Being a Part of Reconciliation at Augustana
by AUTUMN MACDONALD
The Chester Ronning Centre in conjunction with the Aboriginal Student’s Office has spent a lot of time into the preparation and support of this semester’s Spirit of the Land (SOTL) event which will happen February 16-17th named “The Spirit of Reconciliation.”
The topic of reconciliation became the focus of this semester’s SOTL event from previous SOTL events and conversations. Coming to this event “participants can expect a variety of ways to engage with the topic of reconciliation,” Megan Caldwell, Interim Aboriginal Students’ Office Coordinator states.
Thursday night is advertised as a conversation with Maria Campbell, famous Canadian author, playwright and community leader and “on Friday, we will have Elder Mary Moonias of Louis Bull Tribe here to share teachings around smudging and medicines, as well as share her own story with residential schools and reconciliation. We will be hosting a sharing circle, where anyone can come and share thoughts, ideas, and experiences around reconciliation. We also hope to have student art and presentations highlighted during the event, possibly a lunch and learn session, and an afternoon Ask Me Anything featuring Assistant Professor of History, Daniel Sims,” Caldwell describes the event in detail.
Reconciliation will indeed be fostered in various ways based on the event’s set-up. In the past SOTL has hosted conference based events which have had scheduled guest speakers. As Caldwell mentions, this time there is a different set up that is less regimented and less conference style. This event will be more conservation orientated and there will be an “opportunity for participants to attend multiple smaller events” Carley Angelstad, Assistant Program Coordinator of the Chester Ronning Centre says at an advisory board meeting for the upcoming SOTL event. Also, there will be “ways for people to reflect on what they are learning and the meaning of reconciliation, such as through participating in the Aboriginal Student’s Office ongoing Project of Heart” Cadwell adds.
“[The ASO]’s main goal is an ongoing one: to teach our campus and community about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work and the history of Residential Schools, to highlight past and current Indigenous experiences, and to build our campus as a place where people can engage in active work towards reconciliation by providing opportunities to increase our personal capacities for that work.”
“By being part of this event, [the ASO] can contribute further to that learning process and hopefully engage with even more people than we have been doing.” What Caldwell refers to is the ongoing Reconciliation Workshops that happen once every month which help “raise the profile of Indigenous issues on campus.”
Could an Indigenous issue be the admission price of the reconciliation event? Darrion Letendre, former Aboriginal Student Representative of the ASA, approached me and suggested that “… it is insensitive to our culture [the assumption] that elders need money.” Of course there are the costs that are associated with bringing guest speakers like Maria Campbell to conferences and events, “I am sure she would accept a cultural offering” Letendre mentions.
To clear up this notion I attended an advisory meeting for the upcoming event and was assured traditional customs will be followed. As well, the suggested entrance charge for Maria’s talk goes directly towards covering speaking and travel costs and Angelstad doesn’t anticipate receiving any extra proceeds, in fact, past SOTL events have ran at a deficit. Friday’s events are also free.
Raj Rathanvalu insists that the great community that has always supported SOTL will support students who do not have the resources to attend. Afterall, everyone is welcome, the entrance cost is suggested by donation.
Needless to say, these are conversations we need to have. “The Liberal party’s platform was based on making reconciliation a priority in Canada, they should provide funding for events like this,” Letendre says. Everyone needs to be a part of the conversation, charges should not get in the way.
I have yet to ask the Prime Minister for his opinion.
For more information on the upcoming event you can email email@example.com or visit www.spiritoftheland.ca. I highly encourage you to check out at least one of the organized activities over these two days. Reconciliation involves everyone, yes, I mean you!