Newcomers to Canada visit Muskeg Lake Cree Nation to learn about reconciliation

Newcomers to Canada visit Muskeg Lake Cree Nation to learn about reconciliation

Chidimma Ukandu admits that, until this weekend, she didn't know much about First Nations people.

But on Sunday, Ukandu and her family got on a school bus filled with new Canadians and travelled to the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation for a reconciliation event between the Mennonite community and members of the First Nation.

"We've learned a lot of things about their very rich culture," said Ukandu. "The dances, the stories, their history, the things they've been through."

The event started after a partnership was developed between the Mennonite Central Committee and Saskatchewan's Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC).

'Reconciliation through music'

For decades, Mennonite farmers have lived side by side with First Nations people, but there has rarely been much positive interaction between the two groups. However, in recent years, both sides have made strides to change that.

"This is our effort to put reconciliation through music," said OTC executive director and Muskeg Lake band member Harry Lafond.

"Mennonites have come with their songs and their ways of celebrating creation, and Muskeg is sharing their way through the dancing, through the singing."

When the Saskatoon Open Door Society heard about the event, they leapt at the chance to get involved and help new Canadians learn about Indigenous issues.

"Newcomers don't know much about First Nations or their history," said community development worker Mohammad Abushar.

"This is all about reconciliation, so we can allow First Nations people to tell their story and share it with the newcomers so they can share one society."

'There's room for everyone'

Performers at the event said it's a great idea.

"New Canadians — we need them," said dancer and Sweetgrass First Nation band member Lamarr Oksasikewiyin.

"It's a big country. There's room for everyone."

Organizers hope this is the first event of many.

"We want those who live here to share more than one territory, but to share beliefs and world views to enrich each other," said Lafond.

This is the first time the Saskatoon Open Door Society has travelled to a First Nation.