We Are All Treaty People

Indigenous resilience the focus of OTC panel during Aboriginal Achievement Week

  • Published - 12/02/2016
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  • Posted By - Geraldine Malone
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Life lessons and the teachings around indigenous resilience were the focus of a panel discussion hosted by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner during Aboriginal Achievement Week.

The newly opened Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre at the University of Saskatchewan was filled with the smells of soup and bannock and the sounds of storytelling during the panel called Lunch, Learn, and Listen on Friday.

The five diverse panelists each brought a different life experience to the table from surviving residential school to reclaiming identity through dance.

Ruth Cameron spoke about growing up being separated from her family through residential school but she said she always held one lesson from her mother inside, “Be proud of who you are.”

Metis dancing and the arts was Amy Seesequasis constant connection to her indigenous identity. She said the carrying of history through stories is essential, not only for indigenous communities but for everyone.

“Through [dance] and through university I was able to be able to reclaim my identity,” she said.

The journey towards her indigenous identity started as a teenager, Jennifer Heimbecker explained to the room. Heimbecker said her mother was rejected by her First Nation when she married outside the community, and so she was raised in a small rural village.

“It was a life that was unfolding and unfolding and it continues to unfold. It gives me great pride to be who I am and come from the family I came from,” she said.

Political science student Xavier Fisher said growing up his home was filled with the sounds of the Michif language and it was essential to his identity. He is teaching himself his language again.

“I take it upon myself to be not only reeducating myself, but my children,” he said.

“That’s what that resilience is to me because it… is reclaiming my identity. Not only reclaiming my identity but reclaiming my children’s identity, reclaiming my family’s identity.”

Donnie Speidel, from the Lakota tribe, said working in the school system you can see the effects of the residential school. He said re-instilling and reclaiming the passion for identity is critical for future generations.

“I really believe that it’s a paramount role for all of us as parents and members of the community to retain and understand tradition, language,” he said. “Language is so vital to our survival and so vital to linking us to the past, present, and future.”

The Office of the Treaty Commissioner has supported Aboriginal Achievement Week since its inception. In 2012 OTC signed a strategic alliance with the U of S signifying the commitment of both institutions to educated students, staff, and faculty about the importance of the treaties and the responsibilities that flow from the treaties.

- By Geraldine Malone

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