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Discussions about the importance of Indigenous voices

By Nazeefa Ahmed, June 24 2022

On June 28, the United Way’s Calgary branch will be hosting a virtual Lunch and Learn as a part of the Akak’stiman Indigenous Strategy. In this event, attendees will hear Indigenous Elder Jackie Bromley discuss Indigenous Awareness Month and topics relating to Indigenous history and peoples. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Daisy Giroux, a strategy lead for United Way, spoke about the structure and goal of the event, as well as the meaning she finds from her work. 

“Our Elder Jackie Bromley from the Kainai Nation is going to be sharing her teachings and talk about the importance of having the Indigenous voice in communities and across the country,” said Giroux. “It is a pleasure to work in honouring and acknowledging Indigenous ways of knowing and acknowledging those Indigenous systems and having the privilege to work and learn from our elders that we work with.”

The Lunch and Learn events have up to 200 people attending at a time. The first 45 minutes are for the Elder to share and the remaining time is for questions and discussion. Giroux described why many people are drawn to the conversations that occur at these events.

“[The event] is only an hour long and it is when most people are having their lunch break. They can participate and get so much out of learning from the Elders and their teachings,” said Giroux. “Participants really feel like they know [the Elders] a lot more through their personal stories.”

First Nation Elders often share their past trauma and experiences in these sessions. However, according to Giroux, the Elders have addressed the topics in a humble and gracious manner manner.

“One of the things that we just love about having the Elders share any of their knowledge with us is that it comes from a really genuine place,” said Giroux. “Often when they are telling the truth, as hurtful as it is, they are very humble about it. Even if they were sharing something about racism, they will do it in a very humble and loving way so people won’t be offended and people won’t experience any guilt or shame.”

Giroux explained how the acknowledgement of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by the government last year has increased people’s interest and support for their events and Indigenous issues.

“We are seeing a lot of new people coming in and participating slowly,” said Giroux. “When the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was declared a lot of people wanted to learn about Indigenous people. Around this time last year was when it was announced that the 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops were found and all of the other findings that have been happening since then, more of the country is aware.”

However, Giroux believes that support for Indigenous issues should not be limited to a specific month. 

“It is great that we’re acknowledging a group that has gone through colonization, and is still dealing with racism but there needs to be more efforts after that,” said Giroux. “It is important to honor the beauty of the culture, the history and the issues after June 30 as well.”

Lunch and Learns will be officially hosted four times a year. More information about United Way’s philosophy and events can be found on their website

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