The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has launched a six-week reconciliation challenge in advance of the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
Topics covered in the challenge will include the legacy of residential schools, local Indigenous culture and history, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action, principles of reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Participants are invited to sign a personal pledge of reconciliation and keep a log of what they have learned throughout the challenge. At the end of the six weeks, those who have participated will receive a certificate and a gift basket.
Week one of the challenge, which launched on Thursday, features a get-to-know the region exercise and includes a map of Wood Buffalo with the locations of the six First Nations and six Métis communities, along with historical information, languages spoken, cultural protocols and common activities in each community.
Future weeks will include teachings from elders and traditional knowledge keepers, while providing ways for participants to partner in reconciliation activities in Wood Buffalo.
“I think if you look back on history there has been a need [for additional education] for a long time,” said Dennis Fraser, director of Indigenous and rural relations for the RMWB. “Something that is really speeding it along is some of the recent finds, like at the Kamloops residential school where there were unmarked graves. There is a lot of sensitivity, a lot of emotion, and that put a lot of stuff on people’s radar where before they didn’t know.”
Originally, the challenge was designed to be an internal activity for municipal, but the department of Indigenous and rural relations opted to broaden the event to the community. The challenge comes in the wake of the discovery of unmarked graves at multiple residential school sites across the country earlier this year.
“It’s intended to encourage a personal commitment to educate and actively participate in learning more about the history of Indigenous peoples [of the RMWB],” said Fraser. “This first step is awareness. We need to move beyond that and start taking concrete steps to take action. Then and only then is that the essence of real change.”
Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today