The regular monthly meeting of the Prairie Rivers Reconciliation Committee was held on December 15th from 9:00 to 11:00 am via Zoom. An opening blessing was said by Gilbert Kewistep before roundtable introductions were made. The compilation of the committee is representative of a broad range of individuals from many different walks of life; from the mayor of the city of Warman, to town councillors, from the reeve of a rural municipality, to the chief of a First Nation, from representatives of corporate entities, to individuals with an interest in being a part of the healing process, in being part of going forward into a new period of conciliation where all parties work together to gain or regain the goodwill or favor of all. At every meeting there is something to learn both the planned educational opportunities and the learning that comes by way of a simple comment that triggers a “light bulb” moment of comprehension.
The Social Media Committee reported that regular updates have been made to the PRRC Facebook page and they were looking forward in the new year to reconnecting with the signers of the Reconciliation Declaration to see what steps they have been involved in as part of the reconciliation journey.
Tracey Grand’maison spoke from her position on the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Board of her idea to bring rural municipalities and towns together through funding commitments to support bringing reconciliation speakers to the community and to continue the spirit and ‘heart’ of the community going past the COVID pandemic. She noted there have been so many innovative ways of showcasing the community spirit this year that it would be great to find ways to continue fostering that going forward, and since Parks and Rec Boards have links to both town and country it might be the avenue to use to facilitate that partnership.
Further to the application submitted to SaskCulture requesting funding to support the activities of PRRC, Tracey who had spearheaded the application, was very excited to report that the application was approved. SaskCulture works on its own and with community partners to provide programs and services which encourage cultural activity in the province. A portion of the funds derived from lottery sales in the province go to support cultural activities in the arts, heritage, multiculturalism, First Nations/Métis cultures, as well as the cultural/creative industries. The funding received from SaskCulture will help by way of providing honorariums for the educational speakers at the meetings as well as covering the incidental costs incurred by the committee during the year.
Next on the agenda was a discussion of ideas for upcoming educational segments in the New Year and invited both queries for additional information and teaching, and suggestions/recommendations of possible presenters. The first place to look was within our own membership on PRRC. Velma Assinewai who is employed at the ARC Concession, has held workshops on moccasin and mukluk making before and felt that it would be possible to do virtually and Bob Daniels it was suggested, might be able to do a session on building relationships and opening dialogue between First Nations and non-First Nations groups. Other suggestions for presenters were the Saskatchewan authors of When the Trees Crackle with Cold, Bernice Johnson-Laxdal and Miriam Korner, and Kyle Charles the Edmonton artist and illustrator of the storyline featuring Dani Moonstar in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1, new Marvel character. Other names put forward were Lyndon Linklater a traditional knowledge keeper of the Thunderchild First Nation, and Dr. Ernie Walker who has done archaeological research at Wanuskewin. From that starting point for the committee’s education, discussion switched to the possibility of hosting the PRRC’s annual conference virtually. This past year has shown that virtual conferences can be successful and indeed in some instances, conferences have been even better attended than before. As people have been forced this year to use technology to connect with people in other areas, they have discovered that not everything needs to be face-to-face and this could be a way to involve even more people in the annual conference. More discussion will follow as to whether to go ahead and try to organize a virtual event for the spring or whether to wait for the fall.
Also up for discussion, was the timing of the monthly meetings. Currently, meetings have been held on the third Tuesday of the month from 9:00 – 11:00 am and after a survey completed by committee members, the results showed that the majority of members preferred to stay with a standard meeting day each month. Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons were the most popular times suggested to hold meetings. The decision was made to stay with Tuesday mornings, but to move from the third Tuesday to the fourth Tuesday of the month. Conflicts had been arising for members between our meeting time and another standard meeting that several PRRC members were involved in. The next meeting therefore will be January 26th, 2021.
The second half of the meeting, which is usually turned over to our educational component, still had that aspect to it, but the focus of the education was the committee members ourselves. Each shared a tradition that is maintained at this time of year and while some carried on traditions stemming from their cultural heritage, others shared traditions that just grew within their families over the years, and still others spoke of new traditions in the making. The round table sharing of traditions new and old helped to paint a picture of the PRRC members away from the committee; as another side of the individuals who come together once a month to be involved in the process of change. Not surprisingly not one tradition involved running up copious amounts of debt, but all of them involved family
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder