Right relations start with curiosity and neighbourliness.
On May 6 Hal Eagletail, a cultural leader of the Tsuut’ina First Nation presented to Lakeview community residents about his people’s history and culture.
The event is the first in an ongoing series of activities planned by Lakeview’s newly-formed Tsuut’ina Nation Relations Committee. The events are an opportunity for the community, which borders theTsuut’ina First Nation reserve to learn the rich culture of Canadian indigenous people, says Jesse Salus, who helped organize the committee.
“People fly half way across the world to experience unique and distinct cultures and we have one right on our doorstep to experience,” he says.
Jesse’s own interest in the Tsuut’ina First Nation began when he started to research the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. The controversial project had implications for his own community and it seemed everywhere Jesse looked for information there was discrepancies. This compelled him to create History of a Road, a blog that has a goal to provide unbiased information regarding the long history and planning process of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, which dates back to at least 1952.
Through his blogging, Jesse says he’s learned to appreciate the complicated and not well known history between the different levels of government and the Tsuut’ina First Nation.
It’s this perspective that’s helped him better understand the Nation’s point of view, from why they are cautious when entering into new land deals to the need for their own economic development to support fire and emergency services, which the City of Calgary no longer provides.
The committee, he hopes, will broaden people’s perspectives while creating new ties between the Lakeview community and theTsuut’ina First Nation.
“We’re going to be neighbours forever, and what better way to spend that time than to build friendships and find mutually beneficial relationships and work together.”
Jesse adds that what his community is doing can be applied to anyone looking to create authentic relationships with First Nations people. This is an important step because for many non-indigenous Canadians it’s easy to fall into an “us versus them” mentality.
Jesse recommends people start by adopting a sense of curiosity about Canada’s First Nations and looking for opportunities to learn more and connect directly with indigenous people.
“If you have the willingness to put yourself out there and go to the more public events that are available to non-indigenous people, I think those are the kinds of things that everyone will benefit from,” he says.
“It’s a small but positive step that anyone can take.”
Lakeview community and Tsuut’ina First Nation have some early examples of what’s possible when building new relationships. Jesse says representatives from his community, along with representatives from a nearby community, were invited by the Tsuut’ina First Nation to discuss early development plans in advance of the plans going public.
As far as he knows, this is the first time local communities were invited to view the plans before they were made public.