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Making connections for Reconciliation

Education, Youth
Treaty 6

Connections between cultures has always been important to Randy Klassen, who has been co-ordinating events between Saskatoon and Beardy’s & Okemasis’ youth for more than a decade.

“It was before the language of Reconciliation was being used a whole bunch, but it is what we are doing,” he said.

It started off while he was a professor at Bethany College, a private Christian college in Hepburn. For a week each year some students would stay at the Beardy’s & Okemasis high school, exploring the community, meeting and learning from elders, and creating new friendships.

With the closure of the college, Randy discovered some kindred spirits at Mennonite Central Committee and especially Lakeview Church who wanted to keep this project moving forward. After a couple of years with no community visits, they began again with young adults from the Lakeview Church.

In May 2019, students participated in the third year of this new iteration of the project. They arrived at the school Monday morning and had a packed week. The young adults visited the Willow Cree Healing Lodge to learn more about restorative justice, volunteered at the school track and field day, and sat alongside youth from Beardy’s & Okemasis Cree Nation to hear from a panel of elders.

“We heard life stories and life experience,” said Randy. “It’s a very moving time, a very rich time.”

The group attended the high school powwow that brought together students from the Beardy’s & Okemasis Constable Robin Cameron Education Complex and the neighbouring Stobart Community School in Duck Lake.

“It was a beautiful thing to see,” Randy said.

Randy said the week is “a good way to break down some of the barriers,” that can exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.

“We’re slowly building up a core of people who are friends and allies, who are well-informed about the many positive things that are happening there, about many of the challenges that this community is facing, and how they are facing it with the kind of resourcefulness that we just see in so many places.”

For people starting their Reconciliation journey, Randy says he knows it can feel intimidating. He suggests starting with an event or going to Wanuskewin Heritage park.

“Start to immerse yourself in the rich cultural life that there is here in Saskatoon. The library system is doing really good things in terms of promoting Indigenous literature and we have Indigenous theatre happening in the city,” he said, adding groups could reach out to see about supporting their local Indian and Métis Friendship Centre.

“That’s a place where you can say, ‘we are interested in having some conversation, or is there a way we could be a service that would be appropriate,’” he said.

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