A pipe ceremony rang in the first of what will be many joint monthly meetings between the Town of Cochrane, Stoney Tribal Administration and the three bands of Stoney Nakoda First Nation March 15.
Bearspaw, Wesley and Chiniki First Nations, Stoney Tribal Administration and the Town of Cochrane have together been selected as one of eight new participants, of 68 applications made in Phase 3 of the First Nations-Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI), after having been shortlisted for the program late last year.
The program will help to build capacities to create sustainable, respectful and equitable partnerships and improve success of joint economic planning, development and land use initiatives between Stoney Nakoda and the municipality through a hands-on approach.
“The Town is honoured to have the opportunity to continue to forge relationships with the respective First Nations of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley,” said Mayor Jeff Genung in a joint news release.
“Participating in the CEDI program demonstrates our desire to work collaboratively and provides us with a framework for making significant strides to develop and support joint economic development initiatives.”
Genung said previously he felt that by not having organized meeting times, the Town and Stoney Nakoda were at a disadvantage in trying to work together as neighbouring communities.
The biggest area in need of improvement, he said, was communication.
"Having regular interactions with Stoney Nakoda would be greatly beneficial for sure," Genung said. "Then it may just be matter of unpeeling the layers of how it is that they would like us to navigate each other's systems to connect on anything."
Over the course of the next three years, Stoney Nakoda and Cochrane will meet monthly and conduct bi-annual workshops as part of the program, made possible by the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO) and Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and funded by Indigenous Services Canada.
“Bearspaw First Nation is very pleased to participate in this initiative with our neighbours in Cochrane; Bearspaw First Nation has expanded its businesses endeavours outside of the Reserve, and this is a logical step in establishing and building those close economic relationships, we look forward to the next three years of relationship building, Isniyes (Thank you)” said Chief Darcy Dixon in the release.
“Chiniki First Nation and the Town of Cochrane have a long history. Today both take another step in unity and with a common purpose to affect a brighter future, working together for the economic benefit of members and citizens alike” said Chief Aaron Young.
Based on assessments from four out of 15 CEDI partnerships, a study by FCM and CANDO found the program has helped contribute to $10 million in private investment, $20 million in public investment, more than $10 million in fiscal benefits to First Nations governments and the creation of more than 650 jobs.
According to the study, the program, which originated in 2010, has also contributed to improvements in regional investment readiness for things such as advancements to governance and capacity, better planning and communication, improved services and agreements and the formation of deeper relationships, among other things.
“Wesley/Goodstoney Council is looking forward to working with all parties. Working together is always stronger than working alone” Chief Clifford Poucette said.