Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative – February 10, 2023
By Todd Eagle Child Communications Officer
Blood Tribe Communications and Community Engagement
The Blood Tribe, along with the surrounding communities in the region, are working to create a Regional Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Initiative to build and strengthen connections that would address issues facing Blood Tribe members.
An (MOU) is an agreement between two or more parties although it is not legally binding, it signals the willingness to move forward with a contract or letter of intent. The Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative is the starting point for negotiations as it defines the scope and purpose of the discussions.
The first meeting on the MOU was held on April 14, 2022, in Cardston, AB. The discussion of creating the MOU was started by Blood Tribe Councillor Diandra Bruised Head and Town of Cardston Councillor Paula Brown, who set up a meeting where both sides were able to come together to sit down and address issues both communities were dealing with. Therefore, the Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative was created, and invitations were sent out to all communities in the region for the next meeting.
Representatives present for the second Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative meeting were the Town of Cardston, County of Cardston, the Town of Magrath, the Town of Fort Macleod, the Piikani Nation, and the Town of Pincher Creek. The meeting was hosted by the Blood Tribe on January 27, 2023, at the Red Crow Community College in Standoff, AB.
The meeting started off with a pipe offering by Blood Tribe Elders Roger and Catherine Hunt. Everyone in attendance was welcomed to take part because of its significance to truth and speaking straight to the issues at hand and coming together as one for the MOU.
“I want us to really understand that this is a safe space,” said Blood Tribe Councillor, Diandra Bruised Head, “I welcome questions and we’re all open to discussion and sharing, like our elders said earlier, we’re here to reach common understanding to get to these common values that we all have.”
The roundtable introductions from the each of the community representatives allowed for discussions on sensitive issues such as: racism, unemployment, addictions, lack of supports, cultural awareness, and homelessness to name a few.
“Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, sometimes it’s things we’d rather not hear, but it is reality, and that’s how you get through difficult times,” stated Blood Tribe Councillor, Travis Plaited Hair, “It’s to have the courage to speak up and say what really needs to be said.”
The Town of Cardston and Cardston County both showed great interest in moving forward with the MOU to start meetings geared towards addressing these issues in a safe space where the table can be open and honest to strengthen relationships and to learn from each other.
“An MOU should be on going, we revisit, it should be evolving, open and honest,” said Town of Cardston Councillor, Paula Brown, “It would be great to have this space where we can just discuss our futures building stronger communities together, a safe space where we can ask questions and have incredible learning experiences.”
“We have a lot of strong working relationships and partnerships already with Kainai and my vision is to have that working relationship strengthened,” said Cardston County Reeve, Cam Francis, “I really see mutual benefits for both of our communities, we share so many things in common.”
Cardston County Councillor, Tom Nish shared the same views and added, “We have an opportunity here to do something that is going to be remembered for a long time.”
The group discussed the Opioids Crisis which is creating devastating effects for all communities across Southern Alberta. There was an expressed hope that the communities working together in the MOU can look at solutions to address the problems for community members who are struggling with addictions.
“I’m a strong advocate in addictions and mental health and that’s what intrigued me about the meeting was it talked about opioids and that’s our passion in our nation,” said Piikani Nation Councillor, Dimples Stump, “It’s everywhere, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, what colour you skin is, it effects all of us. I’m really hoping that we can come together and look at something that we can all do for our people.”
One of the towns at the table was open and honest about the history of colonialism and having had a social needs assessments done in their community which did outline racism as being one of the main issues for the residents. They stressed that addressing the issue and figuring out how to move forward is difficult, it is needed and needs to be done together.
“We have these histories, we can’t get away from them but we can figure out how to build a different future together; it is difficult, and where we’re at in this moment in time, we don’t always have clear paths forward,” said Town of Pincher Creek Councillor, Sahra Nodge, “My vision is to figure out and develop ways that we can sort out what it is that we need to be doing and I don’t think it’s going to work if we’re working in two parallel things because so many of the issues overlap and I don’t think we can learn how to overcome racism without having relationships with people who are not like us.”
Many recognized that there needs to be more understanding that everyone in the community has value, no matter their circumstance or background. At the pipe offering that began the meeting, the Blood Tribe elders gave insight, while sharing laughs, to those in attendance on the importance of coming together and taking care of each other.
“I see more and more the opportunity that we have to be able to bridge some gaps, and with the pipe offering this morning I think we all recognize we’re very spiritual people, and sometimes I think we forget that,” stated Town of Fort Macleod Mayor, Brent Feyter, “I think if there can be more understanding on that, we will appreciate and value what every individual has and how we will use that to support each other, to bless each other, to encourage each other, to recognize we’ve been gifted with something to take care of; our life, the lives of others, our environments, creation, are we going to take care of that in a way that everyone can find purpose meaning and fulfillment.”
“We have many issues that need addressing, I’m looking forward to this group pushing forward with positives,” Blood Tribe Councillor, Maria Russell, “Unfortunately, we see some of those negatives and we come out with a perspective that’s not true to what’s being seen but no matter what we see those individuals belong somewhere, and people do care about them, and I’m not just talking about the obvious homelessness.
“We could initiate a lot of positives and build relations within employment and the economy, we do contribute quite a bit in the economy, and we do have a lot of positive things happening on the Blood Tribe.”
The issue of cultural protocols was brought up and the need for such cultural awareness training and insight was shared that gave a brief history on how the Residential School drastically affected the Indigenous Community. Councillor Plaited Hair gave a brief update on Blackfoot cultural protocols and history he also shared on a big screen the Blood Reserve Map with the zones and towns located within and the size of Blackfoot Territory.
Blood Tribe Councillor Tony Delaney mentioned that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a good place to start to educate those who want to get more background on the issues of cultural training and knowledge. Delaney also talked on how simply addressing Blood Tribe members with the Blackfoot greeting “Oki – Hello” was a great ice breaker and would often lead to more positive results between Tribal members and towns folks.
“Let’s be open and honest as possible we all know the excuses; we need to speak up and to be those friends amongst each other to really support each other so we’re not continuing with Trump’s agenda,” said Delaney.
The next discussions on the agenda led to examples of other MOU’s such as one between the Blood Tribe and City of Lethbridge MOU and how to collaborate on moving forward with this Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative. It was stressed to keep the ball rolling for it to be taken seriously and not to be pushed aside. The next quarterly meeting date was set, and partnerships were created with Blood Tribe/Piikani Councillors and the Councillors/Mayors of the towns they live closest too.
The representatives want to have a draft created for the next quarterly meeting and to have collected issues that will be brought forward to start addressing. The inclusion of keeping a strong communication link within each community was also stressed and how to include their input. Blood Tribe Councillor, Richard Red Crow invited representatives at the table to come to the upcoming Blood Tribe community meetings to which Cardston accepted and attended.
This was the second meeting for the Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative, and the scheduled creation of a draft MOU will be at the next quarterly meeting in mid-April 2023.
Blood Tribe Councillor’s Travis Plaited Hair & Diandra Bruised Head, Piikani Nation Councillor Martin Iron Shirt, Town of Cardston Councillor Paula Brown, Piikani Nation Councillor Dimples Stump, Cardston County Reeve Cam Francis, Town of Fort Macleod Councillor Gord Wolstenholme, Town of Cardston CAO Jeff Shaw, Town of Pincher Creek Councillor Sahra Nodge, Cardston County Councillor Tom Nish, Town of Cardston Mayor Maggie Kronen, Town of Magrath Councillor Gerry Baril, Town of Fort Macleod Mayor Brent Feyter, Catherine Hunt, Roger Hunt, Red Crow Community College Robert Gros Venture Boy, Blood Tribe Communications Todd Eagle Child, Blood Tribe Councillor Maria Russell, at the Red Crow Community College on January 27, 2023. (Photo credit: Brayden Provost)
Blood Tribe and Region MOU Initiative table at the Red Crow Community College on January 27, 2023. (Photo credit: Brayden Provost)
Blood Tribe Councillor, Travis Plaited Hair, presenting on the actual size of Blackfoot Territory pre-contact at the Red Crow Community College on January 27, 2023. (Photo credit: Brayden Provost)