The youngest council member for Ochapowace Nation, Albert George, turns his attention to the front of the room, fully engaged in celebrating the achievement of Chief Ross Allary. The first of seven Ochapowace council members to accept the Certificate of Indigenous Leadership, Governance, and Management Excellence at The Banff Centre, Chief Allary steps to the front wearing full ceremonial headdress. He accepts the congratulations of the room and says a few words of thanks to his fellow council members, his community back home, and the many Indigenous people he’s met in the six programs he has completed.
The Ochapowace Nation made a decision to embark together on the six-program Certificate path to honour the vision set out by the late Ochapowace Chief Denton George, Albert’s father, whose 20 years in leadership had stood for fulfillment of treaty, and his Nation’s inherent right to self-governance. Chief Denton George died at age 58 in 2009. “He was the one who had kept us united in our community,” said band council member Geraldine Bear. “With his passing, we knew it was time to focus on our constitution and our laws, and reorganizing our nation.”
Geraldine has found that Chief Denton George’s lessons and vision were more deeply ingrained than she had even thought possible. “As younger councillors, we’d heard the words (about inherent right and self-governance), but never really knew how do we get there, what does that mean for us. Yet when faculty talked about it in the programs, we knew it, it was already there, it was ingrained in us ever since we were young people.”