BRANTFORD — In accordance with 30 years of service, the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition hosted the first conference of its kind titled Resiliency: Embracing the Road Ahead, which took on literacy programming and resource options with powerful workshop educators and speakers from May 31 to June 2.
The workshops were be presented by 13 individuals of varying backgrounds and keynote speakers included President CEO of the Six Nations Polytechnic Rebecca Jamieson, Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day and University of Victoria Aboriginal Education Consultant Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams. Performances throughout the conference were also provided by the work of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Santee Smith and local Comedic Hypnotist Darren Thomas.
The importance and value of the conference was noted by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who said that the coalition itself is incredibly “valuable to our nations.”
“It was a privilege and an honour to be here, simply because it’s not often that we get to spend time with people that are helping our community members,” said Day. “It’s through these programs that allow people to acquire the literacy that is required, and that people are able to start their journey in a good way. And if we’re able to help at that place in our communities, then it makes individuals stronger, it makes families stronger, and it strengthens our communities and ultimately our nations.”
And the spectrum of workshops and speakers filled the conference with food for thought and mindfulness rather than just strict program discussion.
Keynote Speaker Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams used her time at the conference to uplift, as she explained that she spoke about the “theme of resilience.”
“I talked about the fact that we’re far more resilient than we’re often given credit for,” said Williams. “But I also spoke about what I learned from a group of youth who attended a program, and about what it was that helped them to overcome the life challenges that they had.”
Williams noted that the conference as well gives feedback from different areas and she said that this feedback is “important.”
“These conferences and gatherings are really important to share what’s happening and what they’re learning, and to share their stories. I was very happy to be a part of that a little bit this morning.”
While Language Advocate Ienhotonkwas Bonnie Jane Maracle explained that through her workshop, she included pointing out the importance of oral, spiritual and traditional literacies.
“I spoke about the fact that in the mainstream they call it ‘literacy,’ but within the indigenous peoples it’s all about our indigenous literacies,” said Maracle. “We have a much broader base on which we can develop all of our programming to benefit all of the literacies that we have, not only reading and writing and numeracy.”
Workshop Facilitator Kevin Martin, who also doubled as a volunteer photographer, used his experience as a Case Manager at Six Nations Mental Health to describe the relationship between spiritual health and mental health.
“I did a presentation that was in regards to mental health and spirituality,” said Martin. “Looking at how society and people in general will view what mental health can be and also that what a person can be going through can be a mental health issue, but it could also be a more spiritual issue.”
This offered a look into how mental health programming can evolve in a traditional sense, and Martin said that being able to share that understanding is beneficial in itself.
The conference was a unanimous success in reaching levels of programming that are needed within indigenous communities.