Waterhen Lake First Nation engaged in improving community
by Sabine Gibbins
Elders, chief and council, band office staff.
These are just a few members of Waterhen Lake First Nation who are at the epicentre of the community, and are individuals who possess talents, skills and abilities that should not gone unnoticed, says Devon Fiddler, who is currently undertaking a unique community project at the reserve.
“What I am doing is creating a database of all the people in the community who play a role in it, so people know who is who,” she said.
As a part of the project, band members converged on the Waweyekisik Educational Centre Aug. 2 for a special community engagement exercise. Residents were asked to write down what they would like to see developed in their community.
“We want them (the residents) to convey to us that these are the things we should be pursuing,” Fiddler added. “Community members should have a say on what goes on in their community.”
This community visioning project is part of a study Fiddler is completing for an indigenous women program she is enrolled in at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. She was one of 15 women who were chosen to attend the three-week program and, although last week’s event was essentially a homework project, the Waterhen native said she is proud to benefit her community any way she can.
“I was required to do it, but I wanted to do it in my home community,” she said. “The project itself has more of a slant toward economic development. This is what we wanted to focus on primarily, but, in order to improve on the economic development of our community, we need more input from our community.”
Fiddler said there are things Waterhen members can do to achieve this, such as putting a focus on the band’s own natural resources, adding the most important part of economic development is keeping the money in the community.
There were, in total, six sessions Fiddler organized as part of the community engagement portion of the day. In the evening, she presented the findings of these sessions to the audience.
Waterhen Lake First Nation band councillor Brenda Fiddler said this type of community engagement brings people from all walks of life together.
“It’s about stopping the leaky buckets,” she said. “We have to better control where the money is coming from and what it’s going into. We have to adjust those needs to keep it flowing into our community instead of out.”
She went on to say the project is beneficial because it allows members a chance to speak about about what is important to them and their community.
“First Nations are the fastest growing population in the country,” Brenda Fiddler said. “The more we can offer Waterhen, the better.”