MEDICINE HAT – The Journey of Reconciliation conference began Wednesday at the Saamis Teepee with a sacred fire ceremony and drum circle.
Community members from all walks of life joined together to mark the start of the conference.
The events run February 14 to 17 in partnership with the Rotary Club, Miywasin Friendship Centre and The Blood Tribe Department of Health.
College president Dr. Denise Henning said they were happy to host the events and share in the journey to reconciliation.
“As the elder said this morning, it's about forgiveness and it's about hope in the future,” she said. “So, we can hope and we can dream.”
Reconciliation often conjures images the residential school system. The federal government has estimated at least 150,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students passed through the system. They were stripped of their culture and language, and many were also subject to all kinds of abuse.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates there are around 80,000 survivors of residential schools still living today.
Indigenous Student Specialist Whitney Ogle said it’s a long journey to reconciliation and it’s one that needs to be done as a community.
“We talk about coming into reconciliation with an open heart, with understanding, challenging ourselves a bit, but ultimately gathering together as a collective,” Ogle explained.
Ogle said for her it’s an opportunity to share her culture, her language and her passion for indigenous peoples.
“We are all one – the human nation, and so reconciliation for me is coming together, honouring that past, learning from that past and moving forward together as the two-leggeds,” she explained.
Activities include Red Talks, in which speakers from different Nations share their stories, truths and realities; The REDress Project, an exhibit to honour and bring awareness of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Woman of Canada; and the KAIROS Blanket Exercise and Round Dance which is an immersive teaching tool to share the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Sessions will also be held on topics including the legacy of residential schools, the miracle of forgiveness, healing through art therapy, native traditional games and realities, and stories of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women of Canada.
Ogle said members of the public, from all backgrounds and nationalities, are encouraged to attend the events.
“We make sure we invite an honour those people who are going to share, lots of teaching, lots of hands on interaction,” she said. “Please don't be nervous, come and experience and we'll welcome you with open arms.”
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