Reconciliation fuelled by collaboration – Dawn Drummond

Photo: 2021 Awardee, Dawn Drummond

In spring of 2021 Dawn Drummond was awarded the inaugural Reconciliation Award for her exceptional leadership and commitment to furthering reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in BC. As the Regional Manager, Indigenous Relations in the Southern Interior with the Ministry of Transportation (MoTi), Dawn has built trusting relationships with regional Indigenous communities based on two-way dialogue, honesty and mutual respect.  

Her collaborative approach has resulted in more meaningful consultation, mitigation and accommodation outcomes due to a deeper understanding of MoTi project impacts on Indigenous communities.  

As she reflects on her work, Dawn is clear that “Reconciliation is not about words, it’s about action.” Throughout the course of her career, Dawn has come to understand that the actions required for reconciliation can take many forms: the action to complete and honour commitments, to understand the unique history and stories of a community, and to appreciate culture and traditional language. But most important, Dawn stresses, is the action of not giving up. Perseverance goes hand-in-hand with trust and vulnerability on the many steps of the reconciliation journey.  

Dawn’s earliest awareness of the concept of reconciliation and how it might be applied to her work came after the completion of her first fully executed reconciliation highway agreement with an Indigenous community. At the signing ceremony, she was gifted a drum and was asked to learn a Secwepemc song to play at the gathering. Dawn was overcome with emotion at what she and the community had accomplished working together. The experience brought new purpose to her work and spurred her to start down a path dedicated to resolving historical reconciliation agreements, with continued advocacy for change, innovative solutions, and a commitment to keep coming back to a community even when the discussions are challenging.   

It’s Dawn’s hope that evolving mindfulness will shape the future of MoTi and chart a positive path forward inclusive of everyone. “The innovation and creativity that I bring to the table for negotiations is successful,” Dawn says, “because of collaboration with communities. Each community is unique in what they are looking to achieve and what works for one community may not work for another. It’s my job to listen and understand how my work can help resolve immediate issues [but] also contribute to the community as a whole.”

As an example, Dawn and the Williams Lake First Nation collaborated on alternative procurement language for a project that included a minimum value committed for Indigenous economic opportunities. The alternative language was successful and has since that time been used for other projects. “I’m proud that we developed this language,” Dawn says, “and that my colleagues and executive were supportive to try a different approach. This established a path to provide more economic opportunities within highway projects for other First Nation communities.”  

BC Reconciliation Award juror Chief Sophie Pierre was also struck by this element of Dawn’s work: “Dawn is an outstanding example of an individual doing a job exceptionally well. She’s acknowledged by the First Nations she serves and described as someone who gets things done. What a great model she provides for other ministries to follow.”  

“I’m truly humbled to be recognized for my work through this award,” Dawn says. “It’s an honour to work with a community and their leadership. I appreciate their willingness to not only work with me but to get to know each other and share moments in our lives.” Dawn is quick to reiterate that reconciliation is not easy. The work required to understand historical grievances and find a way to collaborate with each community in setting a path forward is immense. But with these collaborations comes the power of meaningful, genuine connection, and wonderful friendships too. “I love travelling to communities,” Dawn says, “sharing a meal, having a laugh, and then getting down to business.” 

Dawn believes in the significance of receiving an award honouring reconciliation work and its champions. “Reconciliation is not easy, and it is a journey of many steps. It requires vulnerability, trust, and perseverance. Being able to celebrate reconciliation achievements around the province and offer examples of the reconciliation journey in progress is the significance of this award.” 

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award is now in its second year, and invites your nominations of individuals, groups and organizations that advance reconciliation in this province. Nominations are open now at until January 15, 2022. #nominatenowbc 

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