Community Engagement Animateurs Focus on Engagement on TRC
Three Community Engagement Animateurs (CEA) hit the well-travelled roads across Saskatchewan to use their diverse and considerable skills to engage people in the cultural lives within their communities.
While they all approached the task differently, this year 's Animateurs - Marcel Petit, a filmmaker from Saskatoon, Lorne Kequahtooway, a hide-tanner from Regina, and Zoe Fortier, a Fransaskois artist and arts educator from Saskatoon - all used engagement techniques that encouraged increased awareness of "truth and reconciliation", as well as offering ways to move forward.
"We hoped these talented artists would be able to get people engaged in interactive cultural activity which linked to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) Calls to Action," explains Damon Badger Heit, outreach consultant, SaskCulture, "It was an opportunity to help people around the province understand, as well as to connect cultural leaders to our programs and services."
Marcel Petit, a Metis filmmaker and photographer, travelled over 3,000 KMs across central and northern Saskatchewan getting people from various communities and different backgrounds engaged in visual storytelling. His "photo voice" and photography workshops brought non-Indigenous, Indigenous and newcomers together to experience a whole new way of looking and sharing aspects of their lives and communities. Petit was pleased to be "teaching people that the story is important and that they're important." His work helped many participants tell a story with just a photo.
Many different people in southern Saskatchewan may have come across Lorne Kequahtooway sharing the tradition of buffalo hide-tanning. Originally from Sakimay First Nation, Kequahtooway, and his partner Joely Big Eagle Kequahtooway, set up hands-on opportunities for participants to try their hand at different aspects of tanning a buffalo hide, as well as learning about the history and importance of the buffalo to Indigenous culture. By participating in events such as Agribition and street fairs, he reached a large and diverse group of individuals, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. "It was very humbling having people come up and shake my hand,"' says Kequahtooway, "thanking me for showing them this process. They wished there was more of this happening."
And last but not least, Zoe Fortier, a fransaskois artist, arts educator and activist, brought together traditional languages and the latest forms of digital communication in her mememaking workshops. She encouraged her participants, which included many Indigenous youth, to construct memes in the traditional languages (such as Cree or Dene) as a way of practicing and using their language in a contemporary setting. During her CEA experience, Fortier was able to reach many northern youth, interesting them in meme-making as a means to reconnect to their cultural roots. The concept was well received in many communities. "First Nations people want to regain access to their languages," she explains, and digital techniques, such as meme-making, offer a creative way to help youth to become more familiar by using language in unique ways.
In total, the three Community Engagement Animateurs engaged over 20 ,000 people in 38 different activities, in 22 communities across Saskatchewan.