by Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On Feb. 23, the Siksika Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Alberta Health Services that commits to improving health services for Siksika members.
The relationship agreement is aimed at understanding, addressing and preventing inequities in health services, policies and programs for nation members.
“The MOU forges a strong relationship and partnership model between Alberta Health and Siksika Nation that will give the Nation increased control and access to quality health services, and an opportunity for government to explore innovative health services with a First Nation partner,” said the Siksika Nation is a press release.
Tyler Shandro, Minsiter of Health stated, “By creating meaningful relationships and listening to our Indigenous partners, I am confident we can work collaboratively with Siksika Nation to ensure community members can access culturally appropriate health services where and when they need them, both on and off reserve.”
The Memorandum, which is also known as a relationship agreement, is the first agreement in Alberta history to include the Blackfoot language. It is working to eliminate racism and bring positive, transformative change to the health care for Siksika.
The agreement acknowledges Siksika Nations Elders’ Guiding principles, said the press release.
The agreement includes commitments to:
- Pursue a lasting and cooperative relationship;
- Acknowledge that the status quo is not acceptable;
- Commit to bringing about positive and transformative change in healthcare and socioeconomic outcomes for Siksika;
- Reduce jurisdictional uncertainty;
- Address social and economic determinants of health;
- Eliminate systemic racism within the healthcare system in Alberta, where it exists, and ensure that Siksika members are provided culturally safe healthcare services.
Nioksskaistamik, Chief Ouray Crowfoot, Siksika Nation, said that the “tremendous strength of Siksika Nation is its extensive and effective range of health services. This Relationship Agreement with Alberta Health will further empower Siksika Nation to deliver comprehensive programming and services that are holistic, community-based, and put the health and wellness needs of Siksikawa first.
“Today’s signing represents an important step forward in Siksika Nation’s relationship with Alberta Health as we endeavour together towards equitable health outcomes.”
“At all times, and particularly throughout the pandemic over the past year, Siksika has worked hard to make sure our people are taken care of, and also to take care of our neighbours. This has been a real priority for Siksika Nation: to be intentional about creating relationships that are of mutual benefit. This agreement we are signing today is one such example,” said Chief Crowfoot.
As part of the relationship between the Siksika Nation, Elder Clement Leather gifted Minister Shandro with a Blackfoot name of great significance: Ksiistsikomipi’kssii (pronounced: KSIS-TSII-KO-MII-PIIK-SI), which means Thunderbird.
“Around this time next month is when we hear first thunder,” said Elder Clement Leather. “This is when our spiritual people start preparing themselves for ceremony; first thunder is like a wakeup call for people to get ready for what’s to come.”
Siksika Councilor, Kent Ayoungman provided context: “Our people have a strong kinship with the whole of our surroundings, with creation. In today’s ceremony, blessings are going to be asked for by the Elder; he is going to call on this special kinship to honour you with a name today. For our people this is very important, it is one of the highest honours a person can receive. Given your work alongside our people here in Siksika, this is why we have chosen to give you a Blackfoot name today.”
Shandro, said he felt honoured to be gifted with his new Blackfoot Name.
“It’s an amazing honour,” he said. “I didn’t know this was going to be happening today. I don’t have any words to describe it, but it is an incredible honour that I can’t put words to.”
The Siksika Nation , a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy, is located one hour east of Calgary, Alberta.