File: Wilton Littlechild, grand chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.
Larry Wong / Edmonton Journal
One of Canada’s top First Nations leaders and a global expert on Indigenous issues is calling on the UCP to reverse its decision to make Indigenous land acknowledgements optional at government events, deeming it a “serious mistake.”Dr. Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief of Treaty No. 6 and a former Conservative MP, is “disheartened” that acknowledging Indigenous land and treaty is now a matter of “personal preference” according to UCP Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.“I think it’s a very serious mistake and sets back all the good-faith efforts by many across Alberta who have advanced reconciliation by this simple gesture of acknowledging the historical fact that treaty territories existed before Alberta became a province,” said Littlechild, who is a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation and a former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, in a statement from the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations on Tuesday.Land acknowledgments — statements recognizing the historic and ongoing presence and connection of different First Nations and Métis to the land — were made at nearly all government events under the NDP. They also acknowledge treaties between First Nations and the Crown. Alberta is located on Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8 territory.Littlechild and former NDP Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan agree that land acknowledgments are important parts of “the very basis” of understanding between Indigenous peoples and the Crown.According to Littlechild, the decision is “not being well received” by Maskwacis Cree leaders in Wilson’s own constituency.“I would urge both Premier Kenney and Minister Wilson to re-think this decision and withdraw it if they are serious about wanting to work with us as partners,” said Littlechild.