Culture Days in Oxbow Sets a Direction for Truth and Reconciliation
In this issueEngage - Volume 13, Issue 1, Fall 2022
A new understanding of Truth and Reconciliation helped contribute to a successful Culture Days in Oxbow, which opened the door to new partnerships, perspectives and plans going forward.
For Treena Mohrbutter, community development officer, Town of Oxbow, Culture Days presented an opportunity to bring her community back together after the last couple years of living in a pandemic. She especially wanted to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and was excited to learn that SaskCulture’s Culture Days Hub sponsorship prioritized applications with activities focused on Truth and Reconciliation.
“Our original plan was to hold the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, followed by a Reconciliation Walk and some cooking workshops that included bannock-making with Elder Angie McArthur-Delorme, from White Bear First Nations,” Mohrbutter recounts.
“However the Blanket Exercise was unexpectedly cancelled so I was in a bit of a panic when I reached out to SaskCulture about how this might impact our hub sponsorship. It was suggested that I connect with Elder Angie, to get her input and guidance about how we could still move forward in a meaningful way. After getting some reassuring advice on how to respectfully approach her, I made arrangements to visit Angie at her home.”
It turns out the cancellation was a blessing in disguise that led to a profound and impactful day that set the community firmly on its path of Truth and Reconciliation.
“I was so nervous, but Elder Angie was just so awesome and kind. She told me that you can’t reconcile until you know what you’re reconciling,” says Mohrbutter. “We begin to do that by building bridges and relationships and understanding each other. We shared our intentions and objectives and then got to work putting things into motion.”
The day-long Culture Days event included the Reconciliation Reflection Walk, a lunch, and an open discussion for people to ask Elder Angie about her experience as a Residential School Survivor. Attendees came from Oxbow and neighbouring communities to participate. Other people attended to provide support to Elder Angie throughout the day, including her close friend Joanne Neddow, who took part in the open discussion, and Lindsay Littlechief, who led the opening and closing prayers. Littlechief also performed an Honour Song on his drum before the walk started, taking the time to explain its significance. Participants also took part in other First Nations’ traditions, such as smudging, preparing spirit plates for those who have passed on, and a spontaneous Round Dance, that capped off the day.
Mohrbutter attributes much of the event’s success to Elder Angie’s generous guidance and involvement, but also to the community’s support and openness to learning about Truth and Reconciliation. “We hoped to have 80 people come out but ended up with about 140 people turning out,” she says. “It was so awesome to see them in their orange shirts signaling their intent to open their minds and their hearts.”
The town and the event organizers appreciated all the community support. “We also had tremendous support from our hub partners, our neighbours in nearby communities, our local Co-op, the South East Sport, Culture & Recreation District and the Friendship Club of Oxbow, among many others,” Mohrbutter says. “We are also thankful to SaskCulture for recognizing how important it is to support activities like this in smaller and rural communities – we couldn’t have done it without getting a Culture Days Hub sponsorship.
She adds, “I think the biggest lesson everyone took away was Elder Angie’s message to all: ‘If you don’t know the past, how can you fix it? We’re doing this for every child, because every child matters and by coming here together today, we’re making sure that this doesn’t ever happen again to your children or to anybody.’”