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Disclaimer: Some responses have been edited for length.

It’s no secret that Canada has a complex history with its Indigenous Population. From residential schools to systemic racism to declining or unequal access to basic necessities like food.

Making up 5% of Canada’s population, Indigenous Peoples continue to band together to create change and foster brilliance and ingenuity within their communities.

Unite for Change’s Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund, curated by Wanda Brascoupé includes Indigenous-led charities that are committed to supporting, celebrating, and uplifting Canada’s Indigenous communities. 

September 30th marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day to recognize and commemorate the ongoing legacy of residential schools, and to honour survivors and their families.

To get a better understanding of how these organizations operate and the challenges they face, Unite for Change connected with some of the charities who are a part of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund.

Q: How is your charity supporting Indigenous Peoples and communities?  Which specific initiatives are the donations from the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund being used for?

“Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE) is a national Indigenous youth-led organization that collaborates with communities to provide programs, grants and opportunities that are grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being and designed to strengthen and amplify the voices of Indigenous youth. We envision a future where Indigenous youth are empowered and connected as dynamic leaders in vibrant and thriving communities. CRE does this work through five core programming areas: 1. CREation Community Grants program 2. The Centre for Indigenous Policy and Research 3. Culture and Wellness programming 4. Solidarity Programming 5. Indigenous Youth Gatherings. All donations made to CRE, including donations received through the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund, are allocated across all programs and initiatives based on funding needs and funding gaps, and have an impact on all of our programs. That being said, the program we have the most difficulty acquiring funding for is our Culture and Wellness programming, so donations from the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund have the most significant impact on our Culture and Wellness initiatives.” – Sarah Harney, Associate Director, Strategic Communications at Canadian Roots Exchange

“LHF has created a Portal for Survivors to access traditional teachings, practices, and skills that were robbed from them due to Residential and Day Schools or subsequent involvement in the Child Welfare System. We offer Traditional and On-the-land Healing workshops to Survivors in person or that can be accessed by video. By providing opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to come together to learn a traditional practice, or practice at risk of being lost, everyone expands their support networks with other participants, establishes community connections and a sense of cultural pride and a sense of belonging within the Indigenous communities. We also provide Canadians with resources and curriculum K-12 which help to educate children while they are young about Indigenous history, traditional practices and philosophies throughout their education so there are better relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous [people] and in order to address ignorance and reduce racism.” – Teresa Edwards, Executive Director & In-House Legal Counsel at Legacy of Hope Foundation

Q: What is your biggest challenge to reach Indigenous communities that need support?

“Right now, our greatest challenge is having the program capacity to meet the demand among the community. Our programs are always over-subscribed as soon as they are launched. We have seen a great demand and hunger among Indigenous women for the teachings and healing of our Grandmother Elders. We keep close touch with our community through our Lived Experience Council, Elders Council, Leadership and Staff. Our community members know that they belong at Clan Mothers.” – Erin Booth, Director of Operations & Planning at Clan Mothers Turtle Lodge

“Transportation to-and-from Indigenous communities. This is why, as part of our programming, we provide transportation, with 4 vans running any given day bringing people to and from work.” – Heather Paul, Executive Director at Spo7ez Cultural Centre and Community Society

“One of the biggest barriers is adapting support to meet the unique needs of Indigenous communities. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution as each community faces its own unique challenges. Access, trust, and transparency in all operations remain the biggest barriers when reaching communities, especially when no prior relationship exists. DWF operates Oshki Wupoowane | The Blanket Fund which provides support for Indigenous cultural, artistic, and educational activities. The Blanket Fund granting model was created in consultation with Indigenous communities which will continue as we move forward, ensuring we adapt to meet the needs of Indigenous people, organizations, and communities. This expertise, insight, and knowledge have been and will continue to be, foundational in guiding the operations of the fund to ensure each step of the process is informed by Indigenous ways of knowing and doing.” – Reilly Goldsmith, Director, Programs and Operations at Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund

Q: From your charity’s perspective, has anything positive or negative changed since the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation? If yes, what?

Most charities agree that conversations and awareness around Truth and Reconciliation have increased, but there is still work to be done in terms of how to practice meaningful reconciliation year round.

“Since the inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the conversations around reconciliation have increased and for many, have just begun. Everyone has their own perspective on what reconciliation means to them and that can evoke confusion, frustration, anger, guilt etc. For many, the path forward isn’t clear and can keep people from being a part of reconciliation. The work that we do at Returning to Spirit brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks together in a common understanding of what reconciliation truly is and provides the tools to create it themselves.” – Amber Reid, Fund Development Keeper at Returning to Spirit

“Our observation is that generosity, self-reflection, and allyship tend to be clustered around the day instead of becoming infused into the fabric of our society. We need Settler allies to show up every day of the year to help us address systemic inequities that affect our communities.” – Jessie Housty, Executive Director at Qqs (eyes) Projects Society

“There is a big uptake of Canadians wanting to learn Canadian history and to engage with it in a meaningful way. Each year we have increased requests for somebody to come and talk to school groups, businesses, governments and help them sort through what reconciliation might look like in their own contexts.” – Harold Roscher, Executive Director at Edmonton Native Healing Society

Q: Could you share some reputable links or good sources that Canadians can use to educate themselves on Indigenous issues, culture, and history?

Some of the charities in our Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund operate educational tools that can be a resource for Canadians looking to increase their knowledge on Indigenous issues, culture, and history. Other Charities were kind enough to share some of the resources they use. These resources include:

Home on Native Land (HONL) is a free educational tool that was developed by RAVEN as a duty to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. Participants have said the following about the modules:”

 “This course is a great resource both for the beginner and for those of us who have been settler allies for a long time” – Wayne (HONL Participant)

“This course brought to light how complicated the legal system is in Canada, to say the least, and the struggle and persistence from Indigenous Nations to be recognized and have a voice in this country. The reflection questions held me responsible to my actions and beliefs around how I see Canada and to question and wonder how different it could be.” – Renee (HONL Participant)

“Based on the feedback, those that have registered and completed HONL modules have felt their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous rights has increased and therefore we can assume individuals are taking their own journey towards reconciliation. So for those that are willing participants, reconciliation is improving but it also comes with a deeper understanding of the depth of the issues and how much more work is required to accomplish the recommendations of the TRC Calls to Action.” – Carly Eldstrom, Director of Development at RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs)

Good Minds Book Resources has a lot of titles to choose from to become educated on our people.”Cynthia Bell, Executive Director at ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency

TRC Calls to Action, MMIWG Report, read Indigenous authors — fiction, history, memoirs CBC has a good selection of Podcasts & videos.”  – Erin Booth, Director of Operations & Planning at Clan Mothers Turtle Lodge

Q: If you could provide 1 tip for non-Indigenous Canadians who want to engage in reconciliation what would it be?

Understand that you are on Indigenous land, and begin to learn about the unique Indigenous laws and practice the responsibilities that you hold.” – Kelsey Wrightson, Executive Director at Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning

“One of our board members suggests that people adopt a posture of listening to Indigenous stories and realities without an agenda. Sometimes people only listen to respond with an answer because they think they know better, rather than listening for the sake of being on the same level of who is sharing. Listen to hear rather than to try and solve another person’s problem.” – Benjamin Lim, Executive Director at Rising Above Abuse Counselling Agency

“Educate yourself. The first step in reconciliation is education. Learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Learn about the land you are situated on. Learn about the current issues facing local Indigenous communities. Learn about the culture and traditions of local Indigenous communities.” – Reilly Goldsmith, Director, Programs and Operations at Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund

Despite the positive strides taken towards reconciliation, there is still a long way to go and we each have a role to play. Support more than 50 Indigenous-led charities by making a donation to the Indigenous Solidarity Fund or get educated by taking Unite for Change’s Truth and Reconciliation Quiz.

Thank you to Canadian Roots Exchange, Legacy of Hope Foundation, Clan Mothers Turtle Lodge, Spo7ez Cultural Centre and Community Society, Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, Returning to Spirit, Qqs (eyes) Projects Society, Edmonton Native Healing Society, RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency, Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, Rising Above Abuse Counselling Agency for sharing their experiences, challenges and advice and for all the important work they do.

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