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Reconciliation program from UFV built on unique collaboration with Stó:lō

Program was designed in direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action
Naxaxalhts’i, Sonny McHalsie, historian, and cultural advisor at the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre sees strong potential in the allyship program. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)

A new UFV program focused on reconciliation is for non-Indigenous Canadians with a strong desire to become authentic allies.

Keith Carlson, director of the Peace and Reconciliation Centre at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), said the program, led by Stó:lō people, was delayed by the pandemic, but is going ahead now with the first session on Feb. 28.

Xwelítem Siyáya: Allyship and Reconciliation Building will be offered by the UFV Peace and Reconciliation Centre in partnership with Stó:lō Nation, Stó:lō Tribal Council, Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, and Stó:lō Grand Chiefs’ Council.

It’s the collaboration that makes it unique.

“This new program is designed in direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, and in particular to requests by Stó:lō leaders that UFV partner with them to help educate non-Indigenous people about Stó:lō history and culture, and to provide participants with strategies on how they can respectfully play a role in helping to build genuine reconciliation as allies,” said Carlson.

In that sense the university is trying to lift the burden of educating people about Indigenous rights, culture, and the impacts of colonialism, off the shoulders of Indigenous people and agencies themselves.

Carlson said over the decades of his research he noticed an “increasing desire” on the part of non-Indigenous people to “not just learn more about the Stó:lō but to learn more about our history as non-Indigenous communities” and the ways they’ve interacted in the past, and how to build something new and positive.

“I think people hear terms like ‘reconciliation’ and they say, ‘I want to be a part of that.’ They want to do it in an informed way.

“This program is designed exactly for those people.”

Sonny McHalsie, historian, and cultural Advisor at the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, sees the strong potential.

“The Allyship program is important because of the opportunity it provides us to share Stó:lō culture and history with a wide range of people. I see this as an important component of building reconciliation.”

Topics will include lands and resources, settler colonialism, governance, assimilation and residential schools, and culture and spirituality. Required and optional workshops will include drum making, cedar bark weaving, place name tours, introductions to the Halq’eméylem language, introductions to Chinook jargon, and other land-based learning experiences.

The lecture sessions will run on the fourth Tuesday of each month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Workshops will be held on a monthly basis in various places between Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Mission. The initial session on Feb. 28 will take place at UFV’s Gathering Place on the Chilliwack campus.

Program presenters and workshop instructors will include:

Naxaxalhts’i, Sonny McHalsie, (Historian & Cultural Advisor, Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre at Stó:lō Nation)

Prof. Keith Thor Carlson (Director, Peace and Reconciliation Centre)

Dave Schaepe (Director & Senior Archaeologist of the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre at Stó:lō Nation)

Denise Douglas (Elder and Knowledge Keeper)

Dianna Kay (Halq’eméylem Language Teacher and Knowledge Keeper)

Gracie Kelly (Knowledge Keeper and cedar bark weaving workshop leader)

Murray Ned (Executive Director, Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance)

Carol Peters (Knowledge Keeper and traditional plant workshop leader).

The part-time, non-credit program is open to the public and there are no prerequisites. The first session is on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Cost for the entire series will be $200. Register via Eventbrite under the course name here:

RELATED: Reconciliation events drew big crowds in Chilliwack

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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