- Category: news
- Created: Friday, 20 September 2013 14:01
- Published: Friday, 20 September 2013 14:01
- Written by Administrator 3
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BY JAMIE KOMARNICKI, CALGARY HERALD
New hope for a southwest Calgary ring road deal is reigniting the old debate among Tsuu T’ina Nation band members about the merits of giving up land versus economic development on the reserve.
Band leaders remained tight-lipped Thursday about the tentative deal with the province, saying they prefer to let Tsuu T’ina voters debate the agreement privately before making their choice next month.
“We’re not going to debate this in the public,” spokesman Peter Manywounds said Thursday.
“We need to have a free discussion within the community.”
Chief Roy Whitney will make a statement once the vote is finished, Manywounds added.
But a senior band source said the climate around negotiations has changed since the last deal came together in 2009, and news of the potential agreement has band members abuzz.
He credited Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s welcoming nature with improving relations with Tsuu T’ina and helping smooth the way for negotiations.
“Mayor Nenshi has improved relations between the nation and the city a hundred-fold, actually, a thousand-fold,” the source said, noting Nenshi has attended several celebrations on the reserve.
“He’s opened the door. Just that gesture is huge.”
About 1,000 band members are eligible to cast a vote next month.
Debate over the ring road remains highly charged within the First Nation, which has a population of roughly 2,000.
Cory Cardinal, who grew up on the reserve, said his mother’s home would have to be demolished to make way for the development.
Though not a voting Tsuu T’ina member himself, Cardinal said he opposes an agreement that would see Tsuu T’ina give up land.
But he fears the latest round of talks will once again expose band members to racism, noting the backlash was particularly vitriolic when the 2009 deal was shot down and emotions remain high.
“They’re not driven by money. It’s not a money thing. A lot of the no (vote) is, they feel connected to that land and it’s very personal,” Cardinal said.
“Every time the ring road comes up, everybody blames the Indians for no freeway.”
He said the development could cement over burial sites where his Tsuu T’ina ancestors are buried.
“Nobody wants a freeway through their family’s graveyard or through their own backyard.”
Former band council member Traves Meguinis said the merits of a ring road deal include economic development that could lead to a secure financial future for next generations.
“If done and planned in the right way, in a holistic approach, the Nation will prosper as a whole,” said Meguinis.
Negotiating giving up land to make way for the freeway, however, is one of the most contentious parts of the deal, he added.
“I pray everything turns out positive for our people, no matter how this thing goes,” said Meguinis.