Calgary could be looking at its first Blackfoot representative on city council after this upcoming municipal election.
After months of careful consideration, Marilyn North Peigan, a Blackfoot woman from the Piikani First Nation, has decided to run for city council in Ward 7.
North Peigan made the announcement in front of the Reconciliation Bridge Feb. 14. It was a tribute to the annual Women’s Memorial March honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
After seeing the positive response to her announcement on social media, North Peigan said she’s getting more comfortable with the idea of running for city council.
“It’s a big thing. I didn’t see someone like me doing something like this, because it’s never happened before,” said North Peigan.
‘It just consumed me, coming to this decision.’
As the first Blackfoot representative to ever run for Calgary’s city council, North Peigan spent months weighing the risks and rewards of running for public office before deciding to take the plunge.
“It just consumed me, coming to this decision. Having put so much work into anti-racism, facing that backlash has always been my greatest fear,” she said.
North Peigan was part of the citizen advisory committee that produced the White Goose Flying report. That was Canada’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which started in 2008.
The TRC was part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. It was meant to offer compensation for residential school survivors and lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation.
“I want people to ask themselves what they’ve done to change the story since the release of that report,” said North Peigan.
She said diversifying leadership should be a priority to all Calgarians, regardless of their race.
“Reconciliation is the roadmap to the future. It doesn’t matter what colour you are. If you call this river valley Calgary your home, then you’re treaty too,” said North Peigan.
Prepare Her prepared her
The idea to run for city council came last Spring when North Peigan was approached by Ask Her YYC to participate in Prepare Her. It’s a hands-on program that helps potential candidates build the necessary skills, acumen, and leadership to execute a successful campaign.
North Peigan said that despite joining the Prepare Her cohort, she didn’t see herself ever running for office.
“When I agreed to join the program I told them this doesn’t mean I’m going to run. It just means I’ll do the program,” said North Peigan.
“But the idea was there, and I just couldn’t walk away from it.”
Experience and determination
As a prominent voice for racial equality within the community, vying for a seat on city council seems like a natural next step for North Peigan.
In addition to working as a Resolution Health Support Worker under the Native Counselling Services of Alberta, North Peigan was appointed to the Calgary Police Commission in 2017.
North Peigan said she’s pleased with the Commission’s impact on policing efforts over the last few years. In particular, how CPS responded during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. She hopes the collaboration will be a lasting one.
“For Native people, we think seven generations ahead. So how are people going to be functioning with this level of policing seven generations from now?” she said.
“We know it can’t stay the same.”
In addition to expanding on the city’s anti-racism efforts, North Peigan believes reinvigorating Calgary’s entertainment industry should be a top priority.
Like many others, she believes it could be years before live events resemble what they did before the pandemic. That time shouldn’t be spent waiting, she said.
“People have ideas, it’s just a matter of bringing them to the table,” she said.
She received her Masters in Art and Integrated Studies from Athabasca University in 2013, and worked in event security up until the rise of COVID 19 last spring.