Kristin Catherwood, Director of Living Heritage
Another year comes to a close and as always, the anticipation of a new year (and a new decade!) is a good time to reflect on what has passed and where we hope to go next. My community engagement work in 2019 once again took me all around this beautiful province of ours, but one common thread was working with indigenous communities. In April, Heritage Saskatchewan was proud to launch our most recent living heritage project in partnership with the Gabriel Dumont Institute through the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) at the University of Regina. Working with SUNTEP faculty Russell Fayant and Brenna Pacholko, SUNTEP students, and Michif Old Ones (lii vyeu Michif), we created the publication gee meeyo pimawtshinawn: It Was A Good Life: Road Allowance Memories. This narrative and visual arts project documented and interpreted stories of Saskatchewan’s Road Allowance People – the Michif, or Métis, whose stories have been under-documented in traditional heritages and histories of western Canada.
In 2019, I also continued my engagement with the Cree and Métis community of Cumberland House, situated in the Saskatchewan River Delta, and one of Saskatchewan’s oldest permanent communities (founded in 1774). I made two trips to Cumberland House this past year – the first was in April, accompanied by Em Ironstar and Kathleen Watkin of the Museums Association of Saskatchewan, and Dr. Glen Sutter from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. This was in follow-up to my trip in autumn 2018, where I learned about the community’s rich heritage and their desire to safeguard it into the future. I returned to Cumberland House in September, 2019 to work with Mika Carriere’s Visual Arts 30 class on a video documentation project. The community has plans to create a living heritage documentation project of their own, and I will work with them in 2020 to bring it to fruition.
This year, I collaborated with filmmaker Louise BigEagle on an elders' documentation project at Pheasant Rump Nakoda First Nation. Together we interviewed twelve elders. The First Nation is now working on translating those interviews into Nakoda and publishing them into a book of elders’ memories. I also attended the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre’s Language Keepers conference in November in Saskatoon. I last attended the conference in 2016, and was impressed by how much it has grown since. The strong youth presence at the conference, and the general sense of resilience around indigenous languages and culture is truly inspiring. There is a growing movement in this province, and reconciliation is central to our work going forward, in all sectors.
My hands-on work in indigenous communities has led me to consider more seriously my own personal role in reconciliation, and also the role of this organization. Going forward in 2020, my work for Heritage Saskatchewan will be focused on this issue. My work will be grounded in the Truth and Reconciliation for Canada (often referred to by its acronym, TRC) reports (http://www.trc.ca/index-main.html) and will also be informed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP - https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html)
I will be using these documents in conjunction with my experiences working in communities across Saskatchewan, my educational background in cultural heritage and ethnography, and in consultation with national and provincial organizations like the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre, the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and others as my research proceeds. In short, my task is to answer the question, how does Heritage Saskatchewan's work contribute towards reconciliation? From there, how can we help other organizations communities take action in reconciliation?
Watch this space as I will share my learnings throughout 2020 as I work through this process. In the meantime, I encourage you to ask yourself, “what can I do to contribute to reconciliation in 2020?” If you are interested in learning more about reconciliation, and about indigenous experiences in Canada, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner website (http://www.otc.ca) is a great place to start. Furthermore, the online course Indigenous Canada through the University of Alberta (which myself and Heritage Saskatchewan’s Katherine Gilks are both presently taking) is an excellent crash course in learning about indigenous history in our country. If we are to move towards a brighter and more equitable future, we must first understand how we came to be where we are now.
Wishing you all a bright and joyous holiday season, and a very Happy New Year!