Annual Picnic – Sunday, September 6
Twelfth Night, about 25 people gathered for an evening potluck and entertainment on January 4. The food was abundant and amazing, as usual, and the entertainers diverse, from age 5 to, well, let’s just say considerably older than 5, with songs, stories, readings and humour. A wonderful time was had by all.
Truth and Reconciliation Speakers Series: –Frances Elizabeth Moore spoke about We Matter, a national multi-media campaign supporting Indigenous Youth, hope and life on Thursday, November 28. Local Knowledge Keepers, Liz Akiwenzie and Maryanne Kechego provided support and perspective.
Truth and Reconciliation Speakers Series: Human Rights – Jennifer Preston speaking on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Thurs., November 14. Mary Lou and Dan Smoke opened the evening with an engaging mix of seriousness and humour, word and song.
Jennifer Preston, Indigenous Rights coordinator for Canadian Friends (Quakers) Service Committee, worked on and lobbied for the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva and New York. She now focuses on its implementation by working with Indigenous Peoples’ and state representatives throughout the world. Jennifer’s stories of her international and national efforts with Indigenous rights provided a rare opportunity for the audience to connect with this issue and its history at a personal level. Jennifer also challenged the audience with a series of actions possible for any individual to undertake.
Pelham Half Yearly Meeting Workshop, Sunday, October 27,
Some 30 Friends assembled in a Meetinghouse redolent of the perfume of Daniel A’s organic, gluten-free vegetable soup. We were already well acquainted with one another from having attended Margaret’s and Robert’s wedding the previous day.
Pat Gere facilitated a workshop of her creation to educate us about the history of settler/Indigenous relations that has led to the present dire state of friction and oppression of the latter. Most Friends are well acquainted with the statistics of the disproportionate number of Indigenous people incarcerated, the shocking number of Indigenous children in care and the Third World conditions in many Indigenous communities. What we were doubtless less familiar with is the circumstances leading to the current situation. By taking turns to read aloud the major relevant historical events – first contacts, treaties, Indian residential schools, Indian Act, etc., we created a timeline along one wall of the Meetinghouse. Perhaps the history of Quaker policies and involvement could be added at a later date.
We read and considered the clauses of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 94 Calls to Action. (Canada was one of four Western countries originally opposing UNDRIP although it officially removed its objector status about 10 years later. Approval of a bill to implement UNDRIP was killed in the Senate earlier this year.)
After receiving this information, we stretched our legs while categorizing the various calls to action, which were colour-coded to provide a visual view of how many recommendations had been implemented, how many were underway and how many had not been started on.
A hearty lunch was laid on by Coldstream’s Truth and Reconciliation Response Committee, following which, during a windup session to our program, we broke up into small groups to suggest actions we thought we were capable of taking as individuals or meetings. We all agreed we needed more education on the complexities of the situation. Possible actions included, but were not limited to, urging the end to water advisories on reserves, pushing to get UNDRIP approved federally and possibly provincially, and lobbying to end mandatory minimum sentences brought in by the Conservative government under Stephen Harper and to support the inclusion of Indigenous curriculum abolished by our present Ontario Conservative government. The possibility of sponsoring an Indigenous student for post-secondary education, who would then be asked to help educate us, was also raised.
Wedding and potluck dinner, Saturday, October 26. Friends filled the meeting house to witness and celebrate the marriage of the joy filled couple, Margaret and Robert.
Truth and Reconciliation Speakers Series: Women – a panel of Indigenous women who are leading change Thurs., October 24
“The Women’s panel was brilliant! The venue was packed with people who were totally engaged. We had to keep trying to find chairs for the overflow. I believe it was Maryanne Kechego who commented on the impressive and important numbers of people who showed up to listen. Each panel member had such profound and moving contributions to the discussion of Truth and Reconciliation. The women were honest and sincere and really “told it like it is.”” Teri and Donna
The moderator was Sara Mai Chitty. She is Anishnaabekwe and a member of Alderville First Nation. She is an Instructor and an Indigenous Transitions and Learning Advisor at Fanshawe College in their Institute of Indigenous Learning, a freelance journalist, educator and activist on Indigenous issues.
The panel included Jenna Rose Sands who is a Cree and Anishnaabekwe artist, educator and activist from Bkejwanong. She is the creator of multiple “zines” that combine facts with powerful imagery to explore national atrocities and histories, bringing truth through story telling of experiences of Indigenous peoples
Reta Van Every is of the Onondaga Nation, Turtle Clan and Elder. Reta has been the Indigenous Liaison Outreach Worker for My Sisters’ Place at Canadian Mental Health Association for many years. She also sits on the All Our Sisters National Network on Women and Homelessness and is a member of DeshkanZiibi, local chapter of Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)
Maryanne Kechego is of Oneida Nation of the Thames, Turtle Clan, Chippewa registered though marriage, Knowledge Keeper is the President of Deshkan Ziibi, local chapter of the Ontario Native Women’s Association and sits on the All Our Sisters National Network on Women and Homelessness. She has been working in the helping fields for Indigenous communities for 40 year in education, addictions and counselling. Maryanne assists locally with the Kairos Blanket Exercise and owns and runs “Gramz Kitchen” Catering Company
Dawn-Estelle Miskokomon is Wawasay Guhmee Kwe (Shimmery Shiny Lake woman) is Mishiikenh (Turtle) clan. She is Anishinaabe Kwe from Bkejwanong miniwa (and) Deshkan Ziibiing territories. Her English name is Dawn-Estelle Miskokomon and she works as the Violence Prevention Coordinator for Deshkan Ziibiing, also known as Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. Dawn-Estelle has been a life long advocate for children and youth and is currently completing her Graduate Degree in Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University, where she is researching ways to decolonize support, advocacy and protection of Childhood.
Frances Elizabeth Moore is from Timiskaming First Nations (Bear Clan) but has resided in London for the past 14 years. She is an Indigenous Activist, as well as the Operations and National Outreach Manager for We Matter which is a multimedia campaign to support Indigenous youth life promotion (suicide prevention) and an Instructor at the Anishinabek Educational Institute. She currently volunteers with NokeeKwe’s +Positive Voice Program; Museum London’s Indigenous Legacies Project; Pillar Non-profit’s Indigenous Training of Non-profits and with various other amazing organizations within the City (LIFE*SPIN, King’s University College & Brescia College) in various capacities. Frances Elizabeth is a member of both the Indigenous Leadership Circle and the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada
Donika Stonefish is Potawatomi and Lunaapew from Bkejwanong Unceeded Traditional Territory and is of the Suckersfish clans. She is a facilitator and educator and a recent graduate of Western University where she received her BA in First Nations Studies. During her time at Western she established the first Indigenous Relations Committee, a permanent part of the University Students’ Council, and served as its first coordinator. On departure from Western Donika completed a research fellowship focusing on the use of Land Acknowledgement practices in post-secondary as decolonial pedagogy.
Approximately 75 people attended Mark’s presentation which was opened by knowledge keeper Maryanne Kechego of the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation. Mark, a member of the White River First Nation, spoke about his social innovation business, Birchbark Coffee, which gives water purifiers to First Nations’ homes under water advisories. One home (and bag of coffee) at a time Mark is making a difference for First Nations. Andrea Young, a water walker from the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, responded from her experiences.