By Christine Fiddler, Consultant
Tansi! Hi! I recently started some work with Heritage Saskatchewan on Reconciliation-related sessions and with the Relationship Building and Reconciliation through Living Heritage project in partnership by Heritage Saskatchewan (HS) with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan.
This work holds important place in my heart because I see the crucial need to build knowledge and share information about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people in Canada. It is work that I have been involved in in the past decade.
There is a great need right now and an openness to learning. My belief is that it’s just beginning and we still have a long way to go in Saskatchewan. Within our own Indigenous communities and organizations, there are people are who have started this work in different forms.
I grew up in a First Nations community in northern SK, in the woodlands area, so I have a personal connection to that specific landscape and place. My home community has shaped a large part of my identity, worldview, and traditional beliefs/practices that help me make sense of the world.
Since completing my masters degree in 2014, I have participated in community-engaged and reconciliation work in many areas:
➢ I started my own consulting business, Free the Spirit Consulting Services Inc., which offers presentations and workshops on Indigenous history, Indigenous insights, and personal & professional development.
➢ I have been teaching as a sessional at the University of Saskatchewan and at the First Nations University of Canada. For three semesters, I taught an Indigenous Intercultural Relations course for non-Indigenous pre-ordained ministers at the Lutheran Theological Seminary. I supplement my lessons on Indigenous history by bringing in Elders to share their personal stories as survivors of the Indian Residential School System, the ‘60’s Scoop, and their healing journeys through cultural revitalization and the (re)learning of traditional knowledge.
➢ I coordinated a partner project for a provincial newcomer/immigration association (SAISIA) and the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan, which was a reconciliation project in response to the Call to Action 93 that sought to inform recent newcomers to Saskatchewan about treaties and the history of the Indian Residential School System.
In 2022, I was asked to compile a Cree-language podcast related to a project I’ve been doing with Cree Elders from my home community under the guidance of Historian Dr. Ian Mosby. The Waterhen Lake First Nation Oral History Project allowed me to visit and interview various Elders for the Waterhen community archives; that will be part of my PhD study on traditional healing practices and medicinal knowledge. The podcast can be found at https://www.pikiskwewin.ca/skp-skahikanihk-keyteyayak-cimowina
I study through the University of Saskatchewan’s History department, with my proposed PhD project focussed on doing research on traditional healing and medicines and the related history such as treaty rights, colonialism, and land issues. My body of work aims to utilize research as an avenue for sharing the stories of Indigenous peoples in northwest Saskatchewan, and improving the health and well-being of First Nations people.
I believe that there is a need to spread this education to others in the small towns and cities, with the sole intentions of helping individuals who then can better inform others about some of the misconceptions that prevent good relations between people that oftentimes exists.
It is scary sometimes and as a First Nation you don’t look forward to go into places and situations of discomfort. Yet, I am willing to do this work because it can make a difference and that is my aim. Thank you! I’m looking forward to sharing the results of this work in the near future.
Christine is originally from the treaty 6 territory of the Waterhen Lake First Nation in northern Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Saskatoon where she has raised her daughter and son. As a nehiyaw (Cree) woman brought up with a strong spiritual traditional background, she believes in the value of educating oneself continuously throughout life.
She holds a certificate as a Life Skills Coach, a BA in English Literature, and a MEd. She wrote her thesis on autobiographical literature and its influence on the resilience of First Nations students pursuing university studies. She is currently a PhD student taking Indigenous History at the University of Saskatchewan.
Through her consulting business, Free the Spirit Consulting Services Inc., she offers facilitation services on personal development and Indigenous insights. She most recently started offering her skills and knowledge to programs, policy development, and projects involving Indigenous people.