Community-Centered Guardianship: Exploring Indigenous Policing Services in Alberta

Challenges and Commitment: Navigating Limited Resources in Indigenous Policing Services

Tristan Black Water's journey into law enforcement was fueled by a deep-seated commitment to his community. Sworn in as a constable in 2022, Black Water's roots in the Blood Tribe Police Service (BTPS) in Stand Off, Alta., run deep. Reflecting on his upbringing, Black Water emphasizes the importance of community empowerment and the unique perspective that Indigenous police officers bring to their roles.

As someone who grew up in this community, I've always believed in the potential of each individual," Black Water reflects. "Seeing First Nations individuals serving as authority figures was always inspiring to me. It's about representation and making a positive impact.

A central focus of Black Water's work lies in addressing the pervasive issue of drug abuse within the Kainai First Nation community. Recognizing the devastating effects of substance abuse on individuals and families, Black Water and his team are dedicated to tackling this issue head-on. Through strategic operations and collaborative efforts, they strive to rid the community of illicit drugs and weapons, safeguarding the well-being of residents.

However, the path towards community safety is not without its obstacles. Grant Buckskin, Chief of the BTPS, acknowledges the challenges posed by limited resources. With funding constraints stemming from a tripartite agreement between the nation, federal, and provincial governments, Indigenous police forces like the BTPS often operate with significantly fewer resources compared to their counterparts, such as RCMP detachments.

The vastness of the reserve coupled with resource shortages presents significant challenges," Buckskin explains. "Despite our best efforts, retaining experienced officers remains a struggle.

Indeed, the retention of skilled personnel emerges as a critical concern for Indigenous policing services. Buckskin reveals that the BTPS has experienced a loss of seven officers since September, underscoring the need for sustained support and investment in recruitment and retention efforts.

Despite these challenges, the dedication and resilience of Indigenous police officers like Tristan Black Water remain unwavering. Fueled by a shared commitment to community well-being, they continue to navigate the complexities of law enforcement with determination and compassion, embodying the spirit of community-centered policing.

Striving for Excellence: Indigenous Policing Services in Alberta's Tribal Communities

As Indigenous policing services in Alberta navigate unique challenges, leaders like Tristan Black Water and Cpl. Tammy Dodginghorse embody a commitment to their communities that transcends traditional law enforcement boundaries.

Grant Buckskin, Chief of the Blood Tribe Police Service (BTPS), acknowledges the disparities in resources compared to larger urban centers like Calgary or Edmonton. Despite these limitations, Buckskin is determined to elevate the BTPS to a standard of excellence that commands respect. He envisions a future where the BTPS is renowned as the premier policing service, a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its officers.

Black Water echoes this sentiment, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to serve his community. Rooted in Blackfoot culture, he draws strength from the resilience and determination ingrained in his people. Through his work, Black Water seeks to instill a sense of perseverance and unity within the community, encapsulated by the Blackfoot term "ika'kimaat," meaning to try hard and keep going.

Similarly, Cpl. Tammy Dodginghorse of the Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service (TNPS) emphasizes the integral role of community policing in Indigenous law enforcement. With 28 years of service, Dodginghorse has cultivated deep connections with community members, prioritizing their safety and well-being above all else. Whether it's checking on elders during cold weather or being available to respond to calls on her days off, Dodginghorse's dedication exemplifies the spirit of service ingrained in Indigenous policing.

Keith Blake, Chief of the TNPS, acknowledges the complex dynamics at play, with the proximity to urban centers like Calgary presenting unique challenges. Despite the potential influx of criminal activity, Blake remains steadfast in his commitment to ensuring the safety and security of the Tsuut'ina Nation.

As Indigenous policing services continue to evolve, the unwavering dedication of officers like Black Water and Dodginghorse serves as a beacon of hope and resilience for their communities. Through their tireless efforts, they uphold the principles of community-centered policing, forging bonds of trust and mutual respect that transcend boundaries and enrich the fabric of Indigenous life in Alberta.

Navigating Challenges and Advocating for Equity: The Ongoing Struggle of Indigenous Police Services

Chief Keith Blake of the Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service (TNPS) elucidates the delicate balancing act inherent in Indigenous policing: striving to uphold the principles of community-centered law enforcement while contending with a surge in calls of heightened severity and complexity. Despite this commitment, Blake laments the systemic challenges imposed by an outdated funding model, which fails to provide adequate resources to meet the evolving needs of Indigenous police forces.

The disparity in resources is stark, with Indigenous police services facing inferior salaries, pensions, and benefits compared to their mainstream counterparts. Yet, despite these disparities, there is a palpable desire within communities for the presence of First Nation police services. However, the path to equitable funding and opportunities remains fraught with obstacles.

Chief Blake highlights the lack of access to specialty units and legal support, exacerbating the already challenging landscape for Indigenous police forces. He underscores the urgent need for essential service legislation, which would afford Indigenous police services the predictability, dependability, and comparability necessary for effective law enforcement.

Lennard Busch, Executive Director of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, echoes these sentiments, emphasizing the imperative of reexamining the First Nations and Inuit Policing program. Efforts are underway to advocate for legislative changes that recognize and support the essential role of Indigenous police services in maintaining law and order across the country.

As Indigenous police services continue to navigate these challenges, the advocacy efforts of leaders like Chief Blake and organizations such as the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association are instrumental in driving meaningful reform. Through their perseverance and dedication, they seek to ensure that Indigenous police services are not only sustained but also empowered to fulfill their critical role in safeguarding Indigenous communities across Canada.

For further inquiries, contact CBC Calgary digital journalist Boshika Gupta at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Accessibility at the Heart of CBC's Mission: Ensuring Inclusivity for All Canadians

At CBC, inclusivity is not just a goal—it's a fundamental commitment. We recognize the importance of creating products and services that are accessible to all Canadians, including those with visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive challenges. As part of this commitment, CBC prioritizes the integration of features such as Closed Captioning and Described Video to enhance accessibility for viewers across the country.

Closed Captioning and Described Video are integral components of many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem, our digital streaming platform. These features provide essential support for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, ensuring they can fully engage with and enjoy our programming. Additionally, Described Video offers narrated descriptions of visual elements for individuals with visual impairments, enabling them to follow along with the action and storyline.

By incorporating Closed Captioning and Described Video into our content, CBC aims to foster a more inclusive and equitable media landscape. We believe that accessibility should be a cornerstone of every product and service we offer, reflecting our unwavering commitment to serving all Canadians, regardless of their abilities or challenges.

As we continue to innovate and evolve, CBC remains dedicated to advancing accessibility initiatives and embracing the diverse needs of our audience. Together, we strive to build a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to participate fully and enjoy the rich tapestry of Canadian culture and storytelling.

Accessibility at the Heart of CBC's Mission: Ensuring Inclusivity for All Canadians

At CBC, inclusivity is not just a goal—it's a fundamental commitment. We recognize the importance of creating products and services that are accessible to all Canadians, including those with visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive challenges. As part of this commitment, CBC prioritizes the integration of features such as Closed Captioning and Described Video to enhance accessibility for viewers across the country.

Closed Captioning and Described Video are integral components of many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem, our digital streaming platform. These features provide essential support for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, ensuring they can fully engage with and enjoy our programming. Additionally, Described Video offers narrated descriptions of visual elements for individuals with visual impairments, enabling them to follow along with the action and storyline.

By incorporating Closed Captioning and Described Video into our content, CBC aims to foster a more inclusive and equitable media landscape. We believe that accessibility should be a cornerstone of every product and service we offer, reflecting our unwavering commitment to serving all Canadians, regardless of their abilities or challenges.

As we continue to innovate and evolve, CBC remains dedicated to advancing accessibility initiatives and embracing the diverse needs of our audience. Together, we strive to build a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to participate fully and enjoy the rich tapestry of Canadian culture and storytelling.