How I Started Providing Indigenous Awareness Training
The first Indigenous Peoples in Canada awareness training I hosted was in the winter of 2016. It was an emotional roller-coaster, when I started learning the material and the history. I initially started learning because I wanted to know more about why my family was the way they were and why their social situation was the way that it was, and why I saw so much poverty around me, growing up.
In addition to connecting with community in the north end and First Nation communities around Manitoba, I attended courses at the University of Manitoba and online. I remember most of my learning experience was sitting in the back of the class and crying. I used to wear scarves a lot, and I would use the scarves to collect my tears. It was a time of mourning and healing for me.
As I was learning the material, such as the Indian Act, it helped me to begin to understand the world I saw around me. Learning the history and deeper contexts helped me understand how these ‘forces’ were connected to me, and it caused within me a great urgency to share it, because I thought if people could know and understand this history, then they will want to be part of the solution, just like I had.
My Personal Journey with this Training
I learned that Indigenous history has to do with everyone who is Canadian, and I also learned that engaging in deeper learning is a very personal journey for each of us. Whether we become engaged through employment or other public avenues, it is one by one that we begin to change, and it’s one by one that we build relationships, and it is one by one, that we become part of the solution.
I saw clearly the shocking disproportion of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and related some of their experiences to some experiences that I had growing up and that caused me to recognize that any one of those missing and murdered women could have been me.
The work is not always easy, it comes with great responsibility but what has been most rewarding is sitting in a brand new circle of people in a workplace or organization, and for the first time, people are self declaring their First Nation or Metis identity. This is a really powerful experience for me and a powerful step for individuals, because for many years it was not safe to identify as Indigenous, First Nation or Metis, and because of that, people lost connection to family and community as a result. For years, individuals hid their identity if they could ‘pass’ as non-indigenous, to be accepted in society and avoid discrimination and racist experiences. It is not a peaceful life experience if you can’t express who you are.
Another powerful experience that happens as a result of the training and what has been very rewarding is that when we talk about our shared relationship as individuals with the institution we know as Canada, it causes us to reflect. When we are open to reflect on our lives, our experiences, our privileges, it causes us to remember what we hope for, for ourselves and for our families, and then we can come together with shared hopes, we realize how much in this together we really are.
Contents of the Indigenous Awareness Training Program
One of the sessions I offer is the KAIROS Blanket Exercise which is a half-day activity that walks participants through a 500 year timeline. It helps to string things together that people will maybe only hear about sporadically otherwise.
I spend a major focus of our discussions on the impacts of the Indian Act, connecting them to some of today’s Indigenous issues like the reconciliation commission, land claims, and Indian Residential Schools. It’s only with that understanding do people have a better grasp of where we have been, where we are and where we start in moving forward.
Successes of Providing this training
Many people don’t really understand or are aware of how racist beliefs began or are aware enough to understand that they exist. When you don’t have that awareness, it’s easier for inaccurate stereotypes and myths to persist, which perpetuate current situations that exclude Indigenous people from involvement in many areas of our society.
One of my personal goals is to connect Indigenous people with employment. I’ve had opportunities to connect very large companies with community leaders and people who are ready and want to work. Providing employment helps parents raise their children better, it helps families provide nutrition and access to safe homes and more. In many ways, ‘access to a job’ is something we all take for granted.
The Present Version of this Training
I’ve done Indigenous training for three full years and it’s amazing how there is still so much I have to learn. There are days where carrying the load of this work seems like a lot to bear over and over again, but I still believe in the reason I started. The more I share this message means that more people will have the opportunity to better understand and commit to caring and making a difference. The more sharing circles I am in, the more that I have learned how valuable this work is because people leave the room asking this question, ‘What can I do?’ Which means we are creating allies. And we can’t do this work alone, and we shouldn’t do this work alone, and building a community that wants to do better for all Canadians, is very rewarding.
One of my goals is to continue and train young Indigenous speakers that want to do this work through my training company, and build a network, working together.
What does the Training Look like?
Introductory sessions start at half day or three days. I have up to six different sessions for purchase. Companies can proceed with a half-day or multiple half days, or take the leap and go for the full package where we go through the training with staff, management and board, and also have opportunities to learn more about Indigenous protocols, current landscape and most of all, engage in strategic sessions on how their individual company can transform their actions.