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Town of Devon Reconciliation

Language and Culture
Treaty 6

In 2017, the Town of Devon council made the commitment that reconciliation and the TRC Calls to Action would be a priority throughout their next four years of governance.

By mid-2019, the town had hired Mitch Wincentaylo as their first Indigenous Engagement & Culture and Inclusion Coordinator. Shortly after they created an action plan with a focus on training opportunities for leadership and staff, community events, engagement with local schools and relationship building with Treaty Six Nations and Métis organizations.

“For us, this work develops organically,” Mitch said.

“It’s about getting to know our neighbours and acknowledging them - inviting them to the table and hearing their voices and stories. That’s probably the best part of the job, visiting the Nations, bringing coffee or tea, and just sitting together getting to know one another.”

The town created a public document outlining the engagement process and intensions. The Town of Devon Cultural Awareness and Relationship Building with Indigenous Peoples document was built in partnership with various Nations from across Treaty Six between 2019 and 2020.

They are running monthly programs, workshops and events, including beading, ribbon-skirt classes, talking and healing circles with Elders, nehiyawewin (Cree language) classes, movie nights, and tipi-talks. During COVID-19 shut downs, these programs have moved online, and are being accessed by people across Canada and the United States.

Along with the Treaty Six and Métis Nations flags permanently flying in front of the Devon Town Office, the town has worked closely with First Nations to bring ceremony back to town.

“Our work on engaging with Indigenous Peoples, true reconciliation and building relationships with First Nations and Métis Peoples this past year and a bit has been a highlight of my time serving on Council,” said Mayor Ray Ralph.

“I have met so many new people and learned so much about Indigenous cultures in such a short time and I look forward to continuing to learn more and share what I have learned with our Devon community.”

The town has focused on relationship building with Treaty Six Territory, Métis Nation of Alberta Region Four, and the Nations of whose traditional territories we reside within.

“Because of where the Town is located, within the territories of maskêkosihk (Enoch) and kiskayôs (Bobtail) Nations, we really focus on strengthening our relationships with maskêkosak (Enoch Cree Nation), akamihk (Montana First Nation), nipisikopahk (Samson Cree Nation), neyaskweyahk (Ermineskin Cree Nation), and kisipatinahk (Louis Bull Tribe),” Mitch said.

The town is striving to ensure they are not doing surface level work, they are working genuinely and at a grass-roots level, he said. There is no corporate structure to the relationship-building work that we do but rather an informal process that includes as many voices as possible. The initiatives aren’t temporary measures - we do this work because we want to and genuinely strive to create a community that lives within the spirit and intent of the Treaty relationship.

“I’ve said repeatedly as a recommendation to Mayor and Council that as we begin down the path of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples we needed to do so authentically and build honest life-long relationships that would benefit everyone involved and not be a check the box exercise,” said Tony Kulbisky, the town’s Chief Administration Officer.

The feedback from the community has been outstanding thus far, Mitch said. Many Devon residents have become engaged and shown such amazing support of the work we do here at the town. At almost every gathering or event in Devon, a mixture of Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples attend and come together as friends and neighbours. The main feedback heard from people is that they “had no idea…” or “we never learned about this in school… if only we were taught this when we were younger” in regard to history, culture, and trauma.

“Our community understands the importance of this work and we are fully committed to strengthening the Treaty and neighbourly relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. It is a very humbling experience and I am proud to be a part of this journey,” said Mayor Ray.

The only way we can move forward as a society is to learn about one another, and we definitely see that happening in our community. We receive so much positive feedback from community members that it encourages us to continue down that path we are on, Mitch said.

“We simply work alongside our Indigenous friends and neighbours to discuss what work we want to do in our community, and then we do it - together. It’s as simple as that.”

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