Wicihitowin conference encourages Reconcili-Action
- NC Raine | October 13, 2017
Leaders in Saskatoon gathered in an effort to advance Reconciliation talks into action at the third annual Wicihitowin Aboriginal Engagement Conference.
Reconciliaction was the theme of this year's two-day event, which rallies experts and leaders from across the country to take action on improving Indigenous engagement and inclusion in communities, driven by the Calls to Action and lessons leaned from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
“As we begin to put this shield up for Indigenous right, we need as many people as we can pushing these rights,” said Ry Moran, Executive Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. “Standing up against assimilation, standing up against forced acculturation, against inherent gender inequalities (...) that truly is the path to reconciliation.”
Wicihitowin, the Cree/Saulteaux word in which the conference in named, means “helping one another” or “working together”, a theme embraced by both the conference speakers and by the 500 Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts, leaders, youth, and elders participating in this year's event. Wicihitowin, organizers said, is a place for people to come together and act on the TRC's 94 Calls to Action.
“When we have this conversation around a battle for truth, it's a battle for survival. It's a battle reflected in the long term, long standing war that has been waged on Indigenous life and Indigenous peoples in this country and across the world for centuries,” said Moran.
The conference aimed to provide a broad range of speakers in fields such as child welfare, justice, education, faith based groups, and sports, who can articulate practical ways of moving towards reconciliation and truth in communities.
“We're talking about alliance, we're talking about real change. The status quo is not acceptable, I'm sure not to you, and for sure not to us,” said Eugene Arcand, TRC member, residential school survivor, and Saskatchewan representative for the national survivors' committee.
“I've asked my fellow survivors to no longer sit back and watch. We all have to step up now,” said Arcand. “The window of opportunity called 'Reconciliation', that we're all having a very difficult time with, is something we have to take full advantage of while we're on mother earth.”
Arcand also expressed his anger during the conference over the Supreme Court of Canada's decision last week that residential school records should be destroyed for those individuals who are deceased or have not opted to keep them preserved. Those who detailed accounts of physical and sexual abuses will have the option of having their stories preserved.
“If I sound angry, it's because I am,” said Arcand. “Canada's darkest secret has been opened up. And it scares me when they try to do things like this to destroy that history.”
“We battled hard for consent and we achieved consent. What I resent as a Residential school survivor, throughout this process, is that we were re-victimized,” he added.
Other speakers during the two-day event included CBC journalist and honorary witness to the TRC Shelagh Rogers, former Saskatoon Chief of Police Clive Weighill, and First Nation actor/model Ashely Callingbull.