Looking Back in Order to Move Forward

Posted: March 11, 2016

Briercrest’s Aboriginal Awareness Week (AAW) was a great week filled with open, honest conversation and learning; gaining understanding about Aboriginal culture and history as a way of moving forward in reconciliation.

The week provided many opportunities for staff, students, and community members to increase their understanding of, and appreciation for Aboriginal culture through a variety of sessions and activities, all centering around this year’s theme of reconciliation. Many guests shared stories of the past, not out of bitterness, but so that through an increased understanding of the past, we can move forward more effectively together.

“Our history has to be brought forward so we can heal together and move forward in reconciliation,” Aboriginal Director Kallie Wood said.

Similarly, guest speaker Dr. Terry LeBlanc quoted Einstein who said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” 

Developing new thinking and increasing awareness are crucial steps in beginning the process of reconciliation. While reconciliation is not something that will be accomplished overnight, events like AAW are steps in the direction of healing and restored relationships.

Briercrest President Dr. Michael Pawelke stated that, as a Christian institution of higher learning, Briercrest wants to be on the solution side of the situation, moving forward, “unapologetically Christian” seeking to create new relationships of trust in light of the reconciling work of Christ. He went on to say that the message of Christ empowers reconciliation.

The events included many sessions, activities, and the Jolly Aboriginal Scholarship Concert, featuring Andrea Menard and Isaiah Tootoosis of the Revenant. The guests for the week were chosen very intentionally: native leaders who are well-versed in Aboriginal culture and who are very open to having engaging conversations.

Wood emphasized the importance for questions. 

“The purpose is to ask questions—if we don’t  ask questions we don’t learn and that leads to misconceptions.” 

A highlight of AAW was the inaugural Reconciliation Cup Hockey Challenge. Chase McKee, son of event sponsor Chris McKee (Beyond Connections) and Isaiah Tootoosis took the opening face off, demonstrating steps toward reconciliation being made between people of all ages.

“I thought there’s no better way [to demonstrate this] than an eight-year-old from the Poundmaker reserve (Tootoosis) taking the face off with an eight-year-old from southern Saskatchewan who lives right here,”Chris McKee said.

The young boys both love hockey and so naturally hockey became a common denominator between them.

McKee continued, saying that reconciliation with Aboriginals is just one example of many in our world today where reconciliation needs to be achieved in order to move forward.