The eighth and final Wîcihitowin Indigenous Engagement Conference will take place November 28-29 at Saskatoon’s TCU Place. After two years of gathering virtually, this year’s conference marks the return of meeting in-person, although there’s also an option to attend virtually.
Between 2007 and 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada travelled to all parts of Canada to bear witness to residential school experiences, to create a permanent historical record, and to engage and educate the public about Survivor experiences and intergenerational impacts. The theme of the 2022 Wîcihitowin Conference will be Bearing Witness in acknowledgement of this critical aspect of reconciliation.
Joining as speakers this year are the former Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — The Honourable Murray Sinclair (video presentation), Dr. Wilton Littlechild, and Dr. Marie Wilson. Other noteworthy presenters include Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation; Gilles Dorval, past Indigenous Initiatives Director for the City of Saskatoon; Merelda Fiddler-Potter, former CBC reporter; and nearly a dozen Residential School Survivors.
The conference will be co-hosted by April Sora, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant at the City of Saskatoon, and Neal Kewistep, Executive-in-Residence at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. The complete agenda is available here.
Wîcihitowin Conference youth panelist, Allison Forsberg says: “The Wîcihitowin Conference provides Survivors and their families with an opportunity to honour each other, acknowledge the experiences that our ancestors went through, and is a place where we can all listen and learn from one another. Even though this is the eighth and final year of this conference, we think this is the beginning of a new reconciliation journey for the community.”
Residential School Survivor, Gilbert Kewistep says: “I have appreciated being involved in the Wîcihitowin Indigenous Engagement Conference and the Saskatoon Survivors’ Circle over the past few years. It has provided me with a community to support me through my healing journey. Acknowledging and sharing the truth helps us Survivors in healing from our trauma. Sharing our teachings with the broader community helps others understand what we lost and what we are trying to regain. Although this conference’s journey is coming to an end, I see this as a bright step towards something new for our communities.”
City of Saskatoon Social Development Consultant and Co-Chair of the Wîcihitowin Conference Planning Committee, Roy Lavallee says: “The City and planning partners make a point to support this conference every year because we see the outcomes, year in and year out. The feedback we get from this event is always incredible – how it influenced individuals and organizations to change their thinking as well as their practices. Past participants feel that this conference has contributed to progress on Indigenous engagement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.”
United Way Saskatoon & Area Director of Labour Partnerships & Community Impact and Wîcihitowin Conference Planning Committee member, Andrea Howe says: “Over the past eight years, the Wîcihitowin Conference has welcomed audiences from across Saskatchewan, Canada, and around the world. It has invested in education by bringing together First Nations and Métis people with professional, academic, and lived-experience expertise, and has showcased Indigenous culture through dance, song, and art. Thanks to its investors, partner organizations, Survivors, and all conference attendees, the conference has re-invested over $1.3-million dollars into the community and reconciliation efforts.”
In-person registration is full but tickets to attend virtually are available at wicihitowin.ca until midnight on November 24 or until sold out. For real time conference updates, follow Wîcihitowin YXE on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
With the combined presence of COVID-19 and flu cases in our community, the health of vulnerable Elders and Residential School Survivors is our top priority. Conference attendees are being urged to adhere to the following health precautions if attending in-person:
- Stay home if feeling unwell
- Go home if feeling unwell during the event
- Get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19 (you require a booster if it's been more than 6 months since your last vaccination)
- Mask-wearing is strongly recommended
- Avoid physical contact such as hugs and shaking hands
- Wash hands regularly and make use of hand sanitizer – particularly before eating
The Wîcihitowin Indigenous Engagement Conference is made possible through financial and human resource contributions by the City of Saskatoon, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, Saskatchewan Health Authority, United Way of Saskatoon & Area, and the Saskatoon Public Library, with additional financial investments from Nutrien (premier investor), Saskatoon Community Foundation, and other community/partner/friend investors. Complete list of sponsors here.