One of the things that Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers have in common with many First Nations people is a deep respect for wildlife. Related to this, some First Nations people also have singular hunting and fishing rights, which necessitates a close working relationship with officers. Officers must have extensive knowledge and a solid understanding of their beliefs, traditions and rights as well as how the law applies to them.
One exceptional example of this is Shane Ramstead, District Officer in Grande Cache, and his relationship with the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation. In fact, the Nation recently gave Officer Ramstead a special award in thanks for the outstanding service he has provided over the past 25 years.
The inscription on the Milton Joachim Memorial Award of Excellence reads: “In recognition of your invaluable contribution to Aseniwuche Winewak Nation. We honor you and thank you for your respect for our traditional way of life and the land that sustains us. Your commitment to doing the right thing, understanding our values, and assisting us to maintain our traditional ways has truly empowered us to be who we are meant to be.”
In fact, Officer Ramstead developed a close relationship with Milton Joachim, the Elder whom the award is named after. During Officer Ramstead’s early years in the Grande Cache district, there were some grizzly bear concerns, and Mr. Joachim used his position to help Officer Ramstead educate the community about bear-smart practices.
Officer Ramstead has also helped members of the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation trace their genealogy to other First Nations to help secure hunting rights, and he has worked with the Aseniwuche Winewak to teach about sensitive species that should not be harvested, such as caribou or bull trout. Another example of the relationship is when members of the community phone Officer Ramstead to ask questions or work through hunting or fishing issues.
“It’s been a long path to get there,” said Officer Ramstead, “but now we can sit down at the table and work through basically anything.”
While Officer Ramstead is certainly not the only Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officer to have a strong working relationship with First Nations, his efforts are most certainly worthy of being recognized. Congratulations Officer Ramstead on your award!