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Creation of Indigenous framework underway in Banff

“The advice from our Indigenous partners is to adopt a ‘nothing about us without us’ approach.”
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The Town of Banff plans to facilitate an advisory circle of Elders and traditional knowledge keepers this spring to help move forward on the municipality’s Indigenous framework.

Town of Banff officials say the development of an Indigenous framework document is grounded in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation and recognizes the community’s history is deeply connected to Indigenous Peoples and “that we must work together as partners and stewards of the land.”

“Reconciliation is about understanding the past and working together to build a new future,” said Randall McKay, the Town of Banff’s manager of strategic initiatives and special projects.

“With an emphasis on building relationships, education, and action, the Indigenous framework is to be a guiding policy to assist us as a municipality in being respectful, cooperative and active partners in the process of reconciliation.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic proving to be a challenge for in-person meetings because of previous public health restrictions, McKay said the next phase of the framework’s development will benefit from more input from Indigenous leaders who wish to be at the table in an advisory circle format.

He said the plan is to get together Elders and traditional knowledge keepers of all Treaty 7 Nations and Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3 “to crystallize the guiding principles to get agreements on what those should be and how they might apply to Banff.”

“This is an oral tradition so it has to be done in person with these traditional knowledge keepers,” he said.

“The advice from our Indigenous partners is to adopt a ‘nothing about us without us’ approach.”

In 2018, Banff town council identified the need to elevate opportunities to commemorate historical contributions of Indigenous People in Banff and made developing a framework to do so a top priority.

Over the term of the previous town council, the focus on historical commemoration shifted to a need for a framework of ongoing engagement and current involvement in Banff of Indigenous Peoples in the region.

In July 2021, council directed administration to consult with neighbouring Indigenous communities to seek out and determine potential names for existing or planned infrastructure, places or assets within Banff that would honour Indigenous Peoples. A report with options will be brought back to council in the near future.

McKay said it is expected that historical commemoration and naming will become a key part of the framework, but the initial focus will be on establishing guiding principles and key actions and ensuring dialogue continues with Indigenous Peoples in the region.

He said it’s important the framework reflects the shared objectives of Indigenous Peoples.

“After many years of the municipal government lacking a process or protocol for Indigenous ceremony, recognition or dialogue, this framework will foster an approach to maintain active relationships for years to come,” said McKay.

Mayor Corrie DiManno thanked McKay for all the work he is doing on the framework.

“This is obviously something that means a lot to council," she said.

The Town of Banff also plans to develop a standalone corporate policy to lay out how the municipality will strive to honour and enact the Indigenous framework through its policies, programs, and services. One of the goals of this policy would be to guide council on how best to listen to, learn from, and act on ways forward with Indigenous communities in planning, advising and decision-making.

McKay said Indigenous engagement is a long-term commitment by the Town of Banff.

“This is not just a one-off exercise of creating a document that sits aside on a desk or a shelf," he said.

"It’s going to involve ongoing initiatives and communications with First Nation leaders, elders and community members that will shape the overall reputation of the town for years to come."

Completion of an initial framework document is on schedule for mid-2022.