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Wildfires that began surging through the Treaty 8 traditional territory in mid-May have left over 9,700 people displaced, with easily one-third of those being First Nations or Métis.
The first mandatory evacuation orders were issued on May 15. Although the town of Slave Lake with its 7,000 population-base was the largest centre to be impacted, many First Nations’ communities surrounding the town and north were also evacuated, whether voluntary or mandatory.
Almost 10 days after the first evacuation orders were issued, the government announced a phased re-entry plan. The four-phase plan, which included input from the Sawridge First Nation and endorsed by the Town of Slave Lake, the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River and the province, is sketchy on details as what it means for Treaty 8 members, said Joseph Jobin, chief operating office with Treaty 8 First Nation.
The Aboriginal offering at this year’s Works and Arts Design Festival are entitled “No Rhyme or Reason.” Aptly named, says curator Terrance Houle, as it is a reflection of who he is.
“It speaks a lot to engagement, and engaging a public…. The show deals with a lot of gender roles, a lot of historical roles, history, society, a lot of it deals with human interaction,” said Houle. “It has an array of ideas and theology so for me it’s something I’ve always strived to in my own work, not to just have one sort of thing presented but to have several ideas and levels of ideas so people can walk away with something.”
Houle combined the performance element and video element in keeping with the theme of “Human Energy,” for the 28th annual The Works, which takes place from June 20-July 2.
This is the fifth year The Works has run its Canadian Aboriginal Artist program.
The success of a pilot project to provide training in security at the Horse Lake First Nation prompted All Peace Protection to offer a second training session at the Duncan First Nation. Of the 15 people who took the course in Horse Lake, all but one is now working full time. In Duncan, all 10 registrants were successful in passing the program. The 40-hour course typically costs $400 to $500 per person, but All Peace Protection provided the lessons free of charge. Graduates of the program are typically sent to industrial sites in and around the Peace Country. “We’re not the company that comes in and trains them and just leaves. It helps me out too, we’re just under 100 employees now at All Peace, we’re just continuing to grow,” Joseph Alaimoana, security manager for All Peace Protection, told the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune.
Cree Métis artist and author Dianne Meili was one of 20 recipients of the 2013 Alberta Book Publishing Awards and the Alberta Literary Awards recently handed out. Meili’s Those Who Know: Profiles of Alberta’s Aboriginal Elders, published by NeWest Press (Edmonton), took the Trade-Nonfiction Book Award. As well, Richard Van Camp, a member of the Dogrib Tribe from Fort Smith and former writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta ,won the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction (sponsored by The Banff Centre) for Godless But Loyal to Heaven (Enfield & Wizenty).
The Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities is receiving $200,000 for the 24-month project that will work to end violence against First Nations girls aged 8 to 14 in Wabasca-Desmarais. A community steering committee with representatives from the Bigstone Cree Nation Women’s Shelter, Bigstone Community School, Bigstone Cree Nation Family and Children Services, and the RCMP will guide and oversee the project. “It is important to do all we can to ensure our community is welcoming, caring and safe for everyone,” said Ron Taylor, chair for the Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities, in a news release.
Objections from the Fort McKay First Nation over Athabasca Oil Corporation’s Dover oilsands project caused stock to fall for the company in the first quarter of the year. The Energy Resources Conservation Board still has to render its decision on the project. “I remain confident that Dover will receive regulatory approval for development later this year,” Athabasca chief executive Sveinung Svarte said on a conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter results. Fort McKay First Nation is asking for a buffer zone around the project. Svarte said such a buffer zone would set a precedent for other development and could potentially affect many future oilsands projects.
Aline Auger (right), teacher assistant at Mistassiniy School in Wabasca-Desmarais, was recognized for 35 years of service by principal Dafydd Thomas and Northland School Division Superintendent Donna Barrett. The school board recently gave out special achievement awards and long service awards to a wide range of employees, including bus drivers, teachers, administration and support staff.
The Piitoyais Family School opened in 2002 following the closure of the Plains Indian Cultural Survival High School, is the first urban school in Canada run by and for Indigenous people.
The Calgary Board of Education, together with Calgary’s urban Aboriginal community, agreed that an elementary school was needed to teach Kindergarten to Grade 6 classes through the lens of Aboriginal cultural perspectives and the unique Aboriginal experience. They conceived of Piitoyais Family School which balances a strong academic slant with language and culture and provides access to technology within a family community setting.
Edmonton has become the first city in Alberta to officially join forces with the province to commit to improving the quality of life and opportunities for urban Aboriginals.
“I think that the most important thing that (this memorandum) does is that it recognizes the urban aspect of the Aboriginal community. I think for those living in Edmonton, or those living in other major urban centres, that’s something long overdue,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel.
Last month, the city and province signed a five-point Memorandum of Coordination and Collaboration that culminated a year of discussions with the city’s Aboriginal community.
“Our province today recognized that this is an important ingredient in how we can work together (as a province and a city) to help (meet) the needs of that community,” said Mandel.
Buffy Sainte-Marie lives the definition of a creative life. She is best known as a singer/songwriter and performer, but is also a multi-media artist and Aboriginal educator. Sainte-Marie was in Edmonton for the Dreamspeakers Film Festival where she was inducted into the Walk of Honour on May 31 and performed at the closing gala on June 1.
With a career that spans more than 40 years, Sainte-Marie’s audience is as diverse as her work. Some first remember her from the children’s television program Sesame Street. Others became aware of her work through the song “Universal Soldier” which remains an anthem in the peace movement, or “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” a love song covered by a multitude of artists. Yet others know her from receiving an Academy Award for the song “Up Where We Belong,” and more recently through her work in Aboriginal education.
The staff and members of Edmonton’s Canadian Native Friendship Centre are celebrating the enhancement of the Elder’s programs.
“It will allow us to deliver more support services to Elders. We recently extended an open invitation to the Elders in urban Edmonton to a tea and bannock event so they could have a say in the programming and we had over 50 attend,” said Executive Director Adam North Peigan.
In the past, the centre had neither adequate human nor financial resources to carry out what CNFC felt were sufficient programs and services for their Elders.
Funding for the Elders program came through the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors, which was recently approved.
“We look at that as an indication that they are supportive of CNFC and that they are interested in receiving additional services,” said North Peigan.
Member churches are collaborating with KAIROS, a social justice ecumenical organization which includes representation from the churches that signed the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, to prepare the public for five upcoming hearings in Alberta by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the next few months.
These hearings along with church and KAIROS-sponsored events are the lead up to the final national event to be hosted by the TRC in Edmonton at the end of March 2014.
“At the TRC, we have come to rely upon the churches and their organizations to assist in getting the message out to the non-Aboriginal population about a. the history of residential schools and b. the importance of reconciliation and some of the things that need to be done. And also to allow us to create an atmosphere that will encourage public involvement in our event,” said TRC Chair Justice Murray Sinclair.
The Alberta Treaty Hockey Championships just might have a new home.
The tournament was held in Calgary for its first 10 years. But the majority of the games at this year’s event, which concluded Mar. 31, were staged in Cochrane.
Alberta Treaty Hockey Association president Marty Wildman said
Some off-ice incidents 2012 off-ice incidents that did not involve tournament participants forced Calgary officials to question whether to continuing hosting the event in their city, said Alberta Treaty Hockey Association president Marty Wildman.
“We decided to move it to Cochrane,” he said. “It worked out well.”
The five-day tournament attracted 107 teams, both girls and boys between the ages of five to 17. A dozen First Nations from across the province sent representatives to the event.
Award-winning Cree actor Michelle Thrush has experienced success in her starring roles in the CBC drama Arctic Air, and for appearances on APTN and in Aboriginal communities around Alberta. But attending the prestigious International Film Festival in Cannes, France, was an exciting opportunity that brought her exposure to a whole new world.
The festival, which ran this year from May 15 to 26, began in the 1940s and has become a gathering of major actors, directors and producers, all hoping to be recognized with one of many various awards that discover, promote, and support the film industry.
Thrush is no stranger to awards herself, having won a Gemini for her role in the controversial APTN drama Blackstone, and a Rosie, which is an Alberta Film and Television Award.
Ron Buffalo will be continuing his extensive and varying responsibilities with Alberta entries at the North American Indigenous Games.
Over the years Buffalo has competed in the games himself, coached various teams and also handled numerous behind-the-scene activities.
Buffalo, a 62-year-old member of the Samson Cree Nation who lives in Hobbema, can now add another title to his NAIG resume. He has been appointed as the chef de mission for the Alberta contingent that will compete at the 2014 NAIG in Regina, Sask.
Buffalo’s latest appointment is well-deserved and a position he is more than capable of handling.
“I’ve been involved in sports all my life,” he said. “I’ve had my finger in just about everything.”
Music has been proven to nurture the hearts and transform the lives of people but nowhere is this more obvious than when children learn to play a musical instrument.
Unfortunately, with today’s high cost of living, music lessons are only a remote dream for many youth who are living in a one-income household. Rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries and other basic necessities often consume all disposable financial resources.
Bill Swieringa has assembled a team of concerned community members that is trying to change that.
“I have been a school social worker at Abbott and R.J. Scott elementary schools in Beverly for the past five years, and I live in the neighbourhood,” he said. “I’m dismayed at the lack of opportunities for kids here. The few programs that are currently available all cost a lot of money, which many parents don’t have.”
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