Police service introduces new elders

Leonard Ermine and Liz Settee introduced Thursday

Submitted photo: left to right: Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne; Elder Liz Settee; PAPS Indigenous Resource Officer Erin Parenteau; Prince Albert Police Chief Jonathan Bergen; Elder Leonard Ermine; Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners Chair Sheryl Kimbley; Prince Albert Grand Council Vice Chief Christopher Jobb.

The Prince Albert Police Service announced the addition of two new elders Friday.

Elder Liz Settee and Elder Leonard Ermine were welcomed at a short event Thursday afternoon. Both were gifted with cloth and tobacco and a beaded medallion adorned with the Prince Albert Police Service logo.

The elders act as spiritual guides for the police service and will lead members and staff in teaching and learning Indigenous traditions and culture. 

Settee said it was “surreal” to be asked by Police Chief Jon Bergen to come on as an elder.

“I felt so honoured and then very humbled. It was a whole bunch of excitement, and then nerves.”

Settee and Ermine came on board following the passing of Elder Jacob Sanderson, who passed away in the fall of 2020.

Bergen said the lessons learned from Sanderson are valued.

“We respect the knowledge and teachings he was able to give us and I believe that his work will continue to help guide us as we move forward,” he said in a press release.

Reached by phone Friday evening, Bergen said the insight from elders is invaluable as the police service seeks to better understand the community it serves.

“The police service has had elde3rs leading and guiding us for a number of years,” Bergen said.

“It’s something that we recognized was important many years ago, and we continue to believe in the guidance, teachings and just the ability for an elder to give us a greater level of understanding and connect us with the community in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”

The teachings from the new elders started early. Bergen said that even Thursday when they welcomed the elders with cloth and tobacco, they received teaching about the importance of the colour of the cloth.

Bergen said that Elder Ermine was recommended by the Grand Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council.

“I am so grateful that we connected with him,” Bergen said.

It was then recommended by the elder that a female elder also be brought on to provide a different perspective.

That’s when Bergen approached Settee, whom he knew for many years after working with her brother early on in his police career.

Settee credited Bergen with his support of community events, such as the community powwow.

She said she’s hoping to continue building strong community ties and isn’t coming into the role with any preconceptions.

“I’m not going in to change this or change that. I’m there to support them, whatever that looks like,” she said.

“To do community work, you need a group of people — not just one organization — we have to work together.”

She said some young people are scared of the police and what the police, to them, represents. Settee, who is known in Prince Albert for her work with youth, said she hopes to bridge some of those gaps and help people “get to know each other as human beings.”

Bergen said building those connections is vital if the police force wants to properly serve the community.

“The better we understand the community, the better we’re going to understand how we best serve and meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Elders, thorough their experience and with all they’ve learned over their many years, are excellent resources to guide us. They’re an excellent addition to the team. When we look at truth and reconciliation, we know the guidance of an elder is critical as