Atomic Cartoons in partnership with GBH

Atomic Cartoons demonstrated ground-breaking leadership in the production of the animated children’s series Molly of Denali, which airs on CBC Kids in Canada and GBH/PBS in the United States. The program follows the adventures of Molly Mabray, an inquisitive 10-year-old with cultural heritage from three Athabascan groups (the Gwich’in, Koyukon and Dena’ina), as she and her friends explore the epic surroundings and rich Indigenous culture of their fictional home in present day Alaska. Through the eyes of children, this series touches on deeply important topics such as colonialism and the legacy of residential schools, and every story told speaks to resilience, strength and compassion.   

By celebrating stories of Indigeneity, family and community life, Molly of Denali provides an important platform to address racism, colonialism and reconciliation. The series champions diversity at every level and serves as an integral resource that every person – of all ages and backgrounds – can enjoy and learn from. Molly of Denali offers an entertaining and informative perspective that humanizes Indigenous experiences, while informing the next generations about cultural richness. It is also grounded in a trailblazing curriculum focused on informational text, a foundational aspect of literacy education. This provides a wonderful journey for children to learn, while also reinforcing hope in their lives.   

By producing this series, Atomic Cartoons and GBH/PBS recognized the importance of including Indigenous perspectives at all levels. More than 60 Indigenous crew and advisors were recruited to work on the series – including writing, animation, direction, music and voice work – with many gaining their very first opportunity to secure work in entertainment. Atomic Cartoons has championed a growing movement to celebrate and acknowledge Indigenous voices in all their diversity. As our society understands that Indigenous peoples and cultures belong on television, we will all grow to understand that Indigenous voices belong in every dialogue.   

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and the City of Kamloops

The First Nation of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) and the City of Kamloops share a vision and commitment toward reconciliation through relationship building that spans multiple fronts and which has become a recognized example for others to follow. For more than a decade, efforts have been demonstrated through collaborative initiatives in areas of protocol, communication, community-to-community and knowledge-sharing meetings, cultural heritage, celebrations, and through shared service agreements including fire protection, transit, and sanitary sewer management. These opportunities are planned and initiated through transparent processes that acknowledge and celebrate commitments and sharing of TteS’s culture, values, and history to the wider public. One of the first official acknowledgements was the signing of the Statement of Political Relationship by the Mayor of Kamloops and TteS Chief in 1991. The ongoing relationship has paved the way for open and ongoing conversations about shared interests and concerns ever since.  

The unique partnership approach has allowed both organizations to move toward repeatable successes at the community level by being open and responsive, recognizing that bumps along the way are opportunities to learn, and through building trust and shared understanding. The City of Kamloops and TteS are building enduring legacies: physical spaces (parks and trails) for the greater community to recreate together; culturally respectful and mutually beneficial infrastructure and infrastructure agreements; educating staff and officials in the Secwépemc language culture and history; offering community wide classes in the Secwépemc language; shared governance capacity building; honouring special events; and celebrating the relationship successes community wide. The strategic relationship between the City of Kamloops and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc provides inspiration through its growing successes. Future leaders can look to this relationship as a model and will have the benefit of building on the systems, legacies and precedents created.  

DIVERSEcity - Surrey Local Immigration Partnership

The Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP), funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and run by DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, started the process that led to the creation of the Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers years ago, with the intention of addressing the lack of educational resources about First Peoples in Canada, created from an Indigenous perspective. The first of its kind in Surrey, the 46-page guide provides information on histories and current challenges of Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit people in Canada, and addresses common misconceptions and stereotypes about the First Peoples, and also celebrates Indigenous brilliance and excellence. Led by Jeska Slater from the Fisher River Cree Nation and her team at Littlecrane Consulting, with illustrations and graphic design by the team at Nahanee Creative, the guide uses a community-centered approach to amplify the stories of land-based Nations, urban populations, and Indigenous champions.  

The Guide represents a clear indication of the LIP’s alignment with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which provides a roadmap to advance truth and reconciliation in Canada. This includes addressing common misconceptions about the First People of this land, a key step in the important work of building solidarity between the Indigenous and newcomer communities in Surrey. Extensive research and a series of community conversations were facilitated to create the resource through roundtables bringing Newcomer and Indigenous communities together, while working closely with several Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Elders, including Chief Harley Chappell of the Semiahmoo First Nation and Chief Marilyn Gabriel of the Kwantlen First Nation amongst others, as a fulfillment of LIP’s vision to sustain the work of building solidarity. As Len Pierre from the Katzie First Nation writes in the forward for the guide, “The importance of documents like this First Peoples Guide…is a progressive step in the right direction towards learning, understanding and respecting the original and First Peoples of the lands you now call home.” The guide is available through LIP’s website and is offered in multiple languages, making it accessible to all. 

Kwuntiltunaat - Kim Baird

KwuntiltunaatKim Baird is an accomplished leader, a respected advocate for Indigenous people, and is nationally recognized for her work in reconciliation. She is a graduate of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, receiving the Distinguished Alumni award in 2012 and currently serves as the University’s Chancellor. Kim’s life work has provided a foundation that will create the opportunity for the process of reconciliation to exist/thrive. This includes acknowledging that First Nations have a right to self-determination, a quality of life equal to all and in partnership with all people.  

At the age of just 28 years old she was the elected Chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN). She held this important position for six terms, from 1999-2012. In that role Kim’s most notable achievements towards reconciliation took place. On behalf of TFN she negotiated BC’s first urban modern treaty, which came into effect on April 3, 2009. The treaty provided unprecedented benefits and opportunities, and her leadership contributed to TFN being one of the most progressive First Nations in Canada. She says, “true reconciliation” means “no longer being tethered to the Indian Act, and gaining access to financial resources and economic opportunities, and to services and programs for TFN members.”  

In the spirit of the BC Reconciliation Award, she believes that respect must go beyond Aboriginal rights and title. It needs to be reflected in laws, policies and in the operations of government and the courts. To support this ongoing quest, Kim now runs her own consulting firm and continues to share her expertise on many public and private boards, working tirelessly to serve her community in both official and unofficial capacities. 

Brendan Eshom

Brendan Eshom is a member of the Gitga’at (Hartley Bay) First Nation. He graduated from Prince Rupert’s Charles Hays Secondary School as valedictorian in 2020 and is currently studying in the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia. Brendan is a long-time advocate for Ts’msyen culture and heritage. Brendan took advantage of School District 52’s language education programs to become conversant in Sm’algyax, the language of the Ts’msyen Nation. He became a regular speaker at public events, delivering greetings in Sm’algyax, and providing the English translation of spoken addresses by Elders. 

Throughout 2018 and 2019 Brendan worked with Indigenous speakers of Sm’algyax and educators, preparing for the launch of a website dedicated to sharing the language, one word at a time. The site www.smalgyaxword.ca launched in 2019. Since then, the online resource has grown and expanded into social media. In mid-2020, Brendan launched a complementary mobile app that further amplifies his mission to document and share the Sm’algyax language. Further developments include a daily text message subscription service and Braille alphabet. 

Brendan’s language advocacy work has been widely reported by media and recognized by his community as part of a new generation of Indigenous cultural leadership. Through his dedication to the preservation of Ts’msyen heritage, Brendan is connecting the past and present in a way that builds understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. “Part of my vision for this project has been to promote dialogue, both in and about the   Sm’algyax language,” Eshom says. “People have all kinds of reasons they want to learn a specific word, and this allows them to share their unique interest with the community of Sm’algyax learners and allies.” 

T̓łaḵwagila - Chief Bill Cranmer

T̓łaḵwagila – Chief Bill Cranmer has been a strong, and vital voice for the sustainment of the ‘Namgis First Nation language and culture. He led the repatriation of cultural objects including masks, bentwood boxes, and regalia that were confiscated under duress in 1921 after a Kwakwaka’wakw potlatch held in the village of ‘Mimkwamlis on Village Island, BC. The confiscation was sanctioned through Canada’s “Anti Potlatch Law” which existed between 1884-1951. Twenty community members were sent to be imprisoned at the other end of the province because of practicing their traditions.   

A fluent speaker of Kwak’wala, Bill worked tirelessly to retrieve the appropriated pieces and raise awareness about need to preserve and maintain language, history and culture. The repatriation of the some of the 750 confiscated items has had a significant, positive impact on the community. He has travelled to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere to share the story and present on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation.  

As Chief Councillor of the ‘Namgis First Nation, Bill negotiated economic treaties to develop businesses for his nation to prosper. Bill has spent numerous terms on the Executive Board of the Native Brotherhood of BC and has been an Elder / Cornerpost with the First Nations Health Authority, giving historical and cultural input into meetings. His efforts in the preservation of First Nations’ traditions have gone a very long way towards reconciliation. In a speech at the opening of the U’mista Cultural Centre, which houses much of the reclaimed potlatch items, in 1980 he said, “It’s important to know your past if you are going to fight for your future.” 

 

xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ (Many Ways of Doing the Same Thing) Research Team

When it came to developing a community-driven and culturally informed approach to decolonizing relationships between health systems and Indigenous Nations, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ (Many Ways of Doing the Same Thing) research team recognized early on that commitment to respectful engagement and co-learning would be crucial to success. A truly reciprocal partnership between the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health, the University of Victoria and later the University of British Columbia took shape, founded on mutual goals of understanding and implementing what Reconciliation means and looks like for the Ktunaxa Nation. The xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team is committed to supporting the Ktunaxa Nation’s vision for community health, while redefining and dismantling colonial “health system expertise” and leveraging partnerships to co-design solutions that promote better outcomes for all. 

Through expertise shared by Ktunaxa Elders and Knowledge Holders, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team came to understand the definition of colonization as “the process of forcefully removing and disconnecting people [from land, culture, identity, community, and problem-solving resources]”, while Reconciliation is a process of re-connecting. This concept of connecting would emerge again and again; in their earliest meetings with the Ktunaxa Nation, it became clear the project must be rooted in local knowledge. In order to name the project, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ research team joined Ktunaxa Elders to engage in a deep dive of the nuances of Ktunaxa language, millennia-old problem-solving methodologies, and cultural knowledge. In bearing witness to these practices, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ research team found organic and meaningful inspiration in how to move forward with their work. The Elders consulted became the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ Advisory Group, and their ongoing generous guidance ensures research is conducted with honour and respect of cultural protocols, local expertise, and the Ktunaxa language 

Dr. Christopher Horsethief, project co-lead and Ktunaxa scholar, explains that “a healthy community must be able to solve problems, and access, preserve and share cultural knowledge across time and space.” Building capacity for the revitalization, restoration and documentation of traditional Ktunaxa Nation knowledge systems and research processes has been of the utmost importance. This has taken the form of community gatherings and events, honoraria, scholarships for students, hiring local research assistants, and commissioning Ktunaxa artists to create artwork that capture themes around community wellness.    

In May 2019, during one of the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team’s visits to community, non-Ktunaxa team members had a rare opportunity to participate in digging for bitterroot, a culturally significant community activity usually not open to non-Ktunaxa people. The bitterroot harvested was later prepared as part of a feast, served during a Ceremonial Recognition to share findings and celebrate progress. This moment was captured in a team photo depicting the hands of Elders and team members holding a bucket of bitterroot, a visual embodiment of Reconciliation in coming together, exchanging cultural knowledge, and connecting through a shared activity. 

The type of work being done by the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team is often at odds with the ways current institutional systems are designed to reward and support health research work. The team’s collective ability to navigate the barriers of this system, while staying true to their work and purpose, has been reflected in a successful Canadian Institutes of Health Research project grant; one reviewer noted, the proposal itself is a teaching tool for reviewers“The issue of health is uppermost in all of our minds and we ask how do you change the system? This project incorporates everybody: universities, experts and First Nations,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror KekinusuqsDr. Judith Sayers. “It involves a co-creation of knowledge while bringing together two systems and showing the value Indigenous knowledge brings to a system.” Being recognized with a BC Reconciliation Award is yet another step towards legitimizing and centering the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team’s way of working as equally robust, fundable and impactful. 

“We are profoundly grateful to Ktunaxa Nation for trusting us, correcting us, and teaching us so that we can walk this journey together,” says Dr. Sana Shahram, project co-lead and Assistant Professor at UBC. “It is never lost on us what a privilege it is to be welcomed into this work and we hope to continue doing this work together and in a good way for many years to come. 

 

 

Carrier Sekani Family Services

For Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS)Reconciliation means many things. It means relationships built on knowing truths about what has happened in the past, and an unwavering commitment to build brighter futures for the unique needs of communityFrom this commitment came the renowned Nowh Guna “Our Way” Foot in Both Worlds Carrier Agility Training program, a Reconciliation education framework based in north central British Columbia. Facilitators and knowledge holders from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds create space for participants to examine their own practices and institutional policies, and learn how to better work with Indigenous community members. Based on the Carrier values and First Peoples Principles of Learning, training sessions are led by Elders and Knowledge-Keepers. 

CSFS was founded on the principle that Indigenous peoples must have equity, as well as equality, to ensure the holistic wellbeing of their families and communities. Organizational values of respect, integrity, compassion and responsibility, developed by founding matriarchs and leaders and based on cultural values, are carefully integrated into the work of CSFS. Prior to creating Nowh Guna training, CSFS worked with Cindy Blackstock on her Touchstones of Hope initiative, which in part inspired the development of their own educational programs for moving toward, and for, Reconciliation. Many CSFS staff members and professionals from the larger community have now taken part in Nowh Guna trainingAs the interest to learn more about Indigenous culture and Reconciliation grows, CSFS has recognized the need to create space for non-Indigenous partners to understand the past, present and future of Indigenous peoples and their contributions to society 

A typical training session brings together a mixed group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from wide variety of sectors, both public and privateA safe space for learning is established. Truths are told about historical experiences, tears are shed, and new understandings are built. It’s an authentic space to learn directly from the wisdom and generosity of the Elders, and to unpack the history behind inaccurate assumptionsThe training follows a formal process, but its the experiential exercises and story sharing during which many students and trainees report breakthrough connections to the materials. By the end of the second day, participants leave the closing circle with a sense of profound transformation. Many stay behind to ask for opinions on how to remove systemic and/or unintentional barriers to access or provide welcoming and helpful servicesHearts are changed, strong relationships are formed, and nothing seems impossible. Every experience sharedeach conversation and action taken, creates meaningful change. 

[CSFS’ Nowh Guna ‘Our Way’ training] is an important educational program with a global component whose impact has enriched people’s lives,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers. “It speaks to the inclusion of Indigenous people sharing their knowledge, and underlines that, as Indigenous peoples, we do have the capacity to govern ourselves.” In 2020, CSFS celebrated 30 years of work to reassert First Nations control of justice, health, social and family services, all of which have suffered through the process of colonization. The BC Reconciliation Award recognizes the importance of this work, as culminated in a training format that’s helped CSFS First Nations staff learn more about their shared histories and experiences as well as sharing this knowledge with the larger community. It’s a methodical walk-through of history and law that teaches descendants of settlers to understand the uneasy transition from bright history through dark past, into an optimistic future. The BC Reconciliation Award celebrates this future, and acknowledges the commitment of CSFS staff from all backgrounds toward reconciling past injustices. 

CSFS has worked long and hard to meet the enormous needs stemming from the colonization of their communities. While CSFS is proud to have provided three decades of servicein some ways, particularly the long road of Reconciliation, they understand this may just be beginning. CSFS continues to seek innovative ways to re-build their Nations and communities, so in that bright future, every child is provided with the tools and opportunities to reach their full potential.  

 

 

Dawn Drummond

“Reconciliation is not about words,” says Dawn Drummond, “it’s about action.” As director for Indigenous Relations for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), Dawn has devoted more than a decade to collaboration and consultation on thousands of projects with Indigenous communities in the southern interior region of the ProvinceThroughout 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 gatheringDawn was overcome with emotion at what her 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.   

One memorable challenge issued to Dawn was a particular road with 40 years of unresolved issues. It was a tough file, but Dawn is known as the MoTI Champion for a reason. During a meeting in 2016, the Chief asked her to shake on a guarantee that a new road would finally be built through his community. “Through this handshake,” he told her with a smile, “you’ve committed to complete road construction before you move onto another job.” These are the kinds of commitments Dawn identifies as vital: support for communities where there was little for decades, and an obligation and desire to work hard to get the job done. Even with the complexities of COVID, Dawn was thrilled to fulfill her promise in 2020 with the completion of the road.  

Truly at the crux of Dawn’s work, in tandem with commitment, is community. “When I think of my community,” Dawn says, “I think of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.” Over the course of her career, Dawn has witnessed many positive changes, including increased awareness of Reconciliation and the power of the work they do, the words they use, and the actions they take. Her family and colleagues have given her tremendous support to continue to grow and learn, and, in turn, Dawn is always happy to bring people along on the journey. She also cites the trust imbued in her by her executive, someone willing to take the leap when Dawn begins a sentence with, “I want to try something we’ve never done before…”  

It’s Dawn’s hope that this 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.  Im 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 recalls fondly how the milestones of her personal life, like her marriage and births of three children, have been noticed and celebrated by her work partners. 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.”