Working with Indian bands on policy changes to better meet the objectives of Native communities is a priority with Dennis Wallace, new Alberta Regional Director of the Department of Indian Affairs.
Wallace says he will draw from his experience with Native communities in Ontario in doing his job. The principles are the same and the basic concerns are not different. The local issues differ to a certain degree, he said.
"I intend to get into the communities, and meet the people. This is necessary in order to build any kind of working relationship."
Wallace says he has been to a couple of reserves and met the chief and council as well as some of the community members. The Alexander Reserve was one of the reserves he visited, and he says he was very impressed with their education system. "It's really great to see how they operate and to see the effective methods they have introduced. "It's good to see success," he says.
While the freeze in budget, Wallace says his travels are limited, but he will make an effort to visit as many Native communities as possible. When the freeze is lifted, he promises, he will make a visit to all the reserves in his district.
"I would like to see the combined efforts of the bands and department in planning for workshops dealing with Indian government, education and concepts dealing with special education to serve those with learning disabilities as well as the exceptionally bright," he says.
Wallace says he will rely on working jointly with the bands in preparing the agenda for joint conferences that will involve the bands.
Being in his new position for such a short time, Wallace says he would like to be able to study the situations at hand before making any kind of comments or changes within the department.
Education is a prime concern of Wallace's, and he would like to see more qualified Native teachers in the education stream. The principal and teachers at the reserve school should actually be working themselves out of a job, in the sense that they train a Native teacher to take their place, he says.
In speaking of Indian self-government, Wallace says the takeover should go smoothly, with the department and Indian bands working together, allowing for the understanding and planning of such a takeover, he said.
The working relationship should be one of direct contact and combined efforts, Wallace says of his position.
This being his first time residing in Edmonton, he says he enjoys it and is looking forward to establishing himself in the community.