By Dev Kashyap, 1st Year MDP Student, University of Winnipeg
|Piapot Band Office|
As the summer has progressed for my University of Winnipeg Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) field placement, it has made me realize how quick the time has passed and how grateful I am to be working with two First Nations communities close to where I grew up in southern Saskatchewan. Now that the weather has finally gotten hot and somewhat dry, it seems a little sad that the summer has to figuratively come to an end when I am back in school in September. That being said it has been of great value to have been able to put into practice in the field, the knowledge that was gained from the eight previous months in the MDP program.
The work I have explored at Piapot First Nation in community economic development has given me insight into the opportunities and challenges available to an Indigenous community with land resources available to them. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of allowing for Aboriginal title for the Tsilhqot’in First Nation into traditional territory, hereby increasing the scope of Aboriginal Title. This may pave the way for increased opportunities not only in economic development but also in empowering Indigenous communities to be involved in resource development through effective duty to consult by government and industry under the concept of free, prior and informed consent.
It has also been interesting to be able to observe the election process in Piapot First Nation and see the transition that occurs when there is a change in band governance. I have had the honour and opportunity to sit in meetings with newly elected Chief Ira Lavallee and previous Chief and now Band Councilor Jeremy Fourhorns and observe how the transfer of knowledge occurs within the context of economic development and the teamwork required to make sound decisions that best benefits community members. With the powwow at Piapot just around the corner the first signs of fall are just around the corner in the community, which usually coincides with summer harvest.
I have the opportunity to also be involved in continuous correspondence with Ochapowace First Nation as well in helping them with their Multiyear Community Health Plan with Health Canada. They are another community going through positive transitions. They have a newly elected chief, Chief Margaret Bear, and members of Council. They have endured harsh floods in the community, displacing some 30 households, but have worked together as a community to best deal with the crisis collectively. Learning in the field makes me realize how much more I have to learn, but I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to these two communities in southern Saskatchewan, Canada.