Saskatoon’s aboriginal engagement conference encourages community organizations to take action
Leading experts, community leaders, elders and youth are coming together in Saskatoon for the Wîcihitowin (wee-chee-HEE’-toe-win) conference to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and address Aboriginal engagement and inclusion issues.
“Over the past few years, we’ve noticed a growing sense of awareness of Aboriginal engagement and inclusion issues facing our community. Saskatoon is leading the way in Canada right now with bold initiatives like the community-driven naming process of Chief Mistawasis Bridge and the University of Saskatchewan’s new strategic plan which focuses on Indigenization,” says Neal Kewistep, Executive-in-Residence, Johnson Shoyama Institute of Public Policy.
“However we must not forget that real and lasting change is hard. We must continue to push for systemic change within our organizations, institutions and governments. What is needed now is less talk, more action,” Kewistep says.
This year’s conference theme is Voices of the people – past, present and future with key note speakers Senator Murray Sinclair, Former Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and Dr. Marie Wilson, Former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
“During the National Truth and Reconciliation Events held here in Saskatoon and across Canada, we documented the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada and heard the accounts of more than 6,750 residential school survivors. It’s more important now than ever to learn from those voices of the past if we’re going to take the next step forward on the path to reconciliation,” says Senator Murray Sinclair.
“Creating safe, collaborative spaces for open discussion like Wîcihitowin is crucial. This way we can make sure those voices are part of the conversation to affect real and lasting change in our community,” says Sinclair.
This conference is presented in partnership with the United Way of Saskatoon, Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Johnson Shoyama Institute of Public Policy and the City of Saskatoon, and supported by community sponsors such as Nutrien, Saskatoon Community Foundation and Affinity Credit Union.
"Our audience has grown to be incredibly diverse and we now have people attending from all over Canada. Now in our fourth year, our numbers have peaked to over 600 showing how much this conference is needed and supported by the community,” says Brad Bird, Director of Community Impact & Strategic Partnerships, United Way.
Wîcihitowin is Cree/Saulteaux for “helping each other” or “working together”, which is an important component of delivering enhanced programs and services.
Wîcihitowin supports the City’s Strategic Goal of “Quality of Life” by identifying actions for enhancing Aboriginal well-being and participation in our community.