FHQTC, City of Regina renew protocol agreement
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | May 11, 2017
An agreement made between the City of Regina administration and the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council on May 10 renewed a ten-year-old commitment of recognition, partnership and respect.
Mayor Michael Fougere and FHQ Tribal Council Chief Edmund Bellegarde, along with community Elders, city council and the Regina Treaty Status Indian Services Board of Directors took part in a pipe ceremony in the morning at The Gathering Place in Regina.
The mayor and chief were invited to speak before and after the pipe was passed around. In the circle, Bellegarde explained that the ceremony is a sacred covenant and mirrors the one made when Treaty 4 was signed in 1874.
The ceremony was followed by a formal signing of a protocol agreement by the mayor and chief. Before the signing, Fougere said that Bellegarde’s words during the pipe ceremony resonated with him.
“I’m learning a lot each and every time I do this,” he said about the ceremony. “I was humbled by the words of Chief Bellegarde and the Elders that are with us, speaking of their sacred ceremony [as] a covenant. That word is very powerful for me and I think that’s quite important. The documents we’re going to sign are a symbolic gesture by the non-Indigenous city here. That is our way of saying we want to work together, but the ceremony we just went through is more profound and has more deep meaning to me than just the paper we’re going to be signing.”
Bellegarde said the City’s participation in the ceremony was an important recognition of how the Indigenous people of Treaty 4 conduct and govern their affairs, something he said doesn’t happen enough by Western forms of government.
“So this is a good day,” said Chief Bellegarde. “The signing of this agreement will cement the relationship that we promised one another in the pipe ceremony in this room minutes ago.”
The City and Tribal Council signed the original protocol agreement in 2007. In 2016, the City made a commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action for municipalities and a committee has been meeting with RTSIS to update that protocol agreement.
“Today has been a long time coming,” said Erica Beaudin, executive director of RTSIS. “We looked at not only renewing but looking and seeing exactly what the Indigenous citizens and the City of Regina needed to work on together.
The protocol includes two committees that will be formed. A Governance Committee will include Mayor Fougere, Chief Bellegarde and members of council and a Technical Committee will include RTSIS staff and city staff. Fougere said the Technical Committee will start meeting shortly to discuss concerns that RTSIS and the Tribal Council have, and his committee will develop the agenda.
Those concerns include access to affordable housing, healthcare and education for Indigenous citizens in Regina. Bellegarde acknowledged the City’s help with housing, tax abatement for property development and its support of the TRC’s Calls to Action. But he said that Indigenous people do not have the same quality of life as their non-Indigenous neighbours.
“That’s a disparity that needs to be addressed through public policy and a federal, provincial and municipal level,” he said. He’s hopeful that the partnership with the City will be fruitful.
“Our traditional teaching is to always have hope for that future, to always invest the time and energy and the honest commitment to building that relationship and that peaceful co-existence with our treaty partners,” he said.
For Beaudin, the renewed protocol will be followed by action.
“What has given me hope today is the fact that we have a recommitment by the top two political leaders for the City of Regina and for the FHQ Tribal Council and so it’ll be a lot easier for us people who have our moccasins or boots to the ground [to] work together,” she said.