The Humboldt and District Museum presented the workshop “Visualizing Community Through Time and Space” on May 16. The evening was part of the Relationship Building and Reconciliation Through Living Heritage project in partnership with Heritage Saskatchewan, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Humboldt Cultural Services Department and the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan, with funding from the Community Initiatives Fund.
The workshop was led by Christine Fiddler, a Cree woman originally from the Waterhen Lake First Nation on Treaty 6 territory in northern Saskatchewan. Fiddler is currently working toward her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan.
The evening was all about connecting with a concept of home, and by extension connecting with each other and with Indigenous people as a part of the “home” framework. The exercise began with participants being instructed to draw and interpret their concept of the world. Then they were asked to zoom in and draw their conception of Saskatchewan. While interpretations wound around physical geography and characteristics, individuals took their own license in how the province was seen through their lenses.
In the final act, Fiddler had participants draw “home,” and here the results were as varied as the participants themselves. Some drew the physical layout of their properties, and some reflected their current homes, while others drew back into their memories with attachments to traditional family spaces.
The memory mapping activity came to a distinct focus when Fiddler asked the question “where do you see Indigenous people in your understanding of home and place?”
The group shifted to a sharing circle where people contributed their experiences and perceptions. Some talked about the misconception, based on stories of their European settler ancestors, that the settlers were the only ones there. Others mused on how European based history lessons in school were vaguely coloured by touching on the Riel Rebellion or the Oka Crisis, but the truth about residential schools and the Sixties Scoop were never part of the curriculum. One participant, a victim of the Sixties Scoop, talked about the racism and shunning experienced growing up in a small local community. Another connected through family who had raised Indigenous children with love and compassion, even as the social and psychological impact of that period of history remained shrouded.
Fiddler reflected on the intent and the impact of the emotional and deeply searching messages heard at the event.
“It’s allowing people to think about their place they currently live in and think about how it helps them to understand themselves and where they came from and their sense of community.”
It’s part of helping people think about the relationship in their own communities, and also about relations with Indigenous communities and community members, said Fiddler. In the end, one of the main purposes, certainly fulfilled at the gathering, was getting people to open up and talk about themselves.
“Sometimes there’s discomfort in actually talking about the topic. I heard that they are open to learning, to understanding, and they are aware of the value of learning - that it needs to happen.”
The City of Humboldt’s Cultural Services Department has been a critical element in delivering that learning throughout the pilot program. Asked why it is important for Cultural Services to foster such programs, Director Jennifer Fitzpatrick was clear, based on the outcomes of the evening.
“I think we heard that tonight - I think we heard that we have learned things about Indigenous people and our relationship with them, and I think that people want to unlearn some things. At Cultural Services we talk about how adults can learn, and about the great things that are going on in the school system. So we want to offer opportunities, whether through arts, through cultural traditions, through living heritage, where people can learn to help build those relationships in order to build a better community and a better Canada.”
More programming will be coming from Cultural Services to support the pilot program. Humboldt and area residents are more than welcome to participate and join the walk toward Reconciliation.