By Tawnya Plain Eagle

Piikani Nation Chief and Council met with Alberta Ministers earlier this month to discuss concerns with the Oldman River. 

On Feb 3, Piikani leadership and elders Herman Many Gun and Pat Provost gave Minister Jason Nixon and Minster Rick Wilson a tour of the rivers hot spots to educate them on the damage the river suffered due to the dams.

Councillor Brian Jackson says the nations primary concern is the cultural and spiritual integrity of the river valley. 

Over the years, Jackson admits that willows and narrow leaf cotton wood, that are used for ceremonial purposes are becoming harder to find.

“We wanted to draw Alberta’s attention to the destruction of the Piikani way of life as a result of the operation of the Oldman River dam and the [Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District] weir,” Jackson said.

Minister of Environment and Parks near the Oldman River on feb 5. Photo courtesy of Jess Sinclair.

Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and parks, participated in pipe ceremony prior the tour. 

“It was good for us to understand the needs of vegetation for different ceremonial purposes,” Nixon said.

“I think we’re going to be able to work together to put in place some mechanisms that will help insure it’s available for generations to come,” Nixon added.  

Nixon says the next step is to outline some goals and plans that will make sure the Piikani Nation and the Alberta government will continue to move forward and address the concerns brought forward in this initial meeting. 

According to Jackson, the destruction of the river valley located within the Piikani Nation boundaries has provided economic boom for the users downstream from the weir. 

He hopes that not only will the Alberta government provide the nation with resources to stop the destruction but will provide compensation of what has been lost. 

Although this agreement is still in the early stages, Jackson said the Minister has committed to high level of government to government relationship to resolve these issues.

“We’re optimistic that over the course of the next year, we going to be very busy with trying to resolve these issues and find a common ground,” Jackson said. 

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