Dr. J. Wilton Littlechild C.M., Q.C. swears in the new Ermineskin Chief Graig Makinaw.
Arriving at the Ermineskin Elders Centre early on a sunny, but cool fall-like morning on October 3, 2011 one was greeted with a welcoming aroma of a wood burning fire. Upon entering a meeting room in the Centre, the source was identified as there was a comforting sound of crackling of burning wood in a fireplace. Sitting around the meeting room were several men anxiously awaiting an important event, the Pipe Ceremony and the Swearing-in Ceremony of a new Chief and 4 Council members.
This important day began with traditional prayers and pipe ceremony led by an Elder in their traditional language and summarized in English. Following the pipe ceremony the room quickly filled with family, friends and guests. Randy Littlechild, MC for the Swearing-in Ceremony welcomed everyone on this special occasion, acknowledged the special guests and introduced Dr. J. Wilton Littlechild C.M., Q.C..
Dr. Wilton Littlechild, or “Willie”as he is known by most, was given the responsibility of officiating the Swearing-in Ceremony. Although Mr. Littlechild is known and respected worldwide for his leadership and accomplishments on Indigenous Issues he is also remembered and respected locally for graduating from the Ermineskin School, serving on the Ermineskin Cree Nation Council and serving as M.P. for Wetaskiwin.
Dr. Littlechild opened the Swearing-in Ceremony by addressing the crowd and offering examples of their heritage that illustrated its importance to their culture now and in the future. He stressed the need to respect their heritage and offered words of wisdom reminding the participants and the guests of the responsibility of bringing those values to the next generation. One-by-one MC Randy Littlechild called the incoming Chief and Councillors to the front to be inducted with the Oath of Office by Dr. Wilton Littlechild. Chief, Craig Makinaw, Councillors Daniel Makinaw, Samuel Minde, S. Collin Wildcat, Conrad Young.
The official Ceremony closed with a traditional song performed by the drum group, Perfect Storm, to honour the new Chief, Councillors and guests.
Attending this important event was Mayor Bill Elliot of Wetaskiwin. Mayor Elliott’s attendance clearly showed his commitment to the importance of sharing a progressively better relationship between the Four Nations and Wetaskiwin. The welcome offered to the Mayor by the new Chief and Council and the people of Ermineskin is a clear indication of their willingness to reciprocate.
Makinaw will rely heavily on his 18 years of past experience on Council. Commenting on the youthfulness of the new Council, the Chief surmised, “With 4 of the 5 Councillors being new, it will be a learning curve for a while.” One of the major challenges identified by the Chief is “getting the reserve back to where it was before and looking at all areas so we can work together to improve things for ourselves in Ermineskin, now and in future. Our financial state is not bad but can be better. We used to be one of the top bands financially and that’s where I would like to be. Back to where we were then. That is one of my goals to bring us back to that level where we were looked at one of the top bands in Canada, financially.”
He went on to explain why he thought so many young Councillors won the election. “Seems to be a trend towards younger Council members. (referring to the recent election in Samson). They are using technology and the population is getting younger. Most of our population is 18-35 years of age so they are now the main voters. It’s shifting now so now they have more say in what they want us to do.”
Following a lengthy campaign, Chief Makinaw was successful in convincing the Ermineskin community of 3700 people of the importance of having a focus on key areas he identified:
1. Housing 2. Finance 3. Programs for youth 4. Economic Development 5. Education 6. Employment
“Now (as Chief) I can get a chance to talk to people and tell them my thoughts and ideas and talk to Council and Elders and see what they think and to work together. We will have more planning more decision making, more talking to members more involvement, and always looking at the overall big picture.”
“We have a great heritage and need to keep it going and strengthen it. We need to keep the respect for the tradition and the Elders and need to keep the mutual respect between the Elders and Council going.”
He closed by saying, “Today is a good day with the new Council and myself coming in and all the visitors here. It’s an honour for all to be here today for the ceremony and having the Elders bearing witness to our swearing in. A good day.”