The Government of Canada and the Blood Tribe signed a memorandum of understanding on reconciliation (MOU) in Lethbridge on Thursday.
The move was seen by some as a critical step to helping the nations forge a new path forward.
“I think it is one of the few instances where the federal government and [a] First Nation can truly begin to understand and appreciate each other,” said Roy Fox, chief of the Blood Tribe.
Developed by the two parties, the MOU is billed as a document that stands for a commitment and dedication to co-operation for addressing the First Nation’s needs while strengthening the Treaty 7 agreement, which was first signed in 1877.
“It’s creating the space for us to get out of the way,” said Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, “so that the leadership can run their own communities and be in charge of their own people and their own land.”
The road to reconciliation has been a long one and there are still many issues to be settled. For example, a federal court case is currently in the process of hearing arguments over Blackfoot land disputes.
The so-called Big Claim case has the Blood Tribe claiming it is owed another 265 square kilometres under Treaty 7, which the federal government disputes.
However, in light of these differences, officials on both sides said they hope this new step will mark a significant turning point in opening the lines of communication.
“We’ve tried to resolve it, we’ve tried to come to terms with our big land claim, but we haven’t been able to,” Fox said. “So hopefully these discussions might encourage some renewed negotiations.”
Both sides said they were optimistic the new MOU would improve their relationship and hopefully help to close socio-economic gaps.