As you may know, CFSC’s Reconciliation Fund supports the grassroots, community-based efforts of Indigenous peoples in Canada working on cultural and language revitalization projects. Modest grants of up to $2,500 are typically awarded to individuals or groups that have not found funding elsewhere, and contribute towards the costs of cultural ceremonies, Elder or knowledge holder honoraria, travel, printing, etc. In many cases this is a critical infusion of funds that enables protocols to be honoured, an Elder to participate and share knowledge, or a new resource to be developed to support the continuity of Indigenous languages and lifeways. It truly makes a difference!
2023 was a significant year for CFSC’s Reconciliation Fund as awareness of, and interest in, the Fund increased across Turtle Island. It’s a joy to share updates now about all of the cultural revitalization efforts that the Reconciliation Fund has helped to realize.
Let me start by expressing our gratitude: first for the time and wise counsel of our Grant Advisory Committee this year—mussi cho, ?ulnumsh chalap, miigwetch. Second, to all those who donated since the establishment of the Fund—it is deeply appreciated. And third, for the opportunity to discern the fit of reconciliation grants with many worthy projects and Indigenous applicants—wow, we’ve learned so much collaborating with you and are inspired by your work.
This year CFSC provided funding to three projects: an opening ceremony for the Living with the Land Society; a Medicine Wheel Teaching Project with the Bonnechere Algonquin Cultural Centre; and travel funding for Indigenous filmmakers to attend the Vancouver premier of their documentary s-yéwyáw: Awaken. As we have corresponded with applicants and their references, we have learned how the grants made a difference to each project, and we’ve seen the beauty of projects in action. We’d like to share some of these stories with you.
Let’s go to British Columbia (BC), to Sqwlax/Lee Creek in Secwepemc territory, a community across the lake from the Quaker Western Half-Yearly Meeting’s spring gathering spot in Sorrento.
This past summer, Elder Minnie Kenoras and the Living with the Land Society planned to host an opening ceremony to raise a totem pole, and formally open the tipi and healing centre in their community. Unfortunately, wildfires led to postponement of the opening until summer 2024. Thankfully, the lands associated with their site were protected. Despite this setback, Elder Minnie Kenoras reports that the tipi and healing centre is abuzz with activity. The tipi has been raised, the sweat lodge is being used regularly, and the totem pole has been painted in anticipation of the opening ceremony.
In a phone call with CFSC, Minnie shared her deep gratitude for our support and excitement to celebrate the opening this year. As she explained, living at the centre is like living in a different world: one that is loving and kind, where people come together to pray and heal. Indeed, it is a beautiful site right on Lake Shuswap.
Over the last five years, I’ve felt a fiery tipping point in my body, living in BC… I am awake to temperatures rising, droughts increasing, and the world burning, and it breaks my heart. But I remain hopeful that as the world awakens to Indigenous fire keeping practices, industry shifts away from unsustainable forestry, we adjust our lifestyle expectations, and caring humans plant trees and protect our old growth forests globally, we can still have a healing effect on the planet.
Over thanksgiving weekend, I was deeply grateful to see a beloved Sorrento Centre still standing in spite of wildfires in the area, and to look out across the lake to Sqwlax and feel a new sense of connection to First Nations friends sharing cultural wisdom in these lands.
“This is a critical infusion of funds that enables protocols to be honoured, an Elder to participate and share knowledge, or a new resource to be developed to support the continuity of Indigenous languages and lifeways.”
Next, I want to take you to the site of the new Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation (BAFN) Community Cultural Centre in Renfrew Ontario. There, Chief Richard Zohr is arranging for an Elder to share teachings about the medicine wheel with Indigenous and non- Indigenous children through partnerships with local schools. Construction has delayed the opening until this summer, but activities will be commencing as rooms are completed.
The BAFN is excited to launch educational sessions once the Elders feel the space is ready, with funding for knowledge holders’ travel and time from the Reconciliation Fund.
As acts of cultural revitalization and celebration, these sessions are important in creating sacred space, strengthening the knowledge of Algonquin lifeways across the local community, and instilling pride in the next generation of Algonquin children in their First Nations heritage. We look forward to celebrating the Cultural Centre’s opening with the Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation and Renfrew community!
Finally, I want to introduce you to dear Indigenous friends in the shishalh swiya, where I have lived on the Sunshine Coast of BC over the past six years. There, Elders have passed along teachings to revitalize Canoe family culture to a young Nation member. A residential school survivor has shared his life’s journey with his daughter. And a Sixties Scoop survivor living in the community has found her way back to her people. The film s-yéwyáw: Awaken documents these stories.
The film premiered in Sechelt in September 2023, and has since been showcased at film festivals in Toronto and Vancouver. As the cast required resources to host an opening ceremony and question-and-answer session at the Vancouver premier, the Reconciliation Fund made this a reality.
It was a heavy but powerful event. One of the shishalh elders in the film had passed away in the week before the screening. The screening became an even more meaningful tribute to her life and teachings, and an important space of shared grief for the film team. I raise my hands up to the filmmakers for completing this tender work.
As we move towards the end of our fiscal year and contemplate the health of our Reconciliation Fund, CFSC would be grateful for your help in two ways. First, we invite those who are moved to donate to the Fund through our website or by cheque to help it grow. Without your contributions we may not be able to say yes to as many applications in the year ahead.
Second, we would appreciate your help spreading the word about the Fund. Relationships with Indigenous individuals and communities are key to applications finding us. There is in-depth information about the fund on our website, including a detailed application that can be shared with ease. CFSC’s amazing staff person Jeremy Vander Hoek is also available to answer questions throughout the application process.
Thank you for sharing the journey. These projects truly ripple out across the country and enable Indigenous peoples to positively impact their communities and Turtle Island! We look forward to another meaningful year of reconciliation granting in 2024!
Rachel Yordy is a member of CFSC’s Indigenous Rights Program Committee. A settler seeking right relation, she has worked for First Nations governments in BC over the last decade in education and community development.