Prairie Rivers Reconciliation Committee meeting was held Tuesday, January 26, 2021 – 9:00am-11:00am via Zoom with 25 people in virtual attendance. Tri-chair Chief Tricia Sutherland opened the meeting and is the standard practice of the committee, the roundtable introductions were made as each attendee identified at least one thing they were thankful for. The responses included family, health, technology which allows us to connect with friends and family near and far, and with the frigid temperatures that had encapsulated the prairies more than one expressed thankfulness for warm homes. While many of the names and faces on the screen were familiar it was good to see some newcomers, some representing organizations that have been long standing members and some were new all around.
Lorie provided a financial update. The grant monies from the Multi-Cultural Initiatives Fund were received. Lorie brought forward a request that the committee move to on-line banking to facilitate paying invoices and conducting business during a pandemic. The bank required a motion be brought to the committee and voted upon, such a motion was made, voted upon, and carried.
The next order of business was an update from Tracey who was to get some quotes for embroidered PRRC logos on jackets from local businesses. Aurora Sign Works is capable of doing silk screening but is not set up for embroidery and so the decision was made to go with Jeff’s Crestware & Sports Supplies which is a Saskatoon locally owned and operated embroidery and screen printing shop.
Garett gave an update on the status of the Committee’s social media. There is a small following and post on average generate 3-5 ‘likes’. The biggest draw on the page so far has been the post regarding Emily Bear’s “Tipi Teachings” series which drew over 1300 views. The social media group have been talking about things that can be done to improve and draw more people to the Committee’s Facebook page and came up with a few ideas.
Growth Area: Increase Engagement
~Increasing the number of people engaging (liking, sharing, commenting) with the page, in turn, makes them more involved and investing in the committee & Page. here are a few options to consider:
1) Scheduling posts to go out at optimized times (Facebook will tell you the optimal time to post it to get more views)
2) Ask questions
3) Consider posting other types of content – besides news & events.
c) Books, movies, etc.
Growth Area: Committee Updates
~The committee could post monthly updates about what we are working on. These posts could occur before or after each meeting and can be as simple as point form.
Example: At February’s PRRC Committee meeting, we discussed:
Educational activities happening in the Region
Grants – Availability & writing
Social media – Increasing engagement
Our educational session was done by Joe, who spoke to the committee about…
Jamie Yuzicappi agreed to join as an administrator of the Committee’s Facebook and social media group.
Amanda addressed the agenda item of educational activities. The grant money received from the Multi-Cultural Initiative Fund will of course provide for honorariums for the educational presenters we have at each meeting but can also be used for reconciliation events in our communities and the tri-chairs are working on a plan for how individual committee members can apply for funding to host an event. Attention then turned to the annual conference. The first conference was held in Warman and attracted approximately 250 participants. The second was hosted in Martensville and attracted approximately 400 participants. The third conference got derailed by COVID, however people are now familiar with online events and discussion centred on first off, should we plan a conference this year, and secondly if so what format? A decision was reached to plan a fall conference which will allow ample time to organize and plan out a good conference and establish a partnership perhaps with other organizations that are more recognizable than PRRC to attract one or more possibly high-profile speakers and a greater audience. The committee agreed that planning for an online conference would be the best route to take with the possibility of small in person attendance depending on what the pandemic situation is closer to the date. Some facets of online conferences that committee members liked was it allowed them to come and go as needed, ‘bigger’ names could be hired because other costs were minimal, and it allows for engagement of individuals from a wide geographical area. One downfall that was identified was the hesitancy of people to ask questions, talk, and discuss and we will need to see if there is a way to encourage involvement from participants. One suggestion was that our topics need to be look beyond residential schools and treaties, perhaps at how to form effective working relationships between First Nations and local governments, small businesses and other sectors of the economy. Another was changing the public perception of First Nations businesses; they are more than just casinos and gas stations. The February meeting will focus more on the fall conference and a sub-committee will be formed at that time.
Our educational session was led by committee member Velma Assinewai who spoke about language. Pre-contact there were roughly 1000 First Nations languages and even more dialects, but in Canada according to the 2016 census less than 75 remain. The loss of language is significant in that language reflects the soul of the people and is the principal instrument for passing knowledge from one generation to another. For a society that does not contain a written language, the loss of the spoken language means the history of the people begins to be lost. First Nations people have primarily an oral history, one that is passed from generation to generation from elders to youngsters and when the young do not speak the language, they cannot learn the history. Without language the people cannot hear the voice of the land nor can they see all of what they should see. While there is a growing interest in learning the Indigenous languages, it is being learned as a second language and so much has been lost already that it is an uphill battle to slow the demise of many of them. Some linguists have created syllabics to try and create a written language to record the oral history and preserve it and to teach new speakers, but this is not happening with all First Nations languages and unfortunately so much has already been lost of the old languages that recovery and fluency in them may not be possible. The best way to learn the languages of course is to sit and listen, to learn from observing, and attempting to communicate the way children do. They listen and see the connection between the word and the item or idea and retain that information. For many of the current generation of First Nations and Métis, their parents are not fluent in their own indigenous language and therefore to learn it, children and others must first find someone to teach it and sadly there is not always someone able to do that.
The next meeting will be on February 23, 2021.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder