Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Indigenous Development in Canada - Notes from Treaty 4 in southern Saskatchewan

By Dev Kashyap, 1st Year MDP Student

When I first started considering options for my University of Winnipeg Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) field placement it didn’t take me long to realize that for my domestic placement I wanted to apply what I had learned in a community or in communities that I had an existing connection within Treaty 4 of southern Saskatchewan, Canada. There were no other prospects that made me prouder; contributing and applying my knowledge to Canadian Indigenous communities in the mantra of “tending to your own backyard, before tending to the needs of your neighbour’s”.  I am proud to be doing my field placement in the community that was home to my Elder and “uncle” Art Kaiswatum, Piapot First Nation.

Road to Piapot First Nation

My field placement has allowed me to strengthen ties to a community close to where I grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan. I have come to understand and learn about the different aspects of development within Saskatchewan Plains Cree communities, focusing on economic development. In particular, my work has drawn me to learn about economic development as it relates to Piapot First Nation’s urban reserve in the city of Regina, and the different options available to the community as part of an effective and sustainable  long-term economic development strategy.

It is important to remember when working in development that things in the “real world” don’t revolve around the institution’s agenda and timeline. Things unfold in the developmental process around the needs, situation and pace of the communities for whom the efforts are intended. This has been an important reminder on my domestic field placement so far. It has helped maintain a good working relationship with Piapot First Nation, in terms of understanding  why objectives and timelines have been difficult to adhere to, and understandably so: Band elections were in the middle of my scheduled field placement.

It has been important to remain patient and overlook my own academic requirements and allow the community to move through the often intense process of political change through the democratic process. The challenge of uncertainty in terms of working within a time constraint has developed into an opportunity to spread my wings, and utilize my family’s network to take on additional work in the area of health with Ochapowace First Nation, also in Treaty 4. This opportunity utilizes my previous work experience to assist a community that has just gone through political change at the band governance level and is working to evolve it’s relationship with Health Canada in terms of health funding on-reserve. I am excited to be a part of the process in the coming weeks.


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