Reconciliation Journey Continues
By Pamela Beebe
I attended the final three-day conference in Edmonton of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in March 2014. The TRC wrapped up with 94 calls to action in December 2015. In July 2016, I started working at Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) as the Indigenous Strategist. Having closely watched the TRC and having long conversations with my mother and much briefer conversations with my father, both residential school survivors, I was deeply committed to the outcome. Children of residential school survivors have not always fared better in some ways (Inter-generational trauma is another cause that I am very committed to) but have had more opportunities in other ways. I quickly realized that it was my role to help implement the 94 Calls to Action and to help increase awareness of what this would mean to my community and to future generations. It is so tiring to explain the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system, child welfare system, homeless shelters and within poverty stricken communities in general. It is easy to talk about all the good things about my community, the Blackfoot prayers, the pride with being Native, the thrill of a Pow wow, the history of the buffalo, the connection to the land, ceremonies and about all the emerging artists, dancers, poets and models/performers.
At VCC, we held a workshop with the members of the Indigenous Advisory Committee in the fall of 2016 and determined that our priorities included an environmental scan and increased outreach to our Elders and our Youth. Indigenous youth have been highlighted as the fastest growing population in Canada and we need to engage them in the work around Enough For All. I have always tried to find ways to include our Elders as they are a gift from our Creator and they know more than a book could possible teach me. The environmental scan was specific to what other organizations, committees and businesses are doing in Calgary around the 94 calls to action. On May 30, 2017, we held a half day conference in Inglewood, funded through the Enough For All Catalyst Fund. There were more than 65 people present, all from organizations actively working on Reconciliation. On October 12, 2017, we will hold our next full day conference to continue this conversation. We have invited speakers who will discuss their work around the TRC and about the success they have experienced in their place of business. The Indigenous Advisory Committee at VCC will continue to engage Elders and Youth in this very important work.
I also realized that the Calls to Action, number 43 spoke to me personally.
43. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. (www.trc.ca)
I have read the document which can be obtained through the website or through the Alberta Human Rights commission. I believe that the document clearly explains the importance of helping people find out where they come from, discover/rediscover their connection to their land, learn about their Ancestors in the way of language, traditions, ceremonies and to help people understand their inherent strengths and their own history. The federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments represent the People. I think that the governments will listen to us if we engage in conversations, attend townhall meetings, write them letters and volunteer our time. Another way we can become engaged is to vote for the candidates who represent our viewpoints or who have tried to understand the legacy of Treaty 7 people. Many of the other calls to action impress me as they offer a solution or at the very least a blueprint to change the statistics facing First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. I myself will continue to talk to my parents and other residential school survivors as I try to understand the mistakes of the past, the solutions to work through them and the hope for the children.
Pamela Beebe is an Indigenous Strategist at Vibrant Communities Calgary. Please feel free to leave a comment below.