By Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On Friday August 27, 2021 Edmonton City Council and multiple Indigenous leaders commemorated the signing of Treaty 6 by gathering for a ceremony at City Hall.
With a focus on healing from the trauma of Residential Schools, the event included a raising of the Treaty 6 flag, a pipe ceremony, and drumming.
“Today is a significant day not only in the history of the City of Edmonton, but the Treaty 6 territory,” said Treaty 6 Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker. “There was a long history before the city was born.”
Treaty 6 was signed on August 23, 1876 at Fort Carlton between the Plains Cree, Wood Cree, Dene, Saulteaux and the Crown. The City of Edmonton has been commemorating the signing of the treaty every year since 2013.
“It is an honour to take part in commemorating Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson. “We celebrate a living relationship and we are blessed to share in the diverse cultural, economic and social contributions that Indigenous peoples and organizations bring to our city.”
“This morning I was grateful to meet with and thank our Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations partners as we gather in the spirit of openness, truthfulness and respect to affirm our commitment as partners and honour the ties that bind us as Treaty people.”
Iveson also proclaimed to renew Edmonton’s memorandum of cooperation, which was signed in 2012 between the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and the city.
He accredited the memorandum with the creation of Treaty 6 Recognition Day, saying it was a concrete pledge of honour and understanding between the two parties. While the revised memorandum was expected to arrive on September 7, there have been no new reports of the revision.
“When we talk about truth and reconciliation — this is the truth,” said Iveson. “Today is a time for all of us who call this place home to renew our pledge, individually and collectively, to continue to learn and explore that truth. And at the same time to foster healing and reconciliation through action.”
He then added that the truth includes trauma and loss from Residential Schools, “We mourn with communities still grieving the loss of their beloved children, this year especially.”
This renewed pledge comes approximately two weeks after the Alberta Government announced the province would not formally recognize the Federal Government’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday — despite the province having the highest number of residential schools in any province in Canada.
The UCP government has instead given provincially regulated industries like Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) the choice to grant a day-off for the new holiday, “unless an employee’s employment contract or collective bargaining agreement specifically grants federally-regulated holidays,” Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said.
The Assembly of First Nations Alberta regional Chief Marlene Poitras said the province’s refusal “flies in the face of reconciliation with First Nations and shows a disdain and lack of care or respect for Alberta’s Indigenous population.”