Throughout the development of the Framework we needed to ensure there was a balance between following established City processes and applying an Indigenous approach to this work. To ensure our process reflected Indigenous cultural practices and knowledge, we worked with Indigenous thought leaders and sought out Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers from Nations in Treaties 6, 7, and 8, Métis, and Inuit communities. The content below showcases some of the ways that we have embedded Indigenous culture and world views into the Framework.
Wahigicicobi: Kinship Relationships
At our inaugural Elders and Knowledge Keepers gathering in March 2019, the Elders determined a need to have a ceremony to officially begin this work. Collectively, these Elders selected two from amongst themselves to lead the City of Edmonton in a pipe ceremony. Through this ceremony came a guiding concept for our service to, and relationship with, Indigenous Peoples on this land: Wahigicicobi (wah-hee-gee-chee-cho-bee), a Iethka Nakoda word, meaning “kinship relationships.”
Elders also shared with us the nêhiyaw (Cree) concept of wâhkôhtowin (Wah-KOH-toh-win), also referring to kinship and all of our interconnected relationships. They spoke of the vastness of wahigicicobi and wâhkôhtowin, referring to our interconnected relationships with Mother Earth and all beings. With these relationships comes our shared responsibilities to one another and all beings. The principle of kinship has deep roots and denotes so much more than a relationship. Kinship is about interconnection and all individuals’ responsibilities in a mutual relationship, including honour and respect.
Indigenous art helps tell stories, starts conversations, and makes us look beyond our own experiences to better understand the lives, experiences, and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers challenged City staff to move out of their heads and to their hearts. They suggested the City engage Indigenous artists to help us connect to our human side of empathy and compassion.
Indigenous artists Lana Whiskeyjack, Brad Crowfoot, Dawn Marie Marchand, and MJ Belcourt, were commissioned to create art pieces that captured conversations at the 2019 community engagement events. Each artist attended one community engagement event to listen and learn from community members, and the stories they shared inspired these art pieces. They all created a different piece of art that is reflective of the overall intent and the spirit of the framework. Graphic designer Tashina Makokis created the logo and designed materials for the Indigenous Framework.
City staff will have the opportunity to listen to, learn from, and engage with Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, allies and partners who have been involved with the development and implementation of the Framework. As a means to start personal journeys in learning from head, heart, and hands, and to connect in the midst of the pandemic, these sessions will be offered throughout the year and made available to watch for future reference.