To date 155 employees have taken part in educational workshops based on the Walk a Mile Film Project mini documentaries and sharing circles. KACL’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee members Dan Yerxa and Jennifer Martins have hosted 30 sessions for employees. We are grateful to Anishinabe Elder Cathy Lindsay, from Ochiichagwe'Babigo'Ining Ojibway Nation, who has tirelessly guided us through this process and graciously shared her wisdom, teachings and personal experiences in each of the 30 sessions. Several participants commented on how much her presence at these sessions impacted their experience, one wrote that she appreciated having an elder present whose “firsthand knowledge really drove the points home.” For future training, several employees requested “more time with Cathy.”
The Walk A Mile Film Project was created in collaboration with the City of Thunder Bay’s Aboriginal Liaison Unit and Thunderstone Pictures. It is a series of five short documentary films that are meant to educate and encourage discussion and focus on treaties, racism, residential schools, violence against women, and the way forward together. KACL adapted this series by hosting them as sharing circles and having an elder present to share their wisdom. KACL held these sessions in May, June, Sept, Oct and Nov 2017 and Feb 2018. Seventy-seven employees have received certificates of completion for having attended all five sessions.
For many employees the important history of Indigenous people in Canada and in our region was not taught during their time in school. After attending the Walk a Mile sessions one participant wrote that sessions were “very informative, the videos were excellent. Very thought provoking and it brought a lot of things to the surface for me.” While at times the material was emotionally difficult, another commented that they liked “that it sparked a difficult conversation and that everyone was comfortable to share the good and the bad.” Others remarked they liked “the openness of the people” and how they saw the process as “healing of others’ experience and learning from each other”. Another stated, “I learned a lot about the [residential] schools that is valuable and helps me understand.”
While KACL has been working with Indigenous Communities and organizations, and with individuals and families for over 50 years, we recognized we could gain a deeper understanding of the reality of the life and history of Indigenous people. On this subject the following call to action was written by KACL’s CEO, Deb Everley, in the 2015 annual report to the Board of Directors.
“As citizens, the [Truth and Reconciliation] Commissioners call on us to ‘learn how to live together in a good way […] through sharing stories and practicing reconciliation in our everyday lives.’ TRC,2015, p 17. We are called on take personal action, to get to know each other, to learn how to speak to each other respectfully, and to accept the hard truths of our shared history.
“As the CEO, and representing the staff of KACL, it is clear that we too must commit to practice reconciliation through thoughtful consideration of our assumptions, actions, practices and the spaces we create to truly be of service to those we serve who are Indigenous.
“The Truth and Reconciliation report calls for a social transformation through the actions of both Indigenousand non-Indigenouspeoples so that ‘our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace and prosperity’ TRC p 7. This aspiration is completely consistent with KACL’s Mission of belonging and social justice, and the goals we have for a healthy and revitalized community. As we have done with our programs and services, we will approach our work ahead by learning, embracing, and incorporating the wisdom and value of First Nations’ teachings into service delivery. As the TRC reports attests, despite the ravages of colonialism, every Indigenous nation across the country, has kept intact traditions and cultural practices.”
Walk a Mile filmmaker Michelle Derosier has said, ”It is both individuals and communities that are responsible for acknowledging our shared history and moving forward together. This film is a positive step towards, not just building awareness, but creating real and lasting change through creating understanding.”
KACL’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee was formed in 2015 and has plans for more learning and cultural sharing opportunities. KACL staff who attended Walk a Mile sessions have requested more training about treaties, about how to support consumers who are Indigenous, and about ceremony and traditional healing practices. Participants have requested we have “more conversations” and have said, “Let’s keep talking about these topics!”
The 2018 learning themes of the KACL’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee are the Land, Language, Community, and Ceremony. This has already begun with staff being introduced to medicine bundles and shown how to use the medicines for themselves or with consumers and survivors who request it. There are Elders visiting KACL Childcare settings on a monthly basis and there are workshops planned in the Seven Grandfather Teachings and the Seven Natural Ways of Healing. Walk a Mile Sessions will continue to be held annually for KACL staff, including those newly hired. The work of reconciliation at KACL is not done, there will be more to come as we find a way forward together.