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Scott Strasser

Indigenous speakers series discusses truth, reconciliation and the future

By Scott Strasser, June 6 2016 —

More than 200 people attended the indigenous speaker series REDx Talks at the University of Calgary on June 2.

Influenced by TEDx Talks, the not-for-profit speaker series focuses on aboriginal issues in Canada and around the world.

REDx Talks is a platform for indigenous worldviews to express traditional practices in the spirit of oral tradition,” said founder and curator Cowboy Smithx.

Mount Royal University hosted the first REDx Talks in October 2015. The program quickly expanded to include events in Edmonton, Calgary and even Chile last year.

The June 2 event, held at the U of C’s new Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, marked the fifth formal REDx Talks event.

The night’s theme was “Truth, Reconciliation and the Future.” Presentations focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released in November 2015.

The TRC documents the experiences of survivors and family members affected by Canadian residential schools.

“[It’s] probably the most important conversation in Canada’s history,” Smithx said.

The event’s first presenter was Marie Wilson, who spoke about the lasting effects of her experience as one of the three leading commissioners for the TRC.

“I have voices in my head of what I heard,” Wilson said.

Wilson stressed the need for collective involvement of both indigenous and non-indigenous communities going forward.

“Truth and truth-telling creates community,” Wilson said. “As a country, we have work to do.”

Alberta Liberal Party leader David Swann attended the event. He said REDx Talks helps “bridge the gap” between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures.

“It’s raised important questions for all of us on how we participate in this thing called reconciliation,” Swann said. “Together we can find a way through and I don’t think we can do it alone.”

In her presentation, climate and energy campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo argued how colonization of indigenous land never truly ended, but continued through repeated industrialization and resource extraction.

She said 70 per cent of the Lubicon territory in north-central Alberta is leased for future development projects.

“How can we reconcile when there are still ongoing grievances today?” Laboucan-Massimo said.

The event also included an hour-long intermission, featuring traditional indigenous food and a session from drum group Eya Hey Nakoda.

After the intermission, family physician Esther Tailfeathers presented on drug addiction in the Alberta Blood Reserve.

Tailfeathers said surveys in the Blood Reserve show a direct correlation with drug addiction and a history of abuse.

“What happened in the residential schools system directly affected our tribe,” Tailfeathers said. “We were seeing fentanyl coming onto our reserve.”

Other speakers included Smithx, comedian Dallas Goldtooth and Idle No More organizer Erica Lee.

Smithx said REDx Talks is working to set up events in Toronto, Vancouver, Yellowknife, Regina and New Zealand.

“We set beacons out all over the world to find new partners and new territories,” he said.

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