By Shari Narine
With files by Brad Crowfoot
ALEXIS NAKOTA SIOUX NATION, Alta.
A promise made 20 years ago by the Progressive Conservative provincial government of the time is being delivered on by today’s Alberta government of New Democrats.
The opportunities it presents for the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation are highly anticipated.
On Aug. 21, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for an access road off of Highway 43 to 360 acres of land on the northeast corner of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. That road will lead to a gas station, hot food vendors and economic opportunities, for both outside investors and band members.
“If it wasn’t for the NDP party to help us to follow through with the promise, we probably would still have done it but we probably would have had to pay for it ourselves and that’s a lot of money for the community,” said Dwayne Alexis, manager of economic development for the band.
The access road will cost about $1 million to construct.
About 20 years ago, he says, Alberta Transportation was twinning Highway 43 and required additional land.
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation sold band land to the province in exchange for purchasing land elsewhere and building an access road onto reserve land off of Highway 43.
There were also negotiations for a gas station truck stop on that site, but those yielded no results.
Alexis expects the work, which began Tuesday, to be completed by mid-October. By that time, he is hopeful negotiations will have concluded to allow construction of a gas station–he is anticipating PetroCanada–and hot food vendors to begin. There has been no decision yet on who the food vendors will be.
The gas station will create direct employment for band members, as well as indirect employment such as snow removal and other services. It will also result in revenue for the band.
“We’re looking at it as our anchor tenant and it’s going to create the infrastructure, the road in and other businesses might be interested and make an investment on our site as well,” said Alexis.
The gas station will use two to three acres of the available land, which means plenty of economic possibilities for those both on and off the reserve.
“It’s going to create a lot of economic opportunities, I think. We could even have members that are interested in investing their own money in setting up businesses on that site,” said Alexis.
Meanwhile, the band has yet to purchase land as part of the 20-year-old Highway 43 deal.
“The land is tied up in a treaty land entitlement we have with what (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) gave us as well. It’s pretty hard to access that money. It’s nearly impossible. We need a referendum of 75 per cent or more of the total population,” said Alexis.
On the same day as the ground breaking, Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation also celebrated 140 years of its adhesion to Treaty 6.
To mark the occasion, they honored current and past chiefs and leaders providing them with certificates and each a replica Treaty 6 medal.
They also served traditional foods, read the treaty that they signed and smoked the same pipe they smoked 140 years ago.