History in the Making

Ermineskiin Fire Chief Greg Minde & daughter Jr. Princess, Kaliya Jade Minde

In the late 1870’s dwindling buffalo herds and the arrival of white settlers to the area forced the natives to retire to a reserve at Hobbema, south of Wetaskiwin. For the next 125 years the aboriginal people and the whites have co-inhabited communities adjacent to each other. This region has undergone significant changes during those years but what hasn’t changed is, we are neighbours and we are seeking opportunities to work together.†
As stated in the City of Wetaskiwin press release: †“We must all work together in harmony in order to achieve success. It’s that type of cooperation which has led the City of Wetaskiwin, the County of Wetaskiwin and the four MaskwacÓs Cree First Nations down a path which will ultimately lead to saving dignity, property and most importantly, lives.”
Barry Johnson, Fire Chief, Muskwachees Fire Department expresses his thoughts about the importance of the agreement. †“The written Mutual Aid Agreements for Fire and Disaster Services have been in the works for a long time. Prior to this we have always had verbal agreements and handshakes. I think this is the next step in our relationship with surrounding communities. This is a big step forward for our relationship with our neighbours.”
The invitation from the City of Wetaskiwin read: The City of Wetaskiwin invites you to be part of history on Saturday, October 13, and to take part in what could indeed be a trendsetting document, when dignitaries participate in the official signing of Fire and Disaster Mutual Aid Agreements. Getting to this point has taken a great deal of work, patience and respect on the part of all levels of government.†
“These agreements are the result of all six communities working hard to make the whole area safe. They are something that each community has been interested in for years and finally, as a group, we got them one. This is an important day because it shows that communities have the ability to work together for the betterment of everyone to ensure the safety for all. I am proud of all the work our staff and the staff of the other five communities have done to make sure this goes forward,” stated City of Wetaskiwin Alderman Patricia MacQuarrie, a driving force behind creating what is expected to be a lifelong partnership. “Often we let ourselves believe that cultural differences prevent us from proceeding on agreements. But these Fire and Disaster Mutual Aid Agreements show that once the conversation starts, the cultural differences are irrelevant and eventually become invisible.”
Once signed, these agreements will allow the four MaskwacÓs Cree First Nations, including Samson Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, Ermineskin Tribe and Louis Bull Tribe, along with the City of Wetaskiwin, and the County of Wetaskiwin, to coordinate disaster relief and emergency services when a situation arises.
“This event is unlike any other seen before in Wetaskiwin,” said Merlin Klassen, Chief of Wetaskiwin Fire Services. “The partnerships formed through the signing of these agreements will enhance the level of service provided not only to Wetaskiwin residents, but to everyone in the region.”†
The guests surrounded a live training exercise and demonstration at the East Fire Hall (4710 - 45 Street). The demonstration illustrated how firefighters must work as a team to be effective and safe. Mr. Klassen explained. “No matter when or where we are called we need to know who we are working with and with firefighting it’s all about trust. With the 2000 degree fire we are working with today it’s all about trust and we need to trust each other. †And the same thing with these mutual aid agreements we are signing today. It’s all about trust and working together for all our residents.”
The crowd then went into the Fire Hall and witnessed ‘History in the making’ with the signing of the official agreements between the four MaskwacÓs Cree First Nations, the City of Wetaskiwin, and the County of Wetaskiwin.†
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