Edmonton city council continuing reconciliation work

The longtime dream of an indigenous cultural and ceremonial space in Edmonton is a step closer to becoming reality.

Supporting indigenous communities by funding several projects

Mayor Don Iveson says city council is committed to making Edmonton more inclusive for its indigenous communities. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

The longtime dream of creating a special indigenous cultural and ceremonial space in Edmonton is one step closer to becoming reality.

City council has agreed to fund work surrounding the proposed project, along with a number of other aboriginal projects, with a $400,000 contribution.

It's all a part of the city's effort to make Edmonton a more inclusive place for its indigenous population, which is one of the fastest growing of any city in Canada.

Mayor Don Iveson said council is continuing the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by supporting a number of projects, even through challenging economic times.

"Albeit a time of restraint, those were important priorities to move ahead on," Iveson said. 

Council agreed on the funding package during budget discussions last week.

'Sacred Earth' in Edmonton's river valley

Kihciy Askiy, Cree for Sacred Earth, is the name of the indigenous cultural and ceremonial space being planned, one of the flagship projects to benefit from a share of the funding.

Land for the project, to be developed on the old Fox Farms property located across from Fort Edmonton Park, has already been donated. Now work gets underway fleshing out details and what it will all look like.

Rob Houle says work on the Kihciy Askiy site will continue through 2016. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)
"In the past there have been proposals and projects around sweat lodge ceremonies and other kinds of cultural events happening down there," explained Rob Houle, supervisor of the city's aboriginal relations office.

Houle said the project is a symbolic one but it will make it easier for aboriginal people to connect with their culture.

He said consultations will now go ahead to figure out the next steps, including discussions with indigenous communities about what they want to see there.

But Houle stressed the pledge from council to ensure the work continues is key.

"Very promising and shows that it is part of the relationship building and the overall process of reconciliation and relationship building that needs to take place in the city," he said.

A more comprehensive history

Given the site is on an old farm, Houle said work through 2016 will focus on design and planning and making sure the area is ready for any construction that might follow.

Iveson said council is also committing funds to Fort Edmonton Park to tell a more comprehensive story about that history.

"So that when people are at the living history museum, that living history reflects a pre-contact story, a contact story, a treaty story and a story of some of the challenges of colonization,"  he said.

Iveson said the city will be working with the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, as well as the Metis Nation of Alberta, on that project.

Houle said the projects are important steps for the city as a whole.

"This provides an opportunity for people to become more in tune with their culture, more in tune with their history telling the real story about Edmonton and moving forward together," he said.