Saturday, 5 January 2019

Community Knowledge at the Core

By Erika Vas, MDP student
Boozhoo, Tansi, Aaniin, Wotziye, Ho/Han, Tanshi, Asujutilli, Hello!

Michael Redhead Champagne & Erika Vas Photo Credit link
As mentioned in my previous blog post, I completed my domestic field placement working with University of Winnipeg (UW) and Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) co-creating and assisting in the delivery of the first-ever Human and Indigenous Rights Executive in Residence Program in Canada. A key component of this program were the featured presenters both local and national, some of whom I knew personally. The relationships I have made during my studies have been foundational in my life in Winnipeg. The support and mentorship from individuals has allowed me to become a part of some amazing communities, and to learn from and with them. These people have made Winnipeg feel a lot more like home. Through my work in creating and implementing the Executive Leadership Program, I hoped that I could share with the participants some of my learnings and experiences from these communities.

Program participants during Indigenous Day Live Round Dance Photo credit: Trevor Hagan (Winnipeg Free Press)

A highlight of the placement was my responsibility for planning and organizing a line-up of speakers to complement the curriculum and modules. I am grateful to the individuals I’ve met during my time in Lethbridge and Winnipeg who presented at the program and demonstrated what “leading by example” could look like in a wide range of areas. The significant contributions of Theodore and Morgan Fontaine, Michael Redhead Champagne, Jenna Liiciious, Mitch Bourbonniere, and Alex Neve contributed to the program’s success and presented several experiential learning opportunities in the community. Together, the participants had the opportunity to learn from these leaders about Residential Schools, Truth and Reconciliation, Leadership and Engagement, and Human and Indigenous Rights and Intersectionality.

The “Community Engagement & Relationships” module, which I was responsible for creating, drew from community capacity and the expertise of those in the community. It consisted of engaging with community and learning how to establish relationships based on respect, relevance, reciprocity and responsibility. This included a panel conversation about leadership and community engagement with Michael Redhead Champagne, Jenna Liiciious, and Mitch Bourbonniere, local leaders who are making a difference in the community, nationally, and internationally. To take learning beyond the walls of the museum, the participants also had an evening outing to Meet Me at the Bell Tower in Winnipeg’s North End. They were welcomed by Michael, Jenna, Aboriginal Youth Opportunity (AYO!) leaders, and community members. 

Meet Me at the Bell Tower

Meet Me at the Bell Tower was created to foster a greater sense of community in Winnipeg’s North End. Every Friday at 6pm, rain, snow, or shine, the community comes together to explore a wide range of issues such as child and family welfare, violence, racism, education and reconciliation. The Executive Leadership participants had an opportunity to be a part of the community, observe youth leadership, participate in the Bell Tower raffle, and assist with kitchen activities.

While this program was a memorable for participants, it was a memorable time for me as well. It marked my first summer in Winnipeg and gave me so many opportunities to learn from and with participants, presenters, and community and create new friendships. It is opportunities in the MDP Program such as this domestic field placement that have influenced my learning journey and lead me to new paths.  

To all of you who have helped me along the way, I am forever grateful.