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Year in review: Time of accomplishment, growth and reconciliation for the Four Nations of Maskwacis

Achievements by the Four Nations of Maskwacis in 2023 are showing steps forward for the communities

At the end of the month, Canadians will recognize the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day serves as a time for Canadians to recognize the history and legacy of the residential school system.

However, the path to reconciliation and healing is a constant mission taking many forms. Alongside the continual calls to action for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people and the work to bring the children from residential schools home, numerous achievements by the Four Nations of Maskwacis in 2023 show steps forward for their communities.

January saw Chief Leonard Standingontheroad of Montana First Nation appointed Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.

“It is a great honour to be appointed Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nation,” said Grand Chief Standingontheroad at the time.

“I have always been passionate about upholding our rights as Treaty People. During my tenure, I will focus on issues such as health, education and economic development.”

Standingontheroad also aims to build a stronger relationship between the Assembly of First Nations and the Confederacy. He will continue his work in the areas of addictions and the opioid crisis, early childhood education and economic development in the central Alberta region, according to a statement.

The following month, Louis Bull Nation signed a historic agreement with the federal government that enables them to administer jurisdiction over their own child and family services.

Chief Desmond Bull signed the bilateral agreement, making the nation the first in Alberta and fourth in Canada to sign that type of agreement.

Under the agreement, the federal government will provide $125 million in funding over two years for startup and ongoing operational costs.

This year also held the homecoming of bison to Samson Cree Nation in March and Louis Bull Tribe in July.

The Bison arrived from Elk Island National Park in an act to work with First Nations communities to return the animals to their traditional lands.

Bison weren’t the only thing to arrive in Samson Cree Nation this year, as a new registry office was announced in April. This marks the first Alberta First Nation community to open a registry office.

“This registries office is about providing a service of access for all of Maskwacis peoples,” said Chief Vernon Saddleback in a Facebook post.

The office is able to issue provincial identification cards, birth certificates, licences, learner permits, vehicle registration and more.

Moving into the end of April, Maskwacis became one of 15 organizations and the only one in Alberta to receive a significant investment from the Toronto Blue Jays Field of Dreams program.

The team is contributing over $240,000 to replace the Louis Bull Tribe’s baseball field.

“We are very excited to be selected as a @JaysCare Field Of Dreams grant recipient,” stated the Louis Bull Tribe on Facebook.

“This funding will help give athletes in Louis Bull Tribe a safe place to play, learn and grow.”

The area also celebrated five years of success for the Early Years program, which began in 2018 as a collaboration between Ermineskin Cree Nation, Maskwacis Health Services (MHS) and the Martin Family Initiative (MFI).

The program now includes all Four Nations of Maskwacis. It operates as an Indigenous-led approach to supporting early childhood development built on the belief that a strong society depends on the ability to nurture the development of the next generation.

June is National Indigenous History Month, which brought with it the second annual Tipi Village in Ponoka during Stampede Week on June 29 and 30.

The event featured members of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and the Montana First Nation. The members presented powwow showcases, Indigenous storytelling, artwork and culture.

The Tipi Village provided a space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals to come together to learn about cultures and celebrate together.

This article is part of a series on Truth and Reconciliation in recognition of Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30. Check back for more Truth and Reconciliation stories on our website daily until Sept. 30.

If you require emotional support, call the 24 Hour Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.