Chiefs of the Maskwacis Cree nations, Treaty 6 Chief and Alberta First Nations Regional Chief as well as provincial officials were all on hand for the inauguration of the Walking Trail at the Samson Nation Reserve on Thursday, Oct. 1 for what Samson Cree Chief Kurt Buffalo called as the “reconnection with Earth.”
In his speech, Samson Cree Chief Kurt Buffalo thanked all those who had worked and volunteered for the project.
“This trail will reconnect us to Earth which we have been disconnected for so long,” he said.
Other chiefs and provincial government officials praised the hard work and intensive efforts to create the trail, which will help enhance safety and security for walkers from one end of the reserve to the other alongside Highway 611 East.
Project manager Tina Northwest, who spearheaded the project as part of her studies at the Blue Quills College, said the inaugurated walking trail covered more than two thirds of the walking distance along the highway, but that project funds were not enough to complete the whole route.
Alberta Transportation, First Nations Development Fund, Alberta Trail Net all contributed to the project with either funding or in the form of consultancy.
Following the speeches, a ceremonial ribbon cutting was staged with Margaret Montour, a community elder, cutting the ribbon and walking along the first few hundred yards of the trail in the company of chiefs and other elders.
The project cost about $500,000 according to Norrthwest, who explained that much of the money was spent hauling sand and gravel to the trail.
“We used Samson’s own sand and gravel, otherwise it would be a lot more expensive as the gravel is very costly,“ she said.
Other speakers expressed the wish that the walking trail would inspire more efforts to complete a Canada-wide walking trail network, which seems to have been disconnected in Alberta.
In order for the trail to be sustainable, it needs to be paved as well, but it will reportedly require further fundraising.