The Stoney Nakoda Nation and Town of Cochrane have been selected as one of the eight new participants in the Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI).

It's a national program delivered jointly by the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

CEDI seeks to support First Nations and neighbouring municipalities to build respectful and equitable partnerships, and to develop capacity for long-term planning for joint community economic development and land use.

It's a three-year First Nation-municipal collaboration program running from 2022 to 2025 involving the Bearspaw First Nation, Chiniki First Nation, Wesley/Goodstoney First Nation, Stoney Tribal Administration, and Town of Cochrane.

Late last year, it was announced a joint application by the Town of Cochrane and the Stoney Nakoda Nation had been shortlisted. At the time, Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung was confident it would be successful.

The inaugural meeting was held on Mar. 15 at the Stoney Tribal Administration building in Mini Thni (Morley), beginning with a pipe ceremony to signify the commitment of each community to a new era of government-to-government partnerships.

“Bearspaw First Nation is very pleased to participate in this initiative with our neighbors in Cochrane," states Chief Darcy Dixon in a joint news release. "Bearspaw First Nation has expanded its businesses endeavors outside of the reserve, and this is a logical step in establishing and building those close economic relationships. We look forward to the next three years of relationship building. Isniyes (thank you),”

“Chiniki First Nation and the Town of Cochrane have a long history. Today both take another step in unity and with a common purpose to affect a brighter future, working together for the economic benefit of members and citizens alike,” said Chief Aaron Young.

“Wesley/Goodstoney Council is looking forward to working with all parties. Working together is always stronger than working alone,” said Chief Clifford Poucette.

Through CEDI, they'll be holding monthly workgroup meetings and bi-annual workshops.

"The fact that we're going to have a monthly meeting now for three years in a row is exciting," says Mayor Genung. "I think we'll have an opportunity to not only build relationships but understand each other's culture, values, principles, initiatives, and projects that are underway in each of the communities."

"It's going to bring our communities together and provide opportunities for residents in all of the communities involved."

Building a stronger relationship has been a shared goal for the town and Stoney Nakoda in recent years. Efforts were stymied by the pandemic.

"I'm just looking forward to having conversations with people that want to do business together and build relationships together. I don't think it needs to have been as difficult as we make it out to be sometimes," says Genung. "I know we don't understand a lot, and I've said on many occasions, it's our time to listen. I intend to do that first of all."

Genung says there is some money attached to the program but believes its biggest value is the tools it provides to build the relationship.