As we close out National Indigenous History Month, I wanted to highlight some incredibly important events from this past month that were momentous for our City and its neighbours.
On June 20, the Alberta Government officially announced their approval of a land transfer of a small piece of land on the west end of the city. Sandwiched between a housing development in Glastonbury and the Anthony Henday, the land sits quietly, with a few small trees shading the only indication of its significance; a stone memorial to the ancestors and historic Chiefs that still lay below the ground in unmarked graves.
The land of the original Enoch Cree Nation — then known as Chief Lapotac’s reserve — once extended all the way north to Acheson and to the banks of the North Saskatchewan river on its east side. In 1902, and again in 1908, over half of this land was “surrendered” — or, rather, forcefully surrendered through coercion and threats of starvation by the Federal Government.
The return of this sacred piece of land to the Enoch Cree Nation was truly a historic moment and it was a great privilege to be present for the announcement.
The following day, I was also in attendance for the grand opening of the completed Maskêkosihk Trail — the first major roadway within Edmonton to be honoured with a Cree name. This road is an important connection between the City of Edmonton and the Enoch Cree Nation and it’s so necessary to honour that connection and relationship with respect and acknowledgement.
I would like to extend a thank you to my friend, Billy Morin, for always encouraging Council to ensure that the City’s steps towards reconciliation include concrete action; to the Provincial Government and the Minister of Indigenous Relations, Rick Wilson, for facilitating the return of stolen land with speed almost unheard of in government; and to Qualico and the residents of Riverview, Edgemont, Stillwater, and the Uplands for their commitment to honouring the original stewards of the land.
I received a call from a resident in the area not long before the opening of the completed Maskêkosihk Trail. The closure of the temporary portion of the Trail had prompted a notice of closure to go out to the surrounding area and they were calling to express their concern that the City was removing a road named to honour Indigenous heritage and the history of the region. And while I was able to reassure them of the plan to keep it in place, what I took away from that conversation was that the residents of Ward sipiwiyiniwak — and Edmonton — truly did understand its significance and how important nation-to-nation relationships are to our future and the future of the City.