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Journey to Reconciliation

ACWS is committed to reconciliation and building relationships with Indigenous communities. Through collaboration with community leaders, Elders, activists, and on-reserve shelters, ACWS has developed curriculum, tools, and land acknowledgments to facilitate greater understanding of Indigenous history and culture.

Photo (left to right): Marion Buller, former Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Ruth Scalplock, Honorary Member and Elder, Roxanne Blood, former ACWS project staff, and Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse, executive director of Natamoowin, Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation.


"Let us put our minds together to see what kind of a future we can build."

– Chief Sitting Bull, Lakota Elder

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous people, and the safety of Indigenous women, their families and their communities. We are committed to ensuring that Indigenous voices are heard, considered and inform decision-making processes at ACWS.

ACWS will never simply make statements about reconciliation. We will take action.

From 2016 – 2019, ACWS worked to create a Statement of Principles and Values, and an associated action plan, that informs our relationships with First Nations shelters and Indigenous women and their families. We worked in collaboration with our on-reserve shelter members, their staff, band council and board members, the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association.  We are deeply appreciative of their time, thoughts and suggestions on how to move forward.  The document was further reviewed by the ACWS board and all ACWS Members.

The full Statement of Principles and Values can be read here: Statement of Principles and ValuesAt the core of this document is a basic tenet: We must always treat each other with honesty, respect and kindness.

In a society where colonialism continues to harm Indigenous women and their families, we know we must take specific actions to undo that harm. Our statement acknowledges the traditional place that Indigenous women and children have at the centre of our communities. And we state our commitment to seek, honour and respect the wisdom of Indigenous Elders to guide us in our services. These are just some of the principles that guide our work at ACWS.

Our Commitments to Action can be read in full here: Commitments to Action. We know this is a work in progress that requires continuous updates as we work towards a just and caring future. Our progress is reviewed each year in the ACWS annual report.

Every day, ACWS will stand up against racism and discrimination against Indigenous women. We will work alongside, and offer support, to our Indigenous sisters to end violence against Indigenous women.

We would like to thank Alberta Community and Social Services, who helped get us set a course of action by funding the Building Shelter Capacity to Work with Aboriginal Communities and Lewis Cardinal, Mary McDermott, and Roxane Blood who guided us as we furthered our action plan.

Walking the Path Together

Using a wholistic approach, Eagle Feather Workers from shelters in Alberta provide one-on-one and group support to children and their families who have lived with violence.

Why we do Treaty Acknowledgments

by Lewis Cardinal

By acknowledging treaty, we are acknowledging a very special and sacred relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canadians. It goes beyond the recognition that we are on Treaty lands, such as “We acknowledge we are on Treaty 6 Territory.” Our acknowledgment brings us to the most important part of treaty relations from an Indigenous understanding, which is the kinship ceremony and familial relationship that is meant to bring all Canadians and Indigenous peoples together in good relations.

From the Canadian legal perspective making Treaty, and the Treaties, is the bedrock of the Canadian nation-state. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is the legal corner stone that first defined the treaty making process in British North America. It legally recognizes Indigenous peoples as nations and that the relationship between the Crown and Indigenous nations is a “nation to nation” relationship. Canada cannot exist as an international state unless, as the 1763 Royal Proclamation states, it “treats with” Indigenous peoples as it defines and expands its geopolitical boundaries.

The Royal Proclamation also recognizes that only Indigenous nations and the Crown can enter into treaty making to acquire access to Indigenous territories. It also recognizes that Indigenous nations have “Aboriginal title” and rights to public lands in Canada. Therefore, requiring the Crown to ensure that Indigenous nations are meaningfully consulted on commercial and governmental developments on traditional Indigenous territories. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly upheld and defined the concept of “Aboriginal title” and rights of Indigenous peoples as nations.

While the legal foundation of treaties is well established and constitutionally protected through Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada, the perspective of Treaty as a relationship document is largely forgotten even though considered equally important as its legal definition. The process of treaty making as a kinship ceremony brings much more depth to what treaty means not only as a legal agreement, however, as a sacred relationship between nations. In this respect, Treaties are seen as adoption ceremonies between nations. When Indigenous nations signed treaty, they had also adopted Canada and Canadians as family: as sisters and brothers. Treaties are revered as a sacred covenant based on family trust, sharing, and mutual prosperity.

We are all treaty people. As Canada enters the Age of Reconciliation, acknowledging treaty is an act of honoring the unique and powerful relationship that lies at the heart of Canada. It becomes the first demonstration of respect for Indigenous peoples. It also creates for us another way in which to see our individual roles and obligations of respect for each other in a familial way. It is felt by many that reconciliation is not just settling outstanding legal matters or history, but more importantly how each Canadian today has a role to practice good relations. Treaty becomes more of a verb than a noun. Treaty is respect, honour, sharing, and trust in action. Ultimately, this knowledge of treaty is not limited to the Canadian-Indigenous relationship, but it is also a gift for all Canadians in how we can treat each other as family.



Traditional Land Acknowledgments

ACWS acknowledges the traditional lands upon which we live, work, and play. We recognize that all Albertans are Treaty people and have a responsibility to understand our history so that we can learn from the past, be aware of the present, and create a just and caring future. ACWS celebrates and values the resiliency, successes, and teachings that Indigenous people have shown us, as well as the unique contributions of every Albertan.  

The ACWS office is located on Treaty 6 land in Amiskwacîwâskahikan, which is the traditional territory of the Plains Cree and an ancient gathering place of many Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. These lands have also been home to, and a central trading place of, the Blackfoot, Nakota, Assiniboine, Dene, the Métis people of western Canada, and the home of one of the largest communities of Inuit south of the 60th parallel. 

We honour the courage and strength of Indigenous women. We honour them as life givers and care givers as we honour and learn from their continuing achievements, their consistent strength, and their remarkable endurance.  

Our members serve all nations and all peoples. They are located on Treaty 4, 6, 7, and 8 lands across this province which include the six Métis regions of Alberta. 

On Reserve Member Recognition

These acknowledgments are a result of guidance from ACWS members and former members from Kainai, Bigstone, Sucker Creek and Ermineskin First Nations. Together we developed a statement of principles and values, which included that ACWS would “Respect and acknowledge the traditional Indigenous territories and treaties that are at the foundation of the Province of Alberta.” Our action plan was to develop a statement of respect and acknowledgments for the purposes of being read at all ACWS gatherings and meetings and be included in our website and printed materials. We are pleased to share the results of this work with all of our members.

Read the full document here: Treaty Acknowledgements



An Evening with Marion Buller

Marion Buller, former Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, joined us in Edmonton in 2019 to share her learnings and what the public can do to advance the Calls for Justice. Watch Buller’s presentation here.