Consulting Alberta’s Aboriginal Communities

My name is Laura Golebiowski and I am pleased to introduce myself as one of the branch’s Aboriginal Consultation Advisors. If you read RETROactive regularly, you know about the work of my colleagues in the Archaeology, Land Use Planning and Historic Places Stewardship sections. I’d like to introduce you to the work of the Aboriginal Heritage Section.

The Aboriginal Heritage Section works with Aboriginal communities to help preserve and protect traditional use sites of a historical nature. Traditional use sites may include historic cabins, campsites, burials, plant or mineral harvesting areas, as well as ceremonial or spiritual sites. Well-known Provincial Historic Resources such as the Viking Ribstones Archaeological Site or Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump also have present-day significance to some Aboriginal communities.

Traditional use sites, along with archaeological, palaeontological and historic structures, are recorded in the Listing of Historic Resources—a regularly-updated database intended as a tool for developers to determine if lands contain or have high potential to contain historic resources.

Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of traditional use sites, the Listing identifies a 360-acre buffer area around each recorded feature, rather than providing the exact site location. This ensures that our team learns of any proposed development which may potentially impact known sites and can therefore provide further direction to the developer. Under the Historical Resources Act, we can order a developer to avoid a known traditional use site, or consult with the affected First Nation on ways to mitigate the damage.

The Historical Resources Management Branch strives to build relationships with the Aboriginal communities in Alberta and that’s the bulk of what I do. The Aboriginal Heritage Section works hard to balance our regulatory responsibilities with outreach efforts and field work (which is the fun parts!). Our role in the branch is really to provide a service and a tool for First Nations in the protection of their cultural sites. We meet with communities to explain how the Listing works and how the inclusion of their traditional use sites could protect them. We field-verify known sites with community representatives to ensure information and locations are accurate. We engage with various communities to ensure that Aboriginal perspectives are incorporated into the interpretation of Alberta’s historic resources. My colleagues and I fight over who gets to take the blue jeep versus who gets to take the red jeep into the field. This is our ‘daily grind’—and we love it.

For me, the joy in this job is recognizing that traditional use sites can be both ancient and contemporary—they can be locations or sites that are actively used today, just as they have been for thousands of years. It is remarkable to visit a medicine wheel that dates back thousands of years and see new blankets and offerings placed at it. Helping to protect these places, so that these practices can continue, is something the Aboriginal Heritage Section is very happy to do.

Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisor.

3 comments

  1. Hello Laura:
    I just read your post and I think that what your doing is very good for the First Nation communities but I have to ask you. What about the Metis Communities???

    1. Pauline,

      Laura’s away today, so I’m going to try and answer your question on her behalf.

      To date, there is only the Government of Alberta’s Policy on Consultation with First Nations on Land and Natural Resource Management, 2013. Although the Government of Alberta does not have a consultation policy for Métis communities at the moment, work is currently underway towards creating such a policy for the Métis Settlements and the Métis Nation of Alberta.

      Through our existing regulatory process the Aboriginal Heritage Section still works with Métis communities to protect historic resources such as cabin sites, burials, and historic settlements. The Aboriginal Heritage Section also conducts field work and outreach with Métis communities in support of heritage initiatives.

      Michael

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