- Our Town
Not only was the theme collaboration, so was the method.
Last week’s Together Shuswap workshop, formerly Moving Forward Together, brought people from diverse backgrounds together in the same room, but also together in shared purpose and increased understanding.
Held at the Adams Lake Recreation and Conference Centre in Chase on May 21 and 22, the workshop expanded on the focus of previous meetings – regional planning and deepening collaboration between participants, both First Nations and others.
Bonnie Thomas, a member of the organizing committee along with Craig Duckchief, Dorothy Argent, Janet McClean Senft and Jason Woodman-Simmonds, came away uplifted.
“I was completely ecstatic. By the end of the two days – I’m really emotional about this, it’s something my mother always wanted, she wanted all the people to come together regardless of your background, from all levels,” Thomas said, referring to respected Neskonlith elder Mary Thomas. “We had the grassroots people there, the service providers there, and then we had the political people there, both on and off reserve. I guess for me, that was an accomplishment.”
At last June’s workshop held at Quaaout Lodge, a list of ‘championed’ activities was created, after participants were asked if they’d like to champion an activity dealing with an issue. A list of 26 was eventually refined to a total of 16. Issues ranged from planning regional transportation to meet diverse needs, to building a regional artist data base and network of aboriginal artists. Those 16 groups are ongoing and meet quarterly.
Thomas was a moderator of one of the break-out groups, where she witnessed great willingness to learn and collaborate.
“For me, it was really, really, one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in a very long time.”
She said she was also very inspired by the First Nations presenters, as were many people, judging by general comments.
Wednesday’s keynote speech came from Chief Wayne Christian of the Splatsin Indian Band, on Truth, Reconciliation and Beyond. He gave a thoughtful overview of the history of legislation and policies of assimilation and genocide that First Nations have survived, providing a lens on what communities are facing but how they want to work together.
Duckchief, workshop organizer, noted that regarding truth and reconciliation, it’s important to acknowledge wrongs, that they won’t be dealt with overnight because they’ve been carried out over a long period of time.
“Finding a meaningful solution requires getting over that psychological trauma.”
Duckchief presented a creation story at the workshop. He explained how important First Nations oral stories have been as a way of record-keeping and knowledge-sharing. He said although they have been seen by some as simplistic and their importance has been dismissed in the past, they are important to sustainability and long-term planning.
Chief Nelson Leon of the Adams Lake Indian Band inspired listeners with his speech on collaboration and its many benefits.
He mentioned foundations of good collaboration, which included clear goals and decision making, celebrating accomplishments, good leadership, putting in time and energy and, most importantly, commitment.
He said people won’t always get along, but commitment will keep people at the table, particularly if everyone is heard.
“My power is to empower others without feeling fear for my own. To do that, you empower, inspire, allow them a voice.”
A member of the panel on new models of collaboration between governments, Daniel Joe, councillor with the Splatsin band, spoke of the collaboration ongoing between his band and the City of Enderby.
A committee was formed involving two band councillors and two city councillors, who meet regularly to discuss issues relevant to both entities.
“Wondering how to start…? Phone, email, text, ask how can we work together. That’s all it takes. Willingness to work.”
Because of an email glitch, Salmon Arm council didn’t receive their invitations until it was too late to re-work schedules.