By: Miranda Leybourne Local Journalism Initiative
Posted: 3:00 AM CDT Friday, Jul. 22, 2022
SIOUX VALLEY DAKOTA NATION — Celebration was tempered with solemnity at the veteran’s hall in Sioux Valley for the opening ceremony of Dakota Tiwahe Services agency Friday.
The event marked a momentous occasion in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. History was made earlier this month when, on July 4, provincial legislation was introduced officially mandating the services as a child and family services (CFS) agency.
The mandate, in accordance with the CFS Act of Manitoba, was an interim step for Sioux Valley to gain full jurisdiction over CFS for nation members. Under the mandate, Dakota Tiwahe Services will provide CFS to Sioux Valley members and Dakota families both on- and off-reserve across Manitoba. Dakota Objibway CFS will no longer operate in the community.
Emcee Bill Taylor addressed the crowd during his opening remarks, after a private pipe ceremony to bless the event, noting the importance of following the ways and protocols of the Dakota people on such a momentous occasion. The pipe ceremony was one way to acknowledge the elders and other people in the community who paved the way for the First Nation to take back its rights to look after its own children.
“They never got to see this day, but they contributed at the start and kept it going all these years so that we would someday have the ability to look after our own Dakota children, to take that jurisdiction back so that they would not be removed from these beautiful Dakota ways in which we were raised,” Taylor said.
One of the things those elders used to say, Taylor recounted, was that even if they didn’t see the shift back to giving jurisdiction to the Dakota Sioux people in their lifetime, they still wished it would happen in the near future.
“Their work paid off. Here we are today,” Taylor said. “Having gone through a lot of what they’ve gone through with the residential schools, ’60s Scoop, day schools, we know all the stories all too well and how they’ve affected our people. This was the driving force behind the dream that our elders had.”
Not only parents and family members, but children will be better protected under the new jurisdiction, Taylor said before introducing Eleanor Elk, an elder and knowledge keeper who also sits on the board of directors for Dakota Tiwahe Services.
Elk said the event was a happy occasion and deserved to be celebrated. Growing up, she said, she saw a lot of children taken, some of whom never came back to their homes. Now, people in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation have the opportunity and ability to work together as a group to look after their own children. It’s a system that hearkens back to how things used to be done before jurisdiction was taken away from the community.
“When children needed care, it was the extended family that stepped in and helped to care if the mother was sick. The grandmother, or the aunties, or whoever came forward and took care of the children until things were made good again.”
When Elk joined the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation’s council in 2012, the movement to take back jurisdiction was already in the works.
“It’s a dream come true for our community that we will continue to support each other and look after our own children.”
Children, Elk said, are incredibly sacred to the Dakota community.
“We must not lose them again. We want them here,” Elk said, “so we can teach them what we know, our ways as Dakota people, the traditions, the culture. These are the things that children need to grow up with.”
The delivery of services from the new agency was made possible through Bill C-92: An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which came into effect in 2020.
The legislation was co-developed with Indigenous, provincial and territorial partners to keep Indigenous children and youth connected to their cultures, communities and families. The bill allows Indigenous communities and groups to develop policies and laws based on their particular histories, cultures and circumstances.
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