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Looking for a meaningful path to inclusion

Whitecourt Indigenous Friends Society president suggests ways on how Woodlands County can become more aware of Indigenous issues
Whitecourt Indigenous Friends Society president Faye Myshyniuk was invited to an Aug. 30 Woodlands County special meeting to discuss ways the municipality could become more inclusive and aware of First Nations issues. To her right is Woodlands County economic development officer Bert Roach.

BARRHEAD - Woodlands County councillors have asked the Whitecourt Indigenous Friends Society to develop recommendations for ways the municipality can become more inclusive and aware of First Nations issues. 

Whitecourt Indigenous Friends Society president Faye Myshyniuk was invited to Aug. 30 Woodlands County special meeting and also asked for suggestions on the county's role in the festivities planned for Sept. 30's National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Festival Park in Whitecourt. 

Economic development officer Bert Roach said that council had formed an Indigenous awareness sub-committee in the spring of 2022, adding that group then reached out to the society for guidance on how to work with the local Indigenous community "to move in a meaningful way down the path of reconciliation.” 

Ultimately, Myshyniuk said it was up to the municipality and each of them to decide how they would like to proceed. 

"I have been asked when and how often one should perform the smudging ceremony or read the land acknowledgement ... Certainly, at big public events, it would be showing respect to read a land acknowledgement about the land whose treaty you are on, but how often and how you say it is really a personal preference," she said.  

"There is really no set protocol. Every band and organization has its own wording. It is about respecting who you are and who you are with because we all want to work together towards truth and reconciliation." 

Myshyniuk said while she is pleased with the recent strides to bring attention to Indigenous history and issues to light, more work needs to be done. 

She added that even though she is Indigenous, she did not get involved until learning about the recent discoveries of the remains of school children buried on the properties of former residential school sites. 

"That's when I got passionate about it and wanted to be part of the change necessary to work together as one nation," Myshyniuk said. 

"(The society's) focus is to educate people of what happened to (Indigenous peoples) in the past." 

She said until people learn about Indigenous peoples' history, it is impossible to understand the issue arising from intergenerational trauma that plagues many Indigenous families. 

Myshyniuk suggested a good starting point for people to learn about the inequalities suffered by Indigenous peoples is the book 21 Things You May Not Have Known About the Indian Act

Eventually, she said, the society hopes to create a friendship centre in Whitecourt. 

"Creating a safe place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people where they can learn about each other as well as to provide services to Indigenous people who are too frightened to reach out for the help they need, whether it is for addiction, help with their children or filling out their taxes." 

Blue Ridge Coun. Bruce Prestidge said he is Métis and remembers his grandmother telling him stories of what she experienced. 

"It wasn't very nice," he said. 

Prestige also noted that in 1867, his family owned land on the Red River in downtown Winnipeg. 

"Next door was Louis Riel's parents, and the guy to the other side was a Manitoba court magistrate, who kicked them off their land and sent them on their way. It is so unfair. And you wonder why people are so upset." 

Goose Lake/Freeman River Coun. Peter Kuelken said he read the book Myshyniuk recommended, calling it eye-opening. 

"I went to school here, and I was appalled that I never heard any of that," he said, adding the book became a "big read" in his family. 



Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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