BANFF – First Nations woman and Banff town councillor Kaylee Ram has led Banff council’s first ever Indigenous land acknowledgement.
In an emotional event during council’s June 13 meeting, council endorsed an interim land acknowledgement to be read at council meetings and included on agenda packages of council and other council committees.
Ram, whose grandmother is an elder of the Nak’azdli First Nation northwest of Prince George, B.C., said a land acknowledgement is an Indigenous protocol used to express gratitude and honour Indigenous peoples who have lived and worked on this land historically and presently.
She said such an acknowledgement provides an opportunity to appreciate the unique role and relationship that each of us has with the land.
“It provides a gentle reminder of the broader perspectives that expand our understanding to encompass the rich history of the land and our privileged role in residing here,” said Ram, who was elected to Banff town council last October.
“Adopting and practising a land acknowledgement is a small but important step that the Town of Banff can take in rebuilding relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and honouring the great treaty agreement in the spirit of peace, friendship and respect.”
The land acknowledgement is considered interim until such time as a consultation process on Banff’s Indigenous framework has been completed and the framework adopted by council. The document will include a schedule of appropriate land acknowledgements for various occasions.
The interim acknowledgement approved by council reads:
“In the spirit of respect and reciprocity, we acknowledge that we live, work, and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Tsuut’ina First Nation, Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and all Indigenous people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. The Bow Valley has also long been important to the Ktunaxa and Secwépemc First Nations who traditionally occupied lands and used the watersheds along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Council is committed to improving the Town’s understanding of these Nations’ interests and we recognize the land as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we reside on.”
Mayor Corrie DiManno, who was visibly emotional, said she believes the acknowledgement will be good grounding for decision-making.
“It feels like a small gesture, but it does feel really meaningful and a bit monumental having our first land acknowledgement done,” she said.
The mayor was thrilled that Ram was the first person to read it on behalf of council.
“I just see her as such a bright young woman, elected official, Indigenous woman, small business owner,” DiManno said.
“I think the future is really bright and I am really proud you were able to give the first one… I think that it feels really big.”
Randall McKay, manager of strategic initiatives and special projects for the Town of Banff, said land acknowledgements are part of moving forward on a path to reconciliation and are influenced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
He said it is important the public is educated on the significance of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and their territories and recognize the history and presence of Indigenous peoples on lands the Banff townsite is located within and on.
“Dedicating time to reflect on the truth about Canada’s colonial history and how to contribute to reconciliation offers a regular reminder that we are all accountable to these relationships as Treaty people,” McKay said. “It gives time for reflection about what has occurred in the past and what changes can be made moving forward to further the reconciliation process.”
Town of Banff staff reviewed other land acknowledgements at different levels of government, agencies, and the private sector. In addition, research has been done on the history of the area.
McKay said administration is continuing to consult with First Nations on the preparation of an Indigenous framework for Banff, which will include a series of short, medium, and long version land acknowledgements.
“The document will not be finalized until later this year,” he said.