Municipal-Indigenous Relations

Best practices for engagement of Indigenous leaders

Indigenous communities are unique from one another and therefore, the approach to engagement may differ depending on the community you are approaching. The following principles may help in the relationship building process:

  • Respect the importance of building genuine relationships. Ask to meet in person and take the time to build the relationship before you make a request.

  • Familiarize yourself with the purpose and practice of offering tobacco when seeking advice or knowledge.

  • Compensate Elders and Knowledge Keepers for their time and value of their service.

  • Take the time to learn about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

  • Be familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

  • Acknowledge the land and that we are all partners in the Treaty agreements.

  • Recognize that cultural practices may differ from what you are used to such as the significance of time, how deaths in the community are treated, responding to written communication, or even differences in how handshakes are viewed.

  • Consider using a cultural mediator for guidance. A good resource is to contact your local Native Friendship Centre or other Indigenous organization in your region.

The following resources offer information on protocols and considerations for engaging with Indigenous communities.

  • The Native Counselling Services of Alberta developed 'Engaging with Elders: A Co-created Story'. The guide offers advice from elders and knowledge keepers about Indigenous culture, protocols, leadership and approaches to engage services from elders. Note that the information is based on input from elders from the Treaty 7 region near Calgary.
  • Alberta Municipalities’ Municipal Governance Committee hosted an internal session for policy committee members with an expert panel that addressed: 

    • How to make municipal policies and procedures more respectful of Indigenous people, most notably for Indigenous people living within a municipality; 

    • Protocols and practices to support relationship building with Indigenous communities and peoples;  

    • Guidance on relationship building with Indigenous communities and peoples for municipalities with no reserves or settlements nearby; and 

    • What to do when Indigenous communities lack the willingness or capacity to engage with municipalities (e.g. they are overwhelmed with engagement requests). 

A video of this session may be viewed by clicking here.

Check out the resources section at the bottom of the page for a collection of toolkits, guides, supports, municipal examples, and reports to help your community take action.


A Municipal Guide to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
This guide was developed in 2021 to assist municipal leaders to understand the calls to action that are most relevant to Alberta municipal governments in terms of scope of responsibility and applicability to municipal service delivery. The guide was updated in 2023 following engagements with members that have been active in their work on reconciliation.

Indigenous Canada course
The University of Alberta offers a free 12-week online course, which is taught from an Indigenous perspective that explores Indigenous history and culture in Canada.

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples - A Holistic Approach
This toolkit includes an overview of the issues, courses of action and examples of good reconciliation practices from Canadian municipalities that are members of the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities. It was developed in 2019 by the Canadian Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Treaty 7 Indigenous Ally Toolkit
This short toolkit (2019) by the Calgary Foundation provides an overview of the First Nations within the Treaty 7 territory, cultural considerations, and tips to be an effective ally.

Alberta Learning Information Service

The Government of Alberta offers a listing of organizations that assist Indigenous peoples with employment and training services.

Guide to acknowledging traditional territory

The Canadian Association of University Teachers offers a summary of how each Canadian university and college acknowledge the traditional land and territory.

Indigenous Knowledge Portal

The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society offers a searchable database and related links that provide access to a variety of annotated literature reviews, reports, guides, films, booklets, studies, journal articles and presentations all related to Aboriginal children and families in Canada.

Map of Alberta's Indigenous communities and boundaries

This Government of Alberta map outlines the 140 reserves and eight Métis Settlements in Alberta, including the boundaries of the treaties and Metis Nation of Alberta Association regions.

Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth

A non-profit organization providing programming and services to Calgary’s Aboriginal youth.

City of Brooks

The City of Brooks celebrates National Aboriginal Day (June 21) by organizing educational seminars to help teach the community about Aboriginal practices and culture.

City of Calgary

The City of Calgary created the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee in 1987. Today, it continues to investigate areas of concern to people of Aboriginal ancestry and to make recommendations on policies, which would give urban Aboriginal people a more meaningful role within the Calgary community. The committee’s work has led to the development of the 2016 White Goose Flying Report, which includes a strategic plan on how the City will respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. In 2017, the City approved an Indigenous Policy Framework, which outlines the history of Indigenous peoples in the area and how the City will engage with local Indigenous peoples into the future. The framework also provides guidance to City staff on protocols for engaging Indigenous knowledge keepers such as offerings of tobacco and honorariums.

City of Edmonton

Following the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the City of Edmonton committed to educate all employees about the history of Indigenous peoples and the residential school system. City leaders invested the time to engage and understand the protocols and culture of local Indigenous communities, which has led to a long-standing partnership whereby local Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers play a key role in the training to City staff. As of 2017, the City hosts a half-day workshop on a weekly basis. Over several years, this training program has resulted in over 5,500 employees learning the history of the residential school system and other Indigenous history and culture.

The City of Edmonton has developed partnership agreements with various Indigenous organizations and communities including:

Town of Devon  

In 2020, the Town of Devon created a framework on Cultural Awareness and Relationship Building with Indigenous Peoples. The document serves to educate Town council, staff, and residents on the history of treaties, cultural protocols, and how to approach engagement activities with Indigenous peoples and communities.

City of Lethbridge

Following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, the City of Lethbridge collaborated with community stakeholders to develop a 10-year Reconciliation Implementation Plan (2017-27) for the community.

In 2016, Lethbridge implemented the Perceptions Project to confront discriminatory attitudes towards Indigenous people. Slurs such as ‘dumb indian’, ‘wagon burner’ and other tags were emblazoned on pictures of Indigenous people and mounted on transit buses, shelters and billboards. The images with slurs mirrored images of the same individual but with positive factual information such as their family relations, occupation, and aspirations.

City of Red Deer

The Urban Aboriginal Voices Society is a community-based initiative to build relationships between Aboriginal communities, the City of Red Deer, local businesses, and other interested parties. In 2017, the City signed a protocol agreement with the UAVS, which outlines principles for future planning and decision-making.

City of Vancouver

The City of Vancouver created First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers to offer clear information in simple language about Indigenous peoples in the region. It offers an overview of the historical relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples and ways for newcomers to learn more about Indigenous peoples in the community.

Lethbridge Regional Workshop Report

On September 13, 2013, Alberta Municipalities partnered with the City of Lethbridge to hold a regional workshop entitled ‘Improving Inter-Cultural Relations with Aboriginal Communities’. Participants discussed trends in Lethbridge and best practices for improving relationships between Aboriginal communities and urban municipalities.

Pathways to Reconciliation: Cities Respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action

In 2016, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities released this report that outlines how municipalities are working to forge a new path with Indigenous people, based on empathy, respect and an honest understanding of history.

Ponoka Regional Workshop Report

On October 9, 2013, Alberta Municipalities partnered with the Town of Ponoka to hold a regional workshop entitled ‘Engaging Our Aboriginal Workforce’. Participants discussed best practices of inclusion, cultural awareness, and Aboriginal community history and were provided with an opportunity to network with municipalities, businesses, employment centres and other organizations.

Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Released in 2019, the National Inquiry reports on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and outlines calls for action by governments, institutions, industries and all Canadians.

Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

Released in 1996, RCAP was mandated to investigate and propose solutions to the challenges affecting the relationship between Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Inuit, Métis), the Canadian government and Canadian society as a whole.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada

The TRC’s mandate was to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Commission documented the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience and provided recommendations to aid the process of reconciliation. The TRC calls on governments including municipalities to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.  Visit the TRC’s website to read its report and find resources related to reconciliation.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It establishes a standard for eliminating human rights violations against indigenous peoples and for combating discrimination and marginalization. The Government of Alberta has committed to review its existing programs and policies in consultation with indigenous peoples to identify ways to implement the objectives and principles of the Declaration.