FIRST GATHERING

 Getting to Know You

Documents and Materials to bring (Facilitator’s checklist)

  • Opening statement
  • Seven Sacred Teachings of the Anishinabe (choose a participant each week to read)
  • 6 copies of the closing protocol (choose six participants)
  • Talking stick
  • (If desired) smudging tobacco, etc., or invocation
  • Refreshments
  • Small pads of paper and pencils for participants (if necessary)
  • Other items unique to your group
  • Materials on the Theme of the meeting

1. Opening for all gatherings.
2. Introductory comments by the Facilitator for 1st gathering.

“In this first gathering we want to establish a climate of “mutual recognition and mutual respect” to use the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. No matter what your background and life experiences we want to respect you, by listening to you and by recognizing the value of you as a person and what you have to bring to our gathering.

Over the course of our gatherings we will tackle a number of issues. For example:

What is reconciliation? What does it mean to me and why is it meaningful to me.

The history and impact of residential schools.

Inter-generational trauma caused by residential schools.

Perceptions of Indigenous people by non-Indigenous people.

The meaning of land for Indigenous People.

The role of artistic expression in creating a sense of belonging.

The sixties scoop and its ongoing reality.

The justice system and Aboriginal People including FASD.

The Métis Nation.

Missing and murdered Aboriginal People.

As well as other possible themes.

Each of our meetings will end with a closing protocol.  I will bring the meeting to a close in an hour and 15 minutes. In that way those who wish to leave can do so without feeling they are disrupting anything. If others want to stay and discuss a bit longer, that is possible (as long as the facility does not have to be locked up) So we ask you to be very conscious of your sharing time. Because we will be meeting many times, you will have many opportunities to share your thoughts and feelings.

3. Sharing Circle

We are calling this first session, a “getting to know you” session, where each of us can tell a bit about ourselves.
Facilitators can google “Icebreakers for groups” and be free to choose the one best suited for their group. There are many choices. An example is the following:

a) Ask each person to find out five things about the person sitting to their right. The last of these five things might be what the person feels they know about the current move toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
b) Allow three to five minutes for questions and then have each person introduce the person to their right to the rest of the group, telling what they know about them.
c) An index card and a pencil could help participants briefly record reminders of the conversations.

An alternative would be for the facilitator to begin by suggesting the following;

I suggest that we go around the group and in about 3-4 minutes each, share the following: a) Our name, b) where we from,  c) our cultural identity/background,  d) why we decided to take part in these gatherings, e) what we hope to bring to our life from these gatherings.  Let me begin…” 

The facilitator would begin by taking about 4 or 5 minutes to share so that participants would have a sense of the expectations.

4. Setting the tone (Facilitator)

I would like to ask you how you think we can set a “tone” for our discussions so that they are respectful of one another as persons and in our use of time. Are there any thoughts you have on setting a respectful tone? We don’t have to have rules as such, but it would be helpful if we agreed on how we will conduct ourselves. (Pass the talking stick)

5. Feedback from participants

I would like to share with you some of the feedback we have received from our participants. While most of it has been very positive, there have been several concerns raised.

Our non-Indigenous participants have sometimes been frustrated when Indigenous participants have not continued in the group after the first few meetings.

Our Indigenous participants also have some concerns. Some feel that too much burden has been placed upon them to share difficult moments of their past, while the non-Indigenous participants have not felt that same obligation. We need to respect each other’s stories. We cannot ask Indigenous participants to share if the non-Indigenous partners are not also willing to share.

A second concern Indigenous people have expressed is in the form of a question: “Why should we have to educate settlers about things they should have learnt in school or elsewhere? It is not our job to educate them”. The answer to that question is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is that settlers did not learn it in school. Period. But now there are plenty of books, T.V. programs and media reports that are telling the stories. Non-Indigenous participants cannot be blamed if they did not learn it in school, but there is no longer an excuse to be ignorant. Now that we know a little more, we can do something about it. Let’s not put all the responsibility on Indigenous participants to inform the group. Let’s all take some responsibility to learn more and do something about it. The personal stories of our Indigenous participants can be a very important part of this education of everyone in the circle.

Our circles give us a wonderful opportunity to meet one another, to get to know one another, to hear the stories of one another and to build that mutual respect that the TRC states is the foundation of reconciliation. Knowledge has to add empathy to bring about change.

There is another reason we encourage our Indigenous participants to be partners in our in our circles. This is the most important reason. We hope your children and your grandchildren will not have to experience the racism, the ignorance of your culture that has been part of our Canadian history. You can help end that with your participation. We hope you will grace us with your presence and participation. We need you!

To our non-Indigenous participants, we want to ask you to share some of your own history. How does it relate or does it not relate to Indigenous people in Canada? Together, our sharing can lead us to honour and to live by the treaties that our forefathers signed in our name.

6. Resources

i. Readings
ii. Videos
iii. Organizations
iv. Actions

7. Closing for all gatherings.

Five of the participants will each read one sentence from the “Closing Remarks for All Gatherings” and all will join the 6th person in reading the last sentence of the closing.

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