Dene Tha’ First Nation and Town of High Level, AB

Unique Features of this Partnership

Dene Tha’ First Nation and the Town of High Level have shown a strong commitment to their partnership and the CEDI process in spite of progress delays due to challenges of geographic distance (Dene Tha’ has three communities: Bushe River, Meander River and Chateh), wildfire and pandemic emergencies. Together, in response to the regional challenges and needs, they prioritized and made impressive progress on the following joint community economic development initiatives: waterline and wastewater infrastructure, a joint regional emergency plan and multi-use facility (recreation and emergency evacuation). Together, these communities have put several wise practices in place to help secure their partnership for the long term, including: a Friendship Agreement, a shared partnership logo, Working Group Terms of Reference, a Joint Strategic Plan for the next five years and a draft work plan for 2021. Dene Tha’ First Nation and Town of High Level participated in CEDI between 2018 – 2021.

Areas of Collaboration – Joint CED Themes

  • Waterline connection between Bushe River and Town of High Level
  • Feasibility study for new wastewater treatment infrastructure at Bushe River-
  • Joint Regional Emergency Plan for three Dene Tha’ communities and Town of High Level
  • Multi-use facility (recreation and emergency evacuation)


  • Joint Workshop to learn about each community’s history, culture, governance and economic development priorities, and to build the government to government relationship (January 2019)
  • Nation Council and Municipal Council Resolutions passed committing to CEDI until 2021 (March 2019)
  • Illustrated partnership resilience and open communication through Chuckegg Creek wildfire evacuations (May / June 2019)
  • Joint Workshop to explore high priority joint community economic development initiatives , to engage in shared learning about each other’s governance and legislation, and discuss partnership governance structure (October 2019)
  • Established three sub-committees, complete with mandate and priority actions, on: water and wastewater infrastructure; joint regional emergency plan; multi-use facility (November 2019)
  • Formalized Working Group Terms of Reference (TOR) (December 2019)
  • Using innovative remote process to address joint Workshop objectives (cancelled due to COVID-19) to share progress and information updates with both Councils.
  • Joint Workshop to engage in shared learning on emergency management practices as part of the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) process for all four communities and to design a Friendship Agreement (October 2020)
  • Joint Workshop to create a 5-year joint strategic plan for the partnership (January 2021)
  • Completed waterline connection between the Town of High Level and Bushe River reserve border (February 2021)
  • Utilized CEDI Capacity Building grant to complete Phase I – III of the Joint Regional Emergency Plan and Incident Command System level 100 and 200 training (March 2021)
  • Completed a wastewater infrastructure feasibility study (March 2021)
  • Created a Friendship Agreement for the Dene Tha’ – High Level partnership (March 2021)
  • Created a five-year Joint Strategic Plan for DTFN – ToHL partnership (March 2021)
  • Created a call for local artists to submit artwork to accompany the written aspect of this Friendship Agreement. A winning art submission was selected as a partnership logo and integrated into the Friendship Agreement (April 2020)
  • Joint Workshop to celebrate the DTFN – ToHL partnership shared accomplishments to date and completion of the CEDI program, and create a draft work plan for 2021 (May 2021)
  • Band Council and Municipal Council Resolutions passed endorsing the Working Group Terms of Reference, Joint Strategic Plan and Friendship Agreement (June 2021)

In the Media:

Why Work Together?

“I thank the Town of High Level for joining with Dene Tha’ First Nation in the CEDI partnership initiative in 2018.  Both of the partners had no idea at the start of the partnership initiative that we were going to be facing the largest fire since the 1950’s and then by the pandemic.  These two natural disasters highlighted the need for and the benefits of creating a regional partnership that can make a difference when unforeseen disaster hits the area.  The two natural events caused tremendous hardships on our populations and no one want to see these things happening anywhere but it happens whether we like it or not.  Having a friendship agreement will give us the forum through which we can “improve the economic prosperity” of the partners, work together on preparing for possible future natural disasters, and any other activities that will enhance our joint efforts.”

- Chief James Ahnassay, Dene Tha’ First Nation

“Our partnership has come a long way in our mutual respect and understanding of each other. It is very exciting as we begin to see the benefits of our hard work, such as the waterline to Bushe, the Emergency Response Plan and the Multi-purpose facility. Through continued communication and transparency, I believe both our communities will be successful in the years to come.”

- Mayor Crystal McAteer, Town of High Level

Next Steps

This partnership has graduated from the CEDI program. Dene Tha’ First Nation and Town of High Level continue to advance their joint community economic development initiatives, while also prioritizing ongoing relationship development between their councils, staff and communities. With a 5-year Joint Strategic Plan, there is a clear road map for this partnership for the foreseeable future. These communities look forward to signing and celebrating their Friendship Agreement with their communities when it is safe to do so.