A grassroots group has been formed in Altona to raise awareness of the history and experience of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Spokesperson, Dorothy Braun, says members from the Altona United Church and the community at large were drawn together by the words of Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2009 to 2015.
"A question was put to him about, what can you do, what should people do about reconciliation? And he said, read the 94 recommendations...look at them and see [if] there is anything there that comes to you, and you think, 'Oh well, I could try that.' So, our priorities are to provide a number of opportunities for people to start to think about their Indigenous neighbours and what has colonization done to them."
The group wants to address that issue through authentic voices, through people from First Nations communities.
"The Truth and Reconciliation Commission happened quite a number of years ago. I don't know that there have been many opportunities in the community, other than the work that has been done by Neubergthal, for people to actually hear the voices, read the stories, find out a little bit about [the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.] I think it's important. I think we need to look for ways to build bridges between these two solitudes if you want to think about it that way."
"With the finding of the unmarked graves of [Indigenous] children, I'm sure it was shocking to many people," added Braun. "We thought this is a good opportunity for us to bring this into the community and let people come as they wish to engage in it."
The group is receiving financial support in the form of a grant through Southern Health-Sante Sud that seeks to build bridges between communities. Other supporters include the Town of Altona and the Altona United Church. That backing is allowing the group to address the lack of awareness about the impact of Indigenous colonization and residential schools through a number of events, including two this fall.
The first one is on September 29 at 7 p.m. at the Millennium Exhibition Center in Altona, with Elder Florence Paynter coming to talk about an elder's perspective on the treaties. Admission is free.
The second event is a book club in partnership with the South Central Regional Library. It will be based on Indigenous authors, including Blackwater by David A. Robertson. Participants are invited to explore the library's more than 200 materials on Indigenous experience.
Future events may include a blanket exercise with Indigenous leaders, as well as hosting additional Indigenous authors.