Working with a First Nation Community
About eight years ago, I started working for a non profit organization, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI (MCPEI). The MCPEI is a not-for-profit Tribal Council and Provincial Territorial Organization (PTO) governed by a Board of Directors consisting of the Band Councils from Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations.
This was my first job working with First Nation communities. On my first day of work, I met a young lady, named Lisa. She had approached my desk and asked me where I came from.
I replied “I live upwest. “ In PEI, that means west of Summerside.
She again asked me, “Where do you come from?”
Thinking harder, I replied “I was born in British Columbia and raised in Alberta”.
And she replied “NO, WHERE do you come from”.
It was then I realized that she was asking me about my grassroots – my community, what tribe I belonged to. I told her that I was born in Lytton, British Columbia, and was a member of the Lytton First Nation band, a Salish tribe. Lytton is located in British Columbia, Canada, geographically between the towns of Hope and Cache Creek. Lytton is at the convergence of the mighty Fraser River and its largest tributary, the Thompson River. It is an important point for any cross-Canada trip, with both national railroads and the Trans-Canada Highway all going through the Village boundaries.
Once I replied, she and co-workers started inquiring about my community, and asking if I could speak and understand my aboriginal language. They were shocked at how little I knew about my culture and heritage.
I was raised in another province and lived off-reserve. Growing up, my mom had very little to say about our community. What information I did know, didn’t pertain to this conversation. So for this I had no answers for my new co-workers. This young lady of 24 yrs old, had then told me that I needed to understand my culture, learn about where I come from and that I need to tell my children where they come from too.
I remember thinking, “How dare she! How dare she tell me what I SHOULD know or shouldn’t know.” It was in that moment, that conversation between her and I, that a seed was planted. A seed that when nurtured and taken care of, would lead me to wanting to be an advocate for other people like me. It was then that I started to have long conversations with her and other co-workers and learn about the Mi’kmaq culture.
Importance of Understanding Where You Come From
It’s important to celebrate our Aboriginal Culture. I had never understood how much of my heritage affected my day to day life. I grew up in a Non-Aboriginal world, where my friends were happy that I wasn’t one of “those Indians”. And I started to believe them and felt ashamed of who I was. It wasn’t until I met Lisa and started working at MCPEI, that I started to understand that I should not be ashamed but I must embrace it. I am so thankful that I met her and she’ll never know the impact she had in my life. She had passed away only a few months after meeting her.
Wela’lin (Thank You)
National Aboriginal History Month and National Aboriginal Day
June is National Aboriginal History Month; to celebrate the stories and triumphs of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. On June 21st, Canadians from all walks of life are invited to participate in the many National Aboriginal Day events that will be taking place from coast to coast to coast.
June was declared National Aboriginal History month in 2010, after Nanaimo-Cowichan Member of Parliament, Jean Crowder, introduced a motion to make June a month of recognition for First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The motion received unanimous consent in the House of Commons.
Events are happening all across Canada today. See what’s in your area, click here: Canadian National Aboriginal Day events.
How will you celebrate National Aboriginal Day?
National Aboriginal History Month: http://www.startupcan.ca/2013/06/05/celebrating-national-aboriginal-history-month/
5 Incredible Successful Aboriginal Entrepreneurs: http://www.startupcan.ca/2013/06/19/5-incredible-successful-aboriginal-entrepreneurs/