The City of Grande Prairie has found its Indigenous Relations advisor in Warren Nekurak.
The role is meant to provide cultural expertise, consultation, and guidance so the city can work toward its commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action.
“The indigenous relations advisor is going to play a key role as part of building an inclusive and caring community,” city mayor Jackie Clayton told Town & Country News.
“We're really looking forward to working on the Truth and Reconciliation calls but also aligning with council's priorities.”
She noted the position is becoming more common in bigger municipalities but will play a key role in “building an inclusive and caring community.”
Nekurak comes from the Saulteaux First Nation in Treaty 6 in Saskatchewan.
“I am passionate about truth and reconciliation and indigenous rights ever since high school,” said Nekurak.
“I was selected to go to the United Nations (youth conference) in Geneva, Switzerland to speak on behalf of indigenous knowledge in a modern day society and its importance.”
Nekurak holds a bachelor's in education from the University of Saskatchewan in the Indian Teacher Education program.
“We learned about the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and how to implement that in our classroom and also create a culture within our organization of the schools.”
The role will focus on advising and developing corporate strategies and processes, along with helping the city with external stakeholder meetings and organizations, said Clayton.
She noted the role could also help build indigenous-related initiatives and reconciliation frameworks.
“I'm really looking forward to this indigenous lens being applied to the work of the municipality and what they bring back to the organization and to council in consideration,” said Clayton.
Meanwhile, city coun. Chris Thiessen said he was looking to Nekurak to “better advise us, inform us and educate us on how we can achieve some of the calls to action and move towards truth and reconciliation in our own community.”
City coun. Wendy Bosch asked if Nekurak would be involved in advising with the housing and homelessness issues in Grande Prairie, which she says sees a high number of indigenous people.
Nekurak said he hopes his work affects those areas in a positive way.
“It comes down to acknowledgement of traumas, acknowledgement of issues that have happened in the past and then moving forward in a good way by bringing forth cultural understanding and sensitivities to these matters, and just bring forth the positive implementation of the culture and recognition and seamless indigenous engagement to Grande Prairie,” he said.
The new city position was brought to council in Sept. 2020 when Len Auger asked council that the city hire an indigenous person to better communicate and help build and maintain relationships with the city.
“I think there's a wonderful story here in Grande Prairie for indigenous relations. And I'm really excited to tap into that resource and share that with everyone,” said Nekurak.
Coun. Dylan Bressey noted the uniqueness of the position with council directing administration to make the position they saw was needed in the city.
Watch Town & Country News for an interview with the city’s new Indigenous Relations advisor in an upcoming issue.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News