Image: Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge Principles
In March 2020, Cowessess citizens voted to ratify their own legislation pertaining to child welfare, placing the community as one of the first Indigenous Nations in Canada to pass its own child welfare legislation – the Miyo Pimatisowin Act – which supports its rights and jurisdiction over child and family services for its citizens.
Asserting Cowessess sovereignty, as stated by Chief Cadmus Delorme:
“Citizens of Cowessess First Nation begin ceremonies, feasts, gatherings, songs, healing, and other occasions with traditional protocols which have been passed on from generation to generation since time immemorial. Our human birth, the Creator gave this to us. It was at that time the Creator blessed us before our human birth, from the Creator’s flame, a ‘soul flame’ – the soul flame is there to look after our bodies, our minds and our souls. We picked from the Creator’s flame before our human birth, the tiny flame we picked became our soul, which is called a soul flame. Cowessess First Nation laws and legal traditions are an essential part of our culture. Within these laws are the protocols, etiquettes and methodologies that provide direction and guidance in participating of ceremonies.
Non-Indigenous colonial jurisdiction has resulted in the diminishment and loss of language, culture, songs, practices and jurisdiction. The Miyo Pimatisowin Act will guide Cowessess First Nation in the formal and informal methods that will maintain behaviours, ideologies, institutions, policies, and economics of its people and resources. These formal and informal methods will be built upon the medicine wheel teachings of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual pillars. The Coordination Agreement will build on the relationship Cowessess First Nation has with the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan. Like a braid of sweetgrass, each strand will represent the unity each will need to play to assure the Miyo Pimatisowin Act is supported and lead by the Cowessess First Nation over children and families requiring help”.
By way of band council resolution, Cowessess Chief and Council chose April 1 st, 2021 to bring the Miyo Pimatisowin Act to life. The purpose of the Miyo Pimatisowin Act is to affirm the rights and jurisdiction of the Cowessess First Nation over Child and Family Services for its Citizens, as well as to establish Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge as the organization responsible for child and family programs and services for Cowessess citizens across Canada.
Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge was the name chosen by the elders to embody the place in the nation that offers opportunities to heal, protect and act with courage on behalf of Cowessess citizens and in particular their children.
The scope of the Act includes all Citizens and their Children, whether they reside on- or off-reserve, and also applies to people living on-reserve that are not Citizens of Cowessess First Nation.
Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge Timeline to Grow its Services
“Best Interest of the Child” principle (section for the Miyo Pimatisowan Act):
- The best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in the making of decisions or the taking of action; and,
- Primary consideration must be given to the Child’s physical, emotional and psychology safety, security and well-being, as well as for the importance for that Child of having an ongoing relationship with his or her family and the Nation and its people.
Other factors to include in determining the “Best Interest of the Child” include:
- the Child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage;
- the Child’s needs, given age and stage of development, such as the Child’s need for stability;
- the nature and strength of the Child’s relationship with the Child’s Parent, the Care Provider and any Family member who plays an important role in the Child’s life;
- the importance to the Child of preserving cultural identity and connections to the language and territory of the First Nation or people; and,
- plans for the Child’s care, including care in accordance with Customs or Traditions.