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Celebrating, recognizing and honouring our Indigenous partners

Youth trainees in Piikangikum First Nation, Ontario, are learning skills to retrofit homes with clean water.

June 7, 2021

By Jose Zarate

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June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, a chance to intentionally recognize the many achievements of Indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the distinct cultures and unique traditions of these Indigenous communities.

For 25 years, PWRDF has formed partnerships with Indigenous peoples, based on equality, recognition, respect and support for their rights, protection and conservation of their natural and cultural resources and on the enjoyment of fundamental dignity and wellbeing.

In 2020, PWRDF established the Indigenous Program Advisory Committee (IPAC). Verna M. Firth, Rev. Manasee Ulayuk, Ellen Cook, Monica McKay, John B. Zoe and Freda Lepine will review and advise on ways forward for partnerships with Indigenous communities. PWRDF reaffirms our commitment of working together with Indigenous communities and to continue providing funding and technical support where able. We are working to secure new funding for our Indigenous work as a result of current strategic discussions and alliances with other funding organizations, and Anglicans in Canada.

In 2015, PWRDF developed a workshop called Mapping the Ground We Stand On. Also known as “The Mapping Exercise,” this workshop invites participants to walk on to a map to get a better understanding of settler and Indigenous relations, and the concept of terra nullius. In 2021, this popular workshop was adapted for Zoom and is now available for booking.

We encourage you to take this opportunity to learn about Indigenous communities through learning about the Mapping the Ground We Stand on virtual workshop, and by reading the inspiring stories of some of our Indigenous partners’ programs and projects. Let’s celebrate their success toward self-sufficiency and self-determination.

Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (KORLCC), Quebec

The main role of KORLCC within the community of Kahnawà:ke is to develop and implement Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) language and culturally based projects/programs and activities that meet the needs and benefit of the entire community. KORLCC has increased the programs and services offered to the Kahnawake community, particularly delivered by the Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahnírats (Mohawk) Adult Immersion Program and the Tóta tánon Ohkwári children’s puppet television show. Characters from the Puppet Show did a guest appearance on the local community COVID-19 Task Force to promote safety and encourage the community during the pandemic, all in kanien’kéha (Mohawk language).

First Nation Adult and Higher Education Consortium (FNAHEC), Alberta

FNAHEC’s mission is to revitalize the Siksika (Blackfoot) language, culture and history. Since 2019, FNAHEC has focused on two projects: to develop a course, in partnership with the University of Calgary, to train local talent to work at a newly discovered archeology site, Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. The second project involves teaching the technical skills required to create a virtual tour of Old Sun College, a former residential school in the Siksika community. The goal is to create a “virtual museum” of the Old Sun Residential School. With joint funding support from FNAHEC and the University of Calgary, they accessed funds for the full implementation of the digitization project, which will be launched by Fall 2021.

NEDC (Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation), B.C.

Michelle Reichert

Indigenous youth face multiple barriers to employment that makes them the most at-risk demographic group in Canada with decreasing entrepreneurial funding opportunities. The challenge is to get your foot in the door in a market that increasingly demands more experience and education for entry level jobs. Funds for youth to gain entrepreneurial experience have also decreased nationwide.

In 2017, the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) launched the Indigenous Youth Business Strategy Program to provide Indigenous youth with access to a specific youth-oriented loan fund to help them start a business, experience success, create job(s) and develop wealth.

The consistent payments indicate youth are working hard to pay back money they borrowed, and the interest generated on the fund will provide help ensure the fund is sustainable. With 10 existing clients and nine businesses getting the opportunity to establish or grow, the program is off to a great start. Read about the success story of Michelle Reichert here.

Indigenous Maternal Health and Midwifery Program in the Americas

Today, many Indigenous women are forced to leave their communities to give birth in hospitals located in urban centres. This is a common experience for Indigenous women in Canada, Mexico and Peru, where women can spend up to four weeks of the last part of their pregnancy outside their communities, usually alone and without support from their extended family. The exclusion of Indigenous midwives from health systems, preventing them from registering births and issuing birth certificates, undermines the State’s ability to adequately account for Indigenous populations, creating greater barriers for the Indigenous population to fully participate in society and exercise their basic human rights.

Since 2017 KINAL from Mexico, CHIRAPAQ from Peru and RYERSON’s Aboriginal Initiatives from Canada have been working together in the preservation, promotion, dissemination and exchange of skills, knowledge and practices of Indigenous midwifery. These participants successfully delivered a statement at the 17th Plenary Session of the UN Permanent Forum of the Indigenous Peoples (UNPFII). These three partners also met in their corresponding countries as part of their knowledge exchange activities; following a story on these events, which was profiled in the Anglican Journal. In January 2021, a representative of the RYERSON’s Aboriginal Initiatives was interviewed to talk about this Indigenous maternal health project (view video above).

Pikangikum First Nation: Water and Wastewater Systems, Ontario

Leaders and trainees

In May 2021, Pikangikum First Nation began implementing Phase 4 of the clean water project, which will bring clean water to 15 homes. Two team leaders and six youth trainees (four men and four women) have been hired. These six trainees seek to be plumbers, electricians and carpenters by gaining experience retrofitting homes with water and wastewater systems and building extensions on homes. The Chief and Council of Pikangikum First Nation have been responsible for all activities related to the design, purchasing, installation and storage of materials, and safety and security of the community members. Since 2013, PWRDF has partnered with Pikangikum on retrofitting 30 homes with adequate supply of safe drinking water and wastewater systems. We strongly recognize that access to safe water, water for all, is a human right. For more info on this project please visit our website.