We Are All Treaty People

Historic Atamiskakewak, National Gathering sheds global light on Reconciliation with first-ever conference

  • Published - 30/04/2018
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  • Posted By - Sasha-Gay Lobban
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The week of April 23 to 28 marked a historic week for Saskatchewan as people from across the globe travelled to the province for the first-ever Atamiskakewak National Gathering 2018 in the city of Moose Jaw.

Atamiskakewak which means ‘shaking hands in greeting with each other’ saw many dignitaries, commending the historic event which was centered on Reconciliation. Thousands made their way from as far away as South Africa to Saskatchewan to witness the ground-breaking conference.

Events, activities and showcases were featured across the city that fostered dialogue, teaching and learning more about Reconciliation; the importance of honoring treaties and moving ahead with the 94 Calls to Action.

The week-long National Gathering kicked off with an official opening ceremony at the Heritage Inn with a grand entrance and color party, accompanied by drums and victory songs. This was followed by Elder Noel Starblankct, Residential School survivor, saying a prayer and subsequently by chiefs and several other dignitaries who brought greetings, staying true to the event’s title.

Reconciliation advocate, Chief Dr Robert Joseph, gave a powerful speech talking about “re-envisioning” and “re-creating” Canada through Reconciliation. He marveled at the event’s turnout which saw thousands attending.

“It’s such an honor to be at a conference of this sorts that reminds me that there are good people everywhere that care about each other and are interested in finding resolution to a complex relationship that we’ve had over the years,” he said.

“As we move into this new era of Reconciliation, we should always think about educating Canadians about who we are. It is not up to others to remake us into their own image or to be like them. We should embrace people for who they are and what they stand for. We should embrace and celebrate diversity and I am moved by this conference that has drawn all of us here who want better things for our children. I think this journey of Reconciliation, partly, is a way in which we will re-determine our common humanity.”

Chief Joseph added that in order for Reconciliation to happen, there has to be a collective effort.

“All kinds of things divide us but here we are in this special place with a beautiful idea that is showing that we should work together and recognize the inherent values in all of us. That’s why we were born, for this purpose, to work together. We struggled for 150 years now and we haven’t got it yet. We’ve made mistakes along the way and far too much suffering and brokenness happened. Now, here we are in this moment to reflect deeply about who we are as Canadians, Aboriginals and indigenous people. We should ask ourselves, “Who am I? What is my responsibility to the higher purpose of our collective?” That’s a discussion that needs to take place when we think about Reconciliation,” he said.

He also told the attendees that Reconciliation starts within and every one must make a conscious effort to be willing participants in the journey.

“We have mega issues that need to be addressed like: honoring treaties; creating modern day treaties; closing the socio-economic disparity between Aboriginal peoples and all other Canadians. I tell myself that if I am going to be involved in Reconciliation, my duty is to make sure that there is real dialogue with whomever I am working with for the first time; sharing each other’s hopes and dreams, values and aspirations. We’ve never done that. We were simply grown up with walls and divisions. Now, we’re in a time where we have the opportunity to reflect and to determine how we will contribute to Reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation is a powerful document that provides us with the blueprint to recreate and re-envision Canada so that we can live up to the ideals we say we embrace like inclusion, justice and equality. If we can reconcile, we’ll honor these ideals and hold each other up. We all can contribute to Reconciliation because Reconciliation starts with you. Reconciliation is an inside job.”

Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Honorable W. Thomas Molloy said the event is a step in the right direction.

“I was fortunate enough to take part in some treaty agreements in Nunavut and British Columbia. It took years to complete these agreements and even though the negotiations felt like they took a very long time, when agreements were signed, that was really just the beginning of the work for the communities involved who had a great deal of work ahead of them in implementing the treaties. In some ways, this is similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

He said the conference marks the beginning of a lot more work to come in working towards Reconciliation.

“The Commission marked a beginning and now the work begins,” he said.

“The work of learning, understanding, appreciating and more importantly, moving forward. This conference is a wonderful way for us to unite. This has been a huge undertaking and I want to express my gratitude to the chairs of the event, sponsors, organizing team as well as the presenters. This gives us a valuable opportunity for education and dialogue and providing practical and positive ways to move forward. As we officially open this National Gathering, we celebrate how far we’ve come as well as our remarkable potential to create a province where everyone is valued and where we reach out and hold hands in friendship.”

Atamiskakewak National Gathering was created by Kallie Wood and Chris McKee of Converging Pathways.