The Dene Tha’ First Nation (DTFN) and Town of High Level (TOHL) have formalized their collaborative partnership by signing of a historic friendship agreement.
The official signing took place on Saturday, August 27, in the community of Bushe River as part of the 2022 Dene Tha’ First Nation Welcome Back Gathering.
The agreement recognizes the Dene Tha’ First Nation and Town of High Level as partners with shared principals, vision and purpose. It also lays out the process for which this official friendship agreement will allow both partners to commit to shared regional goals.
“I’m very proud of the signing of this friendship agreement,” said Mayor Crystal McAteer. “The Town of High Level feels it is well positioned to exemplify what it means to uphold the honour of the Crown. We are deeply committed to forging a reciprocal relationship with the Dene people—including the duty to consult.”
The signing of this friendship agreement, the first of its kind between the Town of High Level and Dene Tha’ First Nation, has been a long time coming. Discussions regarding an agreement have been in the works since 2016.
Both the DTFN and TOHL felt strongly that, as neighbours, it was time to deepen and formalize their relationship. It was understood that to create this mutually beneficial and respectful relationship, the Town needed to learn from their DTFN neighbours. This included lessons about Dene laws and governance practices.
Back in May 2021, the Dene Tha’ First Nation and Town of High Level completed the First Nation-Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI) program, which provided the partnership with third-party neutral facilitation, monthly working group and sub-committee meetings, bi-annual workshops, and joint strategic and work planning design.
Over the past three years, the DTFN and TOHL partnership has established a working group that includes elected officials and staff. This working group has identified shared priorities and advanced three joint initiatives, which include the following:
a waterline connection between Town of High Level and Bushe River and a feasibility study for wastewater infrastructure at Bushe River,
a joint emergency plan for Bushe River, Meander River, Chateh and High Level, and
a multipurpose evacuation centre.