COCHRANE— RCMP members from Cochrane, Canmore and the Stoney Nakoda detachments, and the Southern Alberta District Commander Trevor Daroux, gathered at the new RCMP detachment in Stoney Nakoda First Nation on Wednesday (July 14) to take part in a smudging ceremony, lead by Jackson Wesley, an elder from the community.
The RCMP recently erected a teepee in front of the detachment on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation to show its support of the culture and the community.
Wesley smudged the members of the detachment and the teepee to bring them good fortune and strength.
He explained the teepee is a powerful symbol, meant to drive away evil and darkness from the detachment and to cast a watchful gaze over the Nation from its spot on the small hill in front of the RCMP building.
Wesley said he felt it was an important step to perform the smudge ceremony and for the community to see people from different groups standing together against the damage that can be done by drugs and crime.
“I’m really happy that the RCMP are here. There’s a lot of bad things going on around here. Our young people, young as 11-years-old, they do drugs, overdose, they kill people, they kill each other. The families— Young people have good families, but when the drug dealers come here, those families turn to ashes,” he said.
It was important for him to be there and to show his support for the RCMP and their mission on the Nation, he said.
“I didn’t want to miss this, because it’s for the RCMP. I want them to be strong. That’s why I blessed everybody, especially the captains. I want them to be strong. I want to help them as much as possible. Hopefully they find whatever it is that kills our young people and generations, hopefully they stop them,” he said.
Wesley explained his attitude toward police has shifted over the course of his life.
When he was young, he was an alcoholic and hated the police he encountered. As he grew older and got sober, he realized the damage that sort of destructive behaviour can lead to.
“All of this time, the cops were my heroes. I didn’t know that, I used to hate them. But now, I see them as heroes,” he said.
Now he can see that damage taking place in his own community, he said, and he hopes members of the Nation join the RCMP in their cause.
“Hopefully they grow big, get a bigger office, my young people, the Stoney’s, become one of them and help each other and help their own people,” he said. “I want the young people to change, to become one of the RCMP. That’s my dream.”
Cochrane RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff was present at the ceremony and said it was an important step to install the teepee in front of the satellite office in Stoney Nakoda.
“When we started this Stoney Nakoda office, we thought it was important to have culturally appropriate, meaningful things that we did out here. When we acquired this teepee, we thought this would be a good first step,” he said. “We wanted to have that really strong visual. A building is wonderful but you want to have something that shows your commitment to the culture as well … I think it’s a great representation of that.”
In light of the recent discovery of the remains of children found at former Residential Schools across the country, Savinkoff said, they felt it was a good time to act as a sign of solidarity with the First Nations.
“We thought this would be kind of an important time to do something important and something very visual,” he said. “Not just erecting it, but having the elder here, and smudging it and having leadership from the RCMP here is a big step. It shows our dedication toward reconciliation and our commitment to this community.”