In the final sharing circle, nearly 50 municipal staff passed the eagle feather, expressing personal reflections and some tears after learning the truths of Canada's past with Indigenous peoples of Canada.
The gathering, held at Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, was one of three Cultural Awareness and First Nations history sessions hosted by the Municipal Innovation Council (MIC) for municipal employees across member municipalities in Bruce County.
Members of the MIC are working towards building meaningful relationships with our Indigenous neighbours and communities, and I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in these sessions with so many colleagues across Bruce County.
Trish Meekins of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation shared local stories, history, culture and honest discussion of the often-disturbing journey of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation from creation to where we are today.
Combining an Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldview, Trish has many years of experience teaching the history of the First Nations peoples in Canada.
Each session started with a smudging ceremony with white sage—one of the four scared medicines—and a sharing circle. This ceremony gave participants time to reflect, become mindful, let go of negative energy and become grounded in the present.
Reflections on the day
During the session, Trish highlighted how important being an ally is and how a willingness to learn about the past is a step in the right direction.
And after reflecting on the day, Nicole Griffin, Communications Coordinator at the Municipality of Kincardine, mentioned how “…there is so much more to learn! That, and to remember to always think more deeply about what you’re being told.”
Sara Dales, Early Years Educator for the County of Bruce, said she would like “To try and incorporate smudging into some of the EarlyON Indigenous Cultural Awareness programs.” She acknowledged: “The training was very rich in history and although it was heavy and hard to listen to, it is very important information to know.”
I found myself overwhelmed by the words shared in the final sharing circle and left feeling hopeful that more people in this region will play an active role in Truth and Reconciliation.
I hope others also walked away with a desire to learn more and do better—to promote positive and productive relationships with our local Indigenous communities.
And I’m thankful the MIC supported these sessions for all of us to learn about First Nations history. Combined with the training opportunities for municipal staff across the county on mental health and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace, the MIC is at work bringing new ways to learn, share—and now, to take part in the journey of Reconciliation.
Becky Smith is the Director of the Centre for Municipal Innovation.