Today was not nearly as long of a day as the past two days of training.
This morning, a few of the teams (ours included) shared some of their day plans for camp. We also had a presentation about Duty to Report by a woman from Tikinagan Child and Family Services. It was a pretty straightforward presentation, but one comment really caught my attention. A lot of the questions that came up after the presentation seemed to be about how to recognize signs of abuse in children. It was easy to tell that the conversation was entering uncomfortable territory and one of the Northern counsellors finally jumped in with a reminder that we are not going into these communities to look for abuse. This may not seem like a profound comment, but it was for me. It is interesting (and troubling) to think about the way that we subconsciously internalize a lot of the information that is presented in the news about First Nations communities. Unfortunately, more often than not, this information is negative. This really reinforced the importance of going into this experience with an open mind and no expectation of what my summer will be like. I am going to Fort Albany to work with kids and support their literacy development. Beyond that, I want the experience to unfold however it does and I want to be open to learning as much as I can.
After a brief presentation about safety protocols, we were joined for lunch by Chief Stan Beardy, the Ontario Regional Chief. The elder who welcomed us to training on the first day gave a blessing at the beginning and the Chief spoke after we had eaten. He was very appreciative of the program and raised a lot of very though provoking points about First Nations communities in Ontario. However, there is one point that he made that has really resonated with me:
“This is not just a summer job for you. This will help shape the quality of life in Canada for the future.”
Now, I realize that my selection of this quote may appear to be self-aggrandizing, but I can assure you that this is not what he meant. The Chief spoke a lot about the relationship between Canada and First Nations People (especially given the Supreme Court ruling that had come out of British Columbia earlier in the day) and made note of the fact that we are at a crucial point for determining what the future will look like for First Nations communities in Ontario. By establishing partnerships and empowering children, we have the ability to help improve the relationship between Canada and First Nations communities across the country.
The afternoon consisted of one final presentation on behaviour management and then we were given our flight information. I will be on a chartered flight to the James Bay region along with the teams heading to Attawapiskat and Peawanuk (this will hopefully mean that it is okay for my luggage to be a little over the 35 pound weight limit). We will be leaving campus at 10am and considering that some other groups are leaving at 5:45am, I think we really lucked out!
Now I just returned from sitting by the water on campus and watching the sunset. Most of the other groups are spending some time together tonight, but my teammate went out to meet a friend for the evening. I sat outside my residence for a little while but decided to go for a walk instead. To be honest, I have been enjoying the solitude tonight and it is so quiet and peaceful here that I just couldn’t waste the sunset.
Goodnight Lakehead. Fort Albany, here I come!