By Tawnya Plain Eagle
The government of Alberta signed a historic agreement with the Piikani Nation last week as the province places greater emphasis on traditional activities and treaty rights in parks planning.
To support Indigenous knowledge and culture in the Castle provincial parks, Chief Stanley Grier, Minister Richard Feehan and Minister Shannon Phillips have signed a Cooperative Management Terms of Reference.
This agreement is to ensure that treaty rights, traditional practices and Indigenous knowledge are better protected and fostered in the Castle region.
“This agreement marks a tremendous opportunity for government, Indigenous peoples, local communities and visitors to celebrate and appreciate First Nations’ rich culture in Alberta’s parks,” Phillips said.
The Castle Management Plan was the first time Alberta Parks included a primary objective respecting Indigenous rights and a chapter devoted to First Nations.
The terms of reference create a management board that will increase cultural practices on the landscape and protect access to areas of cultural significance.
“It allows our people to be more interactive and to express our history and our usage of the Castle region while also ensuring our Elders and our current generation can continue to exercise cultural practices and treaty rights important to who we are as a people,” Grier said.
The new board will provide input on Piikani Hunting and harvesting practices such as berry-picking, personal wood harvesting, tipi poles and willows.
It will also ensure the protection of specific cultural areas of importance as well as the training of Alberta Parks staff to be aware of Indigenous rights, cultural and practises.
The board will be co-chaired by two representatives, one appointed by Alberta Parks and one appointed by Piikani Chief and council.
Up to six other members will be named to the board, including at least one Elder. The board will meet four times per year.