When it comes to reconciliation between this country’s Indigenous peoples and people of all other ethnic backgrounds, we’re all in this together.
That’s why a special event called In This Together is being organized to take place on Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s national events, which took place in Edmonton. Community and cultural organizer Miranda Jimmy was there to offer her statement just as so many others did.
The experience inspired her to start Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton (or RISEdmonton for short), an organization dedicated to bringing reconciliation to the forefront of everyday life through cultural events including art exhibits, public talks, workshops, discussion groups and more. The Reconciling Edmonton exhibit is in its last days of display at the Art Gallery of St. Albert plus the Walk With Me exhibit is also wrapping up this weekend at the St. Albert Public Library. There’s even a presentation called Understanding the TRC taking place tonight, March 27, also at the library.
Topping all of that off is Saturday’s program at the Arden Theatre and it’s a joint effort between RISEdmonton and the City of St. Albert’s culture department. In This Together is meant to be an honest discussion about reconciliation after that important national business took place five years ago.
“The goal of the conversation is to use the five-year anniversary of the TRC event as a checkpoint for reflection on where are we at, where did we think we would be in five years, and what’s left to do,” Jimmy said.
The day will start off at 9:30 a.m. for the two-hour presentation with Jimmy joined on the panel by Steven Cooper, Hazel McKennitt, Cheryl Whiskeyjack, Carissa Halton and Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, who edited a book of compiled essays called In This Together: 15 Stories of Truth and Reconciliation.
“While the (TRC) talks were happening in Edmonton, I was on the phone with the publisher cooking up the idea for the book, so it was definitely in the air,” Edmonton’s former historian laureate said.
“One of my friends introduced me to the editor at Brindle and Glass – Taryn Boyd. Both of us are settlers who have a background in history and Indigenous issues, and both of us just were trying to figure out how we could contribute to the conversation that was going on.”
Their contribution turned into collecting these essays from several Indigenous and several non-Indigenous individuals from across the country. They put out an open call for people to respond to one compelling prompt, what the writer said was “basically to identify and explore an ‘aha moment’ around Canada's colonial past and present.”
Some of the respondents included Carol Shaben, daughter of Larry Shaben who was Canada's first Muslim cabinet minister, and Zacharias Kunuk, the director of Atarnajuat: The Fast Runner, which was voted the No. 1 Canadian film of all time during a CBC poll a few years ago. Conversation panellist Halton was also one of the contributors.
Cheryl Whiskeyjack will also be one of the panellists. She’s the executive director of the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, an organization that offers programming and service to promote the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental growth of Aboriginal children and their families. She met with Halton several years ago when Bent Arrow opened its doors in her neighbourhood, hosting an open community event to meet the locals.
Halton used her connection with her new friend as the substance for her contribution to In This Together.
“She shared our work (practice model) and what she learned by reaching out to me and Bent Arrow when we moved into her neighbourhood. Our relationship has grown since she featured it in the chapter she wrote in the book,” Whiskeyjack said.
The book also includes a candid conversation between Justice Murray Sinclair and CBC host and honorary TRC witness Shelagh Rogers.
Metcalfe-Chenail said she was amazed by all of the people who responded and the topics of their stories. She feels that the book should stand as a cultural document that offers a solid complement to the greater effort of reconciliation.
“It's been a few years now but I think a lot of those stories have stood the test of time,” she said. “These are very complex, nuanced and personal stories that I still feel incredibly honoured that people let me work on the essays with them.”
The panellists will be joined by other local activists and community leaders for a frank conversation on the progress of reconciliation and also to discuss the initiatives taking place in our region and people can offer their own contributions.
It’s free to attend though people should pre-register as seating space in the Arden Theatre is limited. An RSVP link can be found on RISE’s website. Look under the Events tab at www.risedmonton.ca.
After the talk, the work continues
Because it is an important occasion, there are other free activities happening throughout the day, and most of which are in or near St. Albert Place already.
Métis historian, poet, author and photojournalist Terry Lusty has a TRC photo exhibit called Courage & Strength that will be on display in the lobby from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
RISEdmonton’s Walk With Me interactive display can be viewed during regular library hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also check out the Residential School Museum Display at the Musée Héritage Museum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
RISEdmonton’s Reconciling Edmonton art exhibit will be open on its last day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Art Gallery of St. Albert. There will be art activities for all ages during that time as well.
Still at the gallery, Metcalfe-Chenail will offer a poetry reading of all of the works she contributed to the exhibit. That will take place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Michif Cultural Connections will have displays and programs that still being determined. The Métis organization is located in Juneau House, 9 Mission Ave.
Around the area, people can admire the Stewart Steinhauer stone sculptures on the river side of St. Albert Place. Across the river, the Kâkesimokamik Healing Garden is a wonderful place for reflection and connection with nature and with others of all cultures. It was established in 2017 to acknowledge survivors of Indian Residential Schools, two of which were located in St. Albert, and is meant to provide a place of truth and reconciliation.