Reflecting on 20 years of Indigenous partnership

Jose Zarate (far right, standing) received an eagle feather from the Confederation of Mainland Mi'kmaq.

Over the last 20 years, I have been honoured and privileged to work side by side with gifted Indigenous community leaders in their projects and programs aimed at building stronger, healthier and more self-reliant communities. I have witnessed the social and economic despair in their communities, inherited trauma from past generations because of imposed state policies that stripped them of their Indigenous languages, ancestral cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs. In contrast, however, I have seen their resilience and visionary wisdom that comes from within, from their ancestral histories and stories, from Mother Earth and the practice of cultural values, ceremonies and spirituality based on respect, peace and equality.

I would like to highlight some of the wise vision shared at the May 2011 roundtable of Indigenous partners about their common understanding of the meaning of partnership. Their understanding of partnership includes having an equal voice, common interests and shared responsibility in ownership.  It is to walk together in developing programs; and to understand that each partner brings skills, resources and knowledge to the table. Partnership means walking towards a shared goal and shared outcomes.

I’d like to share one last word for us to remember. These Indigenous partners reiterated through consultations and gatherings over the years their endorsement of the PWRDF’s partnership principles and stated their desire to continue working closely with us to right the injustices that exist. They also declared that PWRDF is a true partner who works with them to find effective and genuine solutions without imposing any hidden agenda.

As an Indigenous person myself, I feel blessed to be able to do the work by, for and with Indigenous peoples in Canada by implementing the mandate given to PWRDF in promoting partnership with Indigenous peoples. We have heard our partners’ voices and they have been included in the road map for the PWRDF 2015-2018 Strategic Plan that gives priority to strengthening and deepening our relationship with them, a partnership for life.

You can read more about PWRDF’s work with Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world in the February 2016 issue of Under the Sun.

An explanation of the significance of receiving an eagle feather.

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