By COLLIN GALLANT on November 4, 2021.
Before members were sworn into office on Monday, Medicine Hat’s new “change” oriented city council changed municipal policy and wording of a land acknowledgement.
Monday’s swearing in and organizational meeting began with a point of privilege and the reading of a statement denoting the specific treaty and specific groups comprising Medicine Hat’s geographic and social community.
It replaced a three-line more generic statement approved last spring, which according to protocol was only to be used sparingly.
“We all agreed to make the revision based upon what the 94 Calls to Action was looking for,” said Coun. Allison Knodel, who read the statement Monday she said was in line with the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“It’s not looking for a generic statement. It’s looking for specifics. The goal is reconciliation. We have a council that wants to make it known that we are dedicated to reconciliation.
“Part of that is listening to the desires of our Indigenous community.”
Mayor Linnsie Clark told the News that new policy will be developed and approved by the new council for how the statement will be used going forward.
That also comes as a working group within council’s “Community Vibrancy” public advisory committee is to report back to council in March 2022 on other measures that could be taken by the city to meet 94 “calls to action.”
That was approved in August by council, with some debate about scope and potential budget, but with the support of council.
At that time, two incumbent members of the new council, Couns. Darren Hirsch and Robert Dumanowski, appeared the most eager to move the issue forward. Both men had previously dealt with the issue in other spheres – Hirsch during his tenure as board chair at Medicine Hat College, and Dumanowski as a school principal and administrator.
Last March, the previous council endorsed a three-line statement drawn up by officials in the public services division that was titled a “Statement of Acknowledgement, Recognition and Respect.”
It was to be read aloud only at events where it would be deemed culturally appropriate. At the time, officials and council members stated that a standard reading before all city events would lessen the significance of the statement.
It was developed using several historical context reports done by city committees over the years, but administrators said it avoided specific references to avoid potential controversy involving Indigenous groups.
The area of Medicine Hat, the South Saskatchewan River and Cypress Hills was a meeting place for Indigenous people for millennia but also disputed territory that changed hands over time.
The new statement references only Treaty 7, signed in 1877, though the demarcation line between that treaty in southern Alberta and Treaty 4, covering southern Saskatchewan, is near the city’s eastern limits.
The statement names the member groups of the Blackfoot Confederacy, but also Prairie Cree, Ojibwa and MÃ©tis of Region 3.