Re-elected Chiniki First Nation Chief Aaron Young speaks at the inauguration of Chiniki First Nation chief and council at the Bearspaw Youth Centre in Mînî Thnî (Morley) on Friday (March 8).Jungmin Ham/Rocky Mountain Outlook

Chiniki First Nation’s elected officials are emphasizing the importance of collaboration between provincial, federal, and tribal governments to enhance community well-being over the next three years in office.

The inauguration of chief and council was celebrated with traditional dance, song and speeches – in Stoney and English – at the Bearspaw Youth Centre Friday (March 8), three months after Nation members re-elected Chief Aaron Young, Couns. Boyd Wesley, Verna Powderface and Charles Mark, along with newly elected Coun. Darius Chiniquay.

“Today, I will do the best that I can, and I know I have. It’s not about the matter of how many times we have been in office, but to be proud of the collective approach, the wholistic approach of each and every one of us in coming together to make sure our vision is carried,” said Young to those in attendance.

“I’m proud to be Chiniki First Nation, I’m proud to be Stoney and I’m proud to be human.”

While speeches given in English did not touch on issues of importance in this term, Young told the Outlook following the Chiniki election in December 2023 that council’s focus is on development and investing in community members, specifically with housing.

“We are in talks with both governments (provincial and federal) and hopefully we can build more homes soon so that each family, especially the new ones, have a home base they can start from,” he said.

The grand entry procession makes their way into the hall during the inauguration of the Chiniki First Nation of chief and council at Bearspaw Youth Centre in Mînî Thnî (Morley) on Friday (March 8). From left: Bearspaw Nation Chief Darcy Dixon, Chiniki First Nation Chief Aaron Young and Goodstoney First Nation Chief Clifford Poucette. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

Chiniki council makes up one-third of Stoney Tribal Council, which also consists of chiefs and councillors with Goodstoney and Bearspaw First Nations. All three Nations have recently reported housing shortages, with each having waitlists for new housing of around 200 people.

According to a forthcoming study by the Assembly of First Nations and Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations reserves require $135 billion to address housing deficiencies across the country.

This year, 15 new affordable homes are being built for Chiniki First Nation through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative. Last year, 40 homes were added in Mînî Thnî through the program. Through three rounds of the program, $4 billion in federal funds has been allocated for the development of over 15,000 new affordable homes across Canada, but local officials say this is only a fraction of what’s needed to address often overcrowded homes and resulting health and social issues.

Statistics Canada reported over one in six Indigenous peoples was living in crowded housing in 2021. Though the gap narrowed slightly between 2016 and 2021, Indigenous peoples are also almost twice as likely to live in crowded housing, at 17.1 per cent, than non-Indigenous peoples, at 9.4 per cent. Many are also living in dwellings in need of major repairs.

To tackle the issue, Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation is undertaking a feasibility study for lands around the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino, with plans to potentially build more housing there, along with a public transportation hub and other amenities, including retail and entertainment.

“We want to focus on making developments family-oriented and for the community especially, so they can prosper and we can make these resources available to each and everyone,” said Young in a previous interview with the Outlook.

“Our main focus is investing in our future and that’s our people for sure.”

By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 15, 2024 at 12:44

This item reprinted with permission from   Rocky Mountain Outlook   Canmore, Alberta
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