Home All Programs Walking with Indigenous Communities ARPA’s Reconciliation Journey
Like many of us in the recreation and parks sector, the Alberta Recreation & Parks Association (ARPA) is on its own reconciliation journey with diverse Indigenous peoples and communities across Alberta. Our goal is that through our actions, as a member based organization, we demonstrate our dedication to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous communities in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.
ARPA was both privileged and honoured to open the 2022 ARPA Conference and Energize Workshop with a Blackfoot Tea Dance Ceremony. Respected Blackfoot Elders and Traditional Knowledge Holders Dr. Reg and Rose Crowshoe hosted this event with their granddaughter Karli Crowshoe as the Ceremonialist.
Dr. Crowshoe provided a lifetime opportunity for our members to be directly immersed in ceremony and in experiential learning in a safe space. To honour both the Parks Forum’s integration into the conference as well as our members’ passionate interest in the general reconciliation process, attendees discussed the role that the parks sector plays in reconciliation.
Knowing that a commitment to reconciliation is also a commitment to both people and to relationship-building, ARPA was pleased to announce it’s first-ever staff position dedicated to reconciliation. ARPA commits itself to systemic change that includes safe and welcoming spaces for staff members of diverse cultural backgrounds.
In 2022, we officially welcomed Breanna Morin as the Program Officer of Engagement & Reconciliation for ARPA’s Communities ChooseWell initiative. To learn more about Breanna’s journey to ARPA, check out this article on the CPRA Youth Mentorship program.
Under the guidance of Dr. Reg and Rose Crowshoe, esteemed Blackfoot Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers, ARPA hosted the inaugural Treaty 7 Elder Capacity Camp and Cultural Celebration. Held in August in the Kananaskis area, this camp continued Dr. Crowshoe’s work related to the important issue of increasing Elder capacity. The goal was to address the current challenges for Elders surrounding COVID-19 but also the impacts of both intergenerational trauma and the Residential School legacy.
The Treaty 7 Elder Capacity Camp included sessions that: introduced protocols around ceremony from Nations from across Alberta; explored common practices around smudge and creation stories; celebrated Indigenous culture through song and dance; allowed networking, idea creation, and strategic planning for the future as well as Elder succession planning.
Hearing that Elders and Knowledge Keepers in the Treaty 7 area wanted to come together with other Elders from around the world to connect, share stories, and make sense of COVID and its impacts, ARPA and World Urban Parks (WUP) collaborated again with Dr. Reg and Rose Crowshoe to organize a 2-day virtual International Elders’ Circle. Meant as a safe space defined by Indigenous ways of knowing and knowledge translation, these virtual Circles brought international Knowledge Keepers together in Zoom with the sole purpose of increasing Elder capacity and increasing their well being.
Held at the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary’s Camp Adventure site in Kananaskis, the Okotok Indigenous River Camp brings together urban-based Indigenous youth with multi-Nation Elders from across the province. This multi-day event focuses on learnings from the land with teachings centered on ceremony and protocol, traditional activities, and opportunities for one-on-one mentoring.
This initiative, which took place from 2018 – 2020 (inclusively), was organized in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary’s Indigenous Initiatives, Miskanawah, and, of course, the Elders who very generously guide the way. The Okotok Indigenous River Camp has, as of 2021, now been transferred to Trellis who will take over full fiscal and organizational responsibility for the camp.
ARPA, through its Communities ChooseWell initiative, works together with Dr. Reg and Rose Crowshoe and community to explore questions of diversity as related to health. Using a Blackfoot Tea Dance Ceremony, Dr. Crowshoe creates a safe and ethical space that allows participants to explore how ideas surrounding diversity, wellness, and the creation of healthy communities can interconnect and grow together.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 at the ARPA Conference in Jasper, Alberta, Siksika Health Services (SHS) and ARPA sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize their important partnership. This historic event marks ARPA’s first ever MOU signing with an Indigenous community in its nearly 70 years of existence. Both parties are proud and honoured to embark on this monumental journey together.
Inspired by the idea of collaboration, ARPA works together with Dr. Reg and Rose Crowshoe to bring together a group of Treaty 7 Elders, as well as urban Elders from Calgary, to discuss Indigenous concepts surrounding our parks. These discussions will be related not only to conservation but also to the cultural and the spiritual significance of the land. This Elders Circle on Parks was part of ARPA’s Parks Forum.
Using proper protocols, ARPA approaches Blackfoot singer and drummer, Spike Eaglespeaker Jr, to create a Blackfoot Honour Song for the organization. He accepts. This song was then transferred to ARPA through ceremony in January of 2018 by Spike Eaglespeaker Sr. ARPA now uses this song to mark important occasions for the organization as well as to celebrate award winners and exemplary members of the community.
Dr. Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, launches the new Reconciliation Stream at the annual ARPA Conference and Energize Workshop with a Keynote on “Reconciliation and the Recreation and Parks Sectors”. This year was then followed up with Keynotes from Elder Doreen Spence (on United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) as well as on “The Creation of Ethical Spaces” with Elders Reg and Rose Crowshoe.
ARPA’s Environmental Scan: “The Way We Walk In Life” is commissioned using a grant from the Calgary Foundation. The purpose of this scan is to explore how ARPA can strengthen its relationship with Indigenous communities from across the province. This was completed by consultants Sharon and Adrian Goulet of Mahegun Tails Inc. and sets the path forward for ARPA’s reconciliatory journey.
The Alberta Recreation & Parks Association would like to acknowledge the First Nations, the Métis, and all of the people across Alberta who share a history and a deep connection with this land. We dedicate ourselves to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous communities in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.