June Environmental Issues Discussion: Indigenous Perspectives

June 21 was National Aboriginal Day in Canada. At the Women’s Centre, we took the opportunity to celebrate and learn about Indigenous culture together, with a “Walk, Talk, and Campfire Chat,” event, organized by our Environmental Issues Committee.

We began our event at the Women’s Centre, where our volunteer Esther acknowledged the land we are situated on – Treaty 7 territory, home of the Stoney/Nakoda, Blackfoot, Tsuut’tina and Siksika Nations. Esther spoke about the significance behind crafting meaningful land acknowledgements, and shared about her own process of creating one for the Women’s Centre.

After that, we walked to the newly re-named Reconciliation Bridge. We talked about the decision to re-name the bridge, which came after a public outcry in 2015 against the bridge’s namesake, Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, who was one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system. We shared the research our practicum student Blaire gathered for our 2017 Jane’s Walk, which explored the White Goose Flying Report, a call for City of Calgary Council to take action in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After learning about the reasons for re-naming the Reconciliation Bridge, we took some time to learn about the “her-stories,” of some amazing Indigenous women in Canada, and took turns reading Indigenous Women’s Firsts,  a timeline commemorating the accomplishments of Indigenous women throughout the years.

From the Reconciliation Bridge, we made our way to St. Patrick’s Island. Along the way, our volunteer Jacie took time to talk about working with Elders in Indigenous communities. Jacie spoke to her own experiences connecting with Elders, giving us insight into their role in Indigenous communities, and the roles we can all play when working together to share skills, knowledge and learning.

Finally, on the rise at St. Patrick’s Island, our volunteer Maxine shared a bit about our work to add a gender lens to environmental issues with our new Women and Environment program. Maxine highlighted the importance of including an “Indigenous lens,” in this work throughout the entire process, and recognized that the Women’s Centre is constantly learning about what Truth and Reconciliation means in our community.

After that, we got comfy, setting up blankets around a campfire on top of St. Patrick’s Island as a part of the University of Calgary’s Campfire Chat. We took in a dance performance from Savannah Sparvier, and heard from Kanai Elder Wilton Goodstriker and astrophysicist Rob Cardinal, who shared the myths of the Blackfoot Skies, the importance of words, storytelling and ways of knowing, and how these connect to Indigenous people’s sense of place in the universe.

At the end of an incredibly full evening, we walked back the Centre together, talking about everything we’d learned already looking forward to new ways learn about Indigenous perspectives together through the year, and on next year’s National Indigenous People’s Day.

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