Woman Warriors Newsletter

Expansion to Treaty 7

Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Pilot – Facilitator Training

It was an honor to present our program and research findings from the past two years, including University of Calgary Master’s student, Megan Sampson’s preliminary findings on food security to City of Calgary managers and stakeholders on Friday, March 16th.

The attendees were receptive and discussed how our program aligns with the 2017 City of Calgary reconciliation initiative, which “adopted the Indigenous Policy Framework to help guide The City’s efforts to be responsive to the White Goose Flying Report and the needs of Indigenous peoples in Calgary.”[1]

In specific, our program relates to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action:

#22: Aboriginal Healing Practices
We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

#89: Physical activity Promotion
We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples. 

One attendee, from the Community Hubs Initiative, “a partnership between United Way Calgary and Area, The City of Calgary and the Rotary Club of Calgary, in support of the Enough For All strategy” stated our program compliments their mission of “Empowering residents to shape and build the kind of community they want to live in and raise their families in.”[2] The foundation of our program includes building community and being community driven – meaning we listen to the needs of the participants and help them to connect to community resources and programs.

Bev Renaud, our host on Treaty 7 and a passionate community advocate for Indigenous peoples, announced that Women Warriors Calgary pilot is full with 60 registered participants and only 25 available spots.

Sonja and I spent two days training our new facilitators, Loretta (Cree/Metis) and Tia (Blackfoot) and enjoyed learning about their cultural practices and visions for the program. They are both involved with community work, Loretta with Mahmawi-atoskiwin program for Indigenous families and Tia as an Indigenous entrepreneur pursuing her goal of running an on-the-land camp for youth and whom previously worked for the YWCA as an Indigenous Youth Programmer.

Also, we had the pleasure of training two non-Indigenous City of Calgary supports for the program, Joleen, a recreation specialist and Nicole, community social worker and Masters of Public Health graduate. She had some great insights to share with us on pre/post program questionnaires.

I admit to being fully biased, since I had an amazing weekend educating and learning, but I could not have picked better-suited facilitators or a more passionate group of ladies than Loretta, Tia, Joleen, and Nicole.  Our round circle discussions had some laughs and tears, and as a group composed of half Indigenous and half non-Indigenous, we had the privilege of sharing cultural teachings (mostly delivered by Loretta) and understand Indigenous women’s health and wellness based on the social determinates of health perspective.

We have been contacted by a number of reserves interested in starting their own Women Warriors programs and between Sonja and myself, we are trying our best to respond within a reasonable time frame. Please send inquires to Shelley@womenwarriors.club. We are currently in the works of adding a Calgary tab to the website so everyone can keep up to date on the pilot and read the Woman Warrior Wednesday profiles.

[2] City of Calgary. (2017). Community Hub. Retrieved March 23, 2018 from http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/CNS/Pages/Strong-Neighbourhoods/Community-Hubs.aspx


Truth-Telling in Education 

I was inspired to start a “Truth-telling” column after reading this University of Alberta Faculty of Law interview with Metis author and activist, Chelsea Vowel in which she states:

“After Colten [Boushie] and Tina [Fontaine], and the total lack of justice for them, I’ve really decided that reconciliation is a concept whose time has not yet come. We need to put it on the shelf and go back to truth first. We’re not ready for reconciliation because Indigenous people are still not treated with equality, and until we fix that power differential we cannot resolve anything. We need to turn our minds to telling the truth and understanding that colonization is ongoing and that white supremacy is a real thing and we’re not going to get rid of it by pretending it doesn’t exist. We have to actively dismantle those systems and if we can’t even name them or admit they’re there, then they will just remain in the background and continue to warp all that we try to do.”

My first truth-teller was our Master’s student, Megan Sampson writing about the history of Lloydminster and area:
1) Indigenous Women’s Health, Colonization & Truth-Telling (+Lloydminster’s Plains History)
2) Lloydminster’s Plains History Part 2 & International Women’s Day (+Dr. Williams Mentor Profile)

My goal is to continue to engage non-Indigenous allies in this truth-telling so that we can all learn from each other on how to better communicate and engage in dialogue.

Our second non-Indigenous ally guest writer is engaged in reconciliation within education as a teacher and mother. Aleata Harty-Blank, a former teacher in Kitscoty and now a resident of Kimberley, BC spends a great deal of time on skis with her husband and their five-year-old daughter.

When I first began teaching history, over a decade ago, I taught from the textbook. I taught to the exam. I was a new teacher and I followed the rules. As I settled in to my profession and the content of what I was teaching, it became increasingly clear to me that much of what I was teaching was one-sided, only told a piece of the story and while multiple perspectives were encouraged, everything was still written, in my opinion, in a way that suggested that one perspective, the European perspective, was superior. I felt that I was doing my students, and ultimately an entire generation a disservice to continue teaching this way. I began looking for my own resources. My students needed to know there was more to the story. In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable. Who was I, a privileged white girl, to tell the First Nations, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) story? But on the same note, I thought, even if I don’t do the FNMI perspective the full justice it deserves, at least I’m doing something.

Teaching FNMI perspective is incredibly important to me and I found in many cases that students were coming to me with that same us and them perspective I had been raised with – Us being the superior white folk. I was seeing and hearing first hand, the multigenerational effects of racism. What could I do? It was time to start speaking the hard truths, the truths that for too long had been swept under the rug. I further educated myself and the further I dug the more I was left wondering; how was I never taught this? I certainly didn’t learn it from my parents and what I learned at school, was incredibly superficial; tepees, longhouses, pemmican, bannock and of course the notion that had the white man not come along and saved the First Nations peoples, they’d likely still be living in and eating the aforementioned provisions.

When we know better, we do better. I knew better. I had to do better. I came across so many valuable resources. They helped with my understanding and became incredibly important tools in my classroom: powerful multimedia like We Were Children and 8th Fire; Incredible books like The Outer CircleThe Secret Path and I am Not a Number. Activities like KAIROS Blanket exercise and visits to former Residential Schools guided by survivors. I cannot say enough about the power of these resources. They have left many of my students in complete awe. Genuinely reeling from the fact that up until this point they had never understood intergenerational trauma, treaty rights and the bigger picture effects of colonization. Time after time I hear kids say, “why are we just learning about this now?”

I feel blessed that I get to raise my own daughter knowing she won’t have to wait to learn about colonization, trauma and reconciliation from a teacher. But so many will. I don’t have the answers, but I know that time and education are the only way. I’ve been labelled a liberal snowflake more than once for attempting to take on causes that apparently don’t affect me, but if educating youth to understand, to respect and to do better than generations before them makes me lesser of a person in the eyes of some, then I’ll happily wear the label. I will continue to live my mantra that “Everyone has a story” and when we take the time to learn and perhaps even understand the stories, only then can humanity progress in a meaningful way.

Next week I will address how to incorporate the FNMI perspective within our education system with the assistance of:
Marcia Anderson, MD MPH FRCPC
Executive Director, Indigenous Academic Affairs
Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba

She had a similar situation to one of my Women Warriors participants when a teacher sent home a “Connecting to the Past” assignment.

She wrote in an email to the teacher that “the initial questions are written as if everyone who is in the class came from somewhere else. The underlying assumption could either be that there were no people here prior to European Settlers and other immigrants or that there are no Indigenous children in the class. Either way this absence of recognition of Indigenous peoples starts insidiously very early in education and can be damaging to both Indigenous children trying to understand their place in Canada or the class environment and to the other children who are taught passively that there is not a story of First Peoples here by the absence of that as an option in the questions.”