitudes that are taken personally because of that history that comes with that attitude of being against me,” said Bruised Head, “So how can we put in a system or MOU of agreement working together where we can potentially shift those attitudes, and what do these attitudes need for us to be able to shift them.”
The development of regional tool kits for resources to help communities in this area was well-liked by Town of Pincher Creek Councillor Sarah Nodge. She noted she’s been looking for this material, and the importance that they reflect the local Siksikaitsitapi Territory and protocols. Nodge noted this information is important in the ongoing nation building project of people that are all here now and need to figure out how to be in better relationships with each other. She gave an example of the Prairies Can which is a Federal Government funding agency developing economic projects that are going to be evaluated through the project aspect of reconciliation. Nodge noted that an issue was brought up that it needs to be more than just checking the Indigenous box exercise, that what is developed is genuine and is impactful for all our communities as there is opportunity here.
“This isn’t just a Brocket and Pincher Creek thing, no this is a part of all of us in the country, in our own different ways,” said Nodge.
Tom Nish sees the change on his Council now that there is a communications link between the Blood Tribe and the County of Cardston; there is an interest, and they are willing to help. Nish attended the community meetings on the Blood Reserve and updates his council because they want to collaborate between the communities to provide success rates for both communities. One of the outreach aspects was at the last community clean up on the Blood Reserve in Moses Lake where Cardston came out to help with removing the trash with dump trucks and front-end loaders.
“We want to have a good working relationship not with just this council but the next,” said Nish, “We have an opportunity to do something here that will benefit the people now but will benefit the people going forward, our communities need to come together, we’ve had our differences over the years, we have the opportunity now to come together and find solutions for problems, your problems are our problems, and our problems are your problems.”
There was recently an issue that arose in the Town of Fort Macleod involving an issue at one of the stores, where there was an incident that was called out as being racist on social media. However, there were challenges on it being resolved. In the terms of the MOU, Town of Fort Macleod Mayor Feyter liked the consultation and says it should address the why, is it strong enough? Because we want to care about each other, we want to do It, not because were told to, it’s a neighbor’s agreement.
“I would like to see something in the MOU that would help us address these issues, almost like a 911 call for relationships. I would’ve loved to sit them both down to at least try to understand what happened. There was no harm intended, but right now we have a store on Main Street that’s labelled racist, because of the way they treated one individual, that’s the last thing we want. We want to be able to respect each other when we come into your community or when you come into ours, to treat each other with the most upmost respect and care, where we know we both belong together.”
Although social media targets situations like the one in Fort Macleod, there can be something good that can come out of this on the flipside. Blood Tribe Councillor, Maria Russell shared that it is from these stories that creates outlets that creates positive changes, such as the Health Care system with Jordan’s Principal and the Cindy Gladue case. Russell shared her experiences with racism, of being racially profiled in stores causing employees to follow her and asks herself, why am I being targeted? She talks about stories of the past which are hard to hear but also, she was told stories of the past that were told by her grandmother that were amazing and shares these stories with her children. In regard to the incident at the store in Fort Macleod, it is stories like that progress into something more, and because from these stories created the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“It can be outrageous, but some of those things are very real to individuals,” said Russell, “We’ve had the outcome that has been outreaching and that has been good for people who have experienced a lot of abuse. You hear the stories and sharing is a part of that healing, in our own backyard the stories of residential schools still have ripple effects in our community.”
As the discussion continued at the table community representatives shared examples of their backgrounds and issues that most all people deal with, one being a language barrier, but it is with these conflicts that can be used for good and the need to have connections with all communities that will help resolve these Issues.
To round out the day, Robin Little Bear took the floor to present on UNDRIP which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 13, 2007, and was endorsed by the Government of Canada in 2016 and on June 21, 2021, it received Royal Assent. Little Bear gave a presentation on the National Action Plan and the Federal anti-racism strategy and went over the proposed measures identified in the draft Action Plan in areas in proposals among Indigenous peoples on priorities and key actions required to advance implementation of the Declaration Act. The measures of the declaration Little Bear focused on were the general principles of UNDRIP, the implementation and redress, self-determination and self-government and the recognition of treaties. Other measures included civil and political rights, participation in decision-making and Indigenous institutions, lands, territories and resources, the environment, cultural, religious and language rights, also, education, information and media. Little Bear updated those in the council chambers on how the Blood Tribe will work with UNDRIP in its strategic objectives.
The next Blood Tribe and Regional MOU meeting will be held in Fort Macleod on September 8, 2023. We will keep you updated on the MOU and other outcomes of the initiative as they become available.
(R to L) County of Cardston Tom Nish, Town of Pincher Creek Sarah Nodge, MD of Pincher Creek Tony Bruder, Town of Cardston Paula Brown, Blood Tribe Robin Little Bear, Town of Magrath Gerry Baril, Town of Fort Macleod Gord Wolstenholme, Town of Cardston Tim Court and Blood Tribe Diandra Bruised Head in Cardston, AB on April 21, 2023.