Wood Buffalo RCMP unveils Treaty 8 land acknowledgement at ceremony
October 26, 2021 By Canadian Press / Local Journalism Initiative
Oct. 25, 2021, Fort McMurray, Alta. – Building relationships with Indigenous communities has been a priority for Wood Buffalo RCMP superintendent Mark Hancock for the past few years.
As a continuation of that focus, the RCMP detachment held a smudging ceremony on Sept. 21 to unveil the Treaty 8 land acknowledgement. The acknowledgement is now posted at the office in Timberlea.
Hancock said that the ceremony reflected his office’s commitment to improving relationships with Indigenous communities and enhancing reconciliation efforts.
“I was very excited to have this happen at our offices,” said Hancock. “With all of my officers here, there are liaisons with each community all the way from Fort Smith down to Conklin. As the officer in charge, I want people to be able to speak with me, I want things to be open.”
In the spring, the detachment hired Sgt. Martina Noskey as the Indigenous liaison officer for the detachment. Hancock said the decision was made to improve community consultations.
“It’s already paying dividends,” said Hancock of the hire. “There are lots of consultations with communities and leaders happening. We can always do more.”
The ceremony at the detachment featured speeches from Mayor Don Scott and Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey. The ceremony also included an opening prayer and blessings from community elders, smudging in the leadership offices and community drummers.
McMurray Metis CEO Bill Loutitt and president Peter Hansen also attended the ceremony. Loutitt said the relationship with the RCMP has improved dramatically since the 1970s, when members of the local Metis community were evicted from an area of town known as Moccasin Flats.
Residents of the area were called “squatters” living in a “shanty-town community” by city officials, and local residents.
In 1975, Metis residents began receiving eviction notices from the city government of that day. The RCMP were involved in the forced removal of residents. In December, the municipality committed $200,000 to a memorial for Moccasin Flats.
“The RCMP were also the ones going out and picking up kids during the Sixties Scoop and with residential schools,” said Loutitt. “It was very important for them to be there to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and how to move ahead with the situation.”
Hansen said that he appreciates the RCMP’s interest in consultation and improving relationships in the community.
“We understand that they have a job to do,” said Hansen. “We work with them and we don’t feel intimidated. If they don’t understand something they come and ask us. I think it’s a great working relationship and a great step forward for our community and surrounding areas.”
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