Lifetime passes for Stoney Nakoda 0
Members of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation used to sneak into the park to collect the traditional healing medicines their people used.
Now, they're getting a warm welcome.
On Monday Parks Canada launched the Stoney Nakoda park entry pass, giving members lifetime entry into Banff National Park.
"This signals Parks Canada's commitment to renewing and deepening its relationship to Canada's First Nations people," said MP Blake Richards.
Richards handed out passes to band chiefs at Banff's Indian Grounds before other Stoney Nakoda people received their lifetime passes, which Richards said acted "as a symbol of our mutual good will and as an invitation to more fully participate in and benefit from this special place."
Parks Canada and the Stoney Nakoda First Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding back in 2010 and this park pass is one of the initiatives to come out of it, along with Family Camp held at the Indian Grounds and Aboriginal artist involvement in the upgrades underway at the Cave and Basin.
"It has been in the works for a long time," Richards said. "It's an understanding of the importance Stoney people have played in the area."
Chief Darcy Dixon of the Bearspaw First Nation said it was an honour to be part of the celebration of Stoney Nakoda people.
"Over the years our people would have to sneak into the park to gather our healing medicines for the people," he said. "After today we no longer have to do that."
Chief Bruce Labelle of Chiniki Nakoda Nation spoke of the importance of making the announcement at the Indian Grounds, where Banff's Indian Days were traditionally held for generations. The land, just outside the Town of Banff, holds special meaning to the Stoney people as a historic meeting, camping and resting place.
"Today's ceremony is an important symbolic and practical step to recognizing our inherent right to access these lands," Labelle said.
Along with free, lifetime entry into Banff National Park, Richards said the passes allow entry into the Cave and Basin.
"It's their history and culture," Richards said. "So it's important to recognize it's their traditional lands."