Amy Smith (Rotaract Club of Edmonton) believes that the journey to reconciliation begins with understanding the culture and history of Canada’s Indigenous people.
With this in mind, Amy has arranged for a half-day Indigenous Awareness Session on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, which is being sponsored by the Rotaract Club of Edmonton and the District 5370 Rotary Aboriginal Program. Amy and spiritual guide Heather Poitras will facilitate the session, which is available to Rotarians at no cost.
This session be held at the District office, 16030 104 Ave., in Edmonton.
“People want to learn more about Indigenous culture, but aren’t sure where to begin,” Amy says. “This will be a safe setting in which to learn.”
Participants will gain insight and understanding on how Indigenous people view Canada’s history, including colonization and its effects, treaties, and the sensitive topic of residential schools. This will also be an opportunity to learn a little about Indigenous culture and to enjoy some bannock and tea.
The Rotary Aboriginal Program is a District 5370 initiative that strives to build partnerships with Indigenous people, with the goal of Rotary clubs connecting with the Indigenous community.
On its website, the program states that its purpose “is to raise awareness about the realities of Aboriginal people in our Rotary district and to support Aboriginal groups, Rotary clubs and agencies to build capacity with respect to issues and Aboriginal communities.”
“Before Rotarians begin to do projects with Indigenous people, it’s important to understand their cultural and protocols,” Amy says.
Heather and Amy hosted a similar session with Amy’s team at Health Canada, where she works in the human resources department, to eliminate employment barriers for members of the Indigenous community.
Amy is a Métis woman who has a degree in political science and native studies from the University of Alberta. In 2018, she will begin a master’s degree at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia on a Rotary scholarship.
Heather, who has a Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies from the University of Alberta, has worked for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for over 23 years. During this time she has accomplished many things in the efforts to enhance Indigenous awareness. She has been involved with National Aboriginal Day since it was declared in 1996.
She was also instrumental in the establishment of an Indigenous Cultural Centre in Canada Place, serving as the spiritual lodge keeper for more than 15 years. She has served as a executive member for Indigenous staff both for INAC and the entire federal public service.
Amy says that Heather’s work has impacted the lives of thousands of people and has had a “huge influence for Indigenous staff at Canada Place.”
Heather is proud of both her Metis and First Nation culture and is honoured to share it with others. Her extensive cultural knowledge and experience is based on the medicine wheel teachings, which is a tool designed to benefit all nations. She will take you on a spiritual journey, giving you gifts to help you on your own personal and professional paths.
“In a sharing circle, we are all equal,” Heather says. “Most importantly we all have a voice and the ability to share our knowledge and experience.”
Amy hopes participants will be open to seeing Canada from a new perspective, even if it may make them uncomfortable at times. But she emphasizes that this learning will occur within the safe environment of a sharing circle.
“People should feel they can share without fear and they will have the opportunity to ask questions. We really want people to ask questions.”
If you want to learn more about Indigenous history and culture, you should register soon, as several of the 40 places have already been spoken for.
Register today for the 2018 Rotary International Convention in Toronto, June 24-27, 2018. Registration fee increases after December 15, 2017.