A talk, a walk, and a step forward into a better future.
hese are the events that happened at yesterday's ReconciliACTION event at the Great Plains College in Swift Current.
ReconciliACTION is an event that sought to educate the people in attendance on the history of First Nations in the southwest, highlighting some of the struggles that people have gone through, as well as some of the highlights of trust and unity that do exist between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.
Bula Ghosh, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee helped to organize this event and was thrilled to see it takes place in person for the first time, with so many fantastic guests and speakers.
"We (the Truth and Reconciliation Committee) have already had four events within the last few years that we started in 2017," recapped Ghosh. "This year we are going to look at the history of the Nekaneet First Nation and the area and the past, and then what is the part forward."
Many people spoke at the event, ranging from the elders of the Nekaneet First Nation, officials from the college, and representatives from the Government of Saskatchewan. Everyone had potent information and stories to share, as well as laying out plans for the future to help bridge the gap between cultures.
Speaking for the Nekaneet First Nation were elders Larry Oaks, and Dale Mosquito. They offered some of the histories of their people, and their close relationship throughout modern history with the non-indigenous peoples around their lands. There was also a lot of talk about how so few people speak the Cree language amongst their people now, and that the elders would like to see a role for First Nations culture in modern society.
David Keast, president of the Great Plains College, reiterated the college's commitment to ensuring equal opportunity for anyone who wishes to attend, regardless of their ancestry. He assured that the college is aligned with the idea that so long as an individual qualifies, they will always be welcome at Great Plains College.
But not every speaker highlighted the bright path ahead, as the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Russ Mirasty, revealed how he himself is a survivor of residential schools. Being taken away from his family at the age of seven, he detailed those conditions and how he was grateful that he had already learned to speak Cree from his grandparents in that it allowed him to maintain his sense of culture and identity.
These stories and talks helped to highlight not only how brilliant the future will be, but also reminded people that we must know and accept the history behind that future to move forward, lest we be doomed to repeat the narrow-minded views of the past.
"There was a time in Swift Current when I was new, I had heard that when somebody saw an Indigenous person walking down the street, they would call the RCMP and say 'I saw somebody walking on the street'," revealed Ghosh. "That was some years ago and today we've come a long way."
After the speeches were all delivered, the event began its walk to Market Square.
As folks made their way into the square, they gathered around a stage where students and officials made their pledge to a better tomorrow for both peoples in the southwest.
The event concluded with dancing. Elders from the Nekaneet First Nation instructed people on how to dance in a circle dance while they played and sang music. Students, faculty, guests, and officials all took part in the dance and were quick to pick up on the footwork as they held hands.
After the circle dance, the elders sang and danced traditional songs, and there was even a special appearance by brass bell dancers.
After another circle dance, the event was adjourned for lunch. Breaking bread together, they shared some simple reconciliation and began to take action through the day's events toward a better future.