BRANTFORD – These days there can never be too many conversations about reconciling the relationship between Indigenous people and settler Canadians, it’s far too important to ignore.
“The level of ignorance is really relevant, especially in our field,” said Taylor Burciul, a personal support work student at Wilfred Laurier University Brantford (WLU). “We need to know the history so we can understand more about the people we will be working with.”
Several staff members at WLU agree and hosted Aboriginal Awareness Week (AAW) from Mar. 5 to Mar. 12. Lectures were held across campus to celebrate who the Indigenous people are, from their contributions to society, living in relationship with Mother Earth, their role in Canadian media and more.
The final lecture, on Mar. 11, covered truth and reconciliation and took place during Dr. Thohahoken Michael Doxtater’s class titled, “Indigenous Community Organizing”.
“I would really like to commend the students of this class,” said Bonnie Whitlow, Aboriginal student support co-ordinator on Brantford Campus . “I think it’s a really powerful statement that you make just by coming to be part of a class entitled Indigenous Community Organizing.”
The class consists of mostly settler Canadians and focuses on the organization within Indigenous communities – reserve, rural and urban. Students learn how to identify community issues, examine organizational responses and assess programs within Indigenous cultural realities.
Doxtater gave a short presentation on the history of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, followed by a presentation by Brodie Parker and Laramie Bradovka that touched on community organization in action — what it looks like and how it can be applied to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Richelle Ritchie, is from Six Nations and is a student in Doxtater’s class. She feels that the class and AAW is a great opportunity for people who want to learn more about Indigenous people.
“When people are ignorant I try to understand because some people are just not educated and are not trying to be mean,” said Ritchie. “Others are ignorant because they want to and that’s a problem. When there is stuff like this [AAW] you see people genuinely caring about us and I feel it’s going to help eliminate a lot of stereotypes.”
Ritchie said that she knows it is near impossible to completely wipe away stereotypes in any community but that classes like this are really helpful.
“I really like that the personal support worker program here is very involved in Indigenous education,” she said.
Jaime Chapman, another student taking the course, said, “Aboriginal Awareness Week promotes people to actually act on the things they are learning. It’s one thing to say you know, or to say you care but to actually act on it is more important. They say actions speak louder than words and I think it’s appropriate for us to learn the steps we can take to share this knowledge with the community and make it more popular on a national or maybe even a global level someday.”