Survivors spread reconciliation with Vernon’s cultural partners

Cultural Safety Program facilitated by Syilx elders

Eric Mitchell

Some North Okanagan cultural partners are learning from a residential school survivor and his Sixties Scoop partner.

The Cultural Safety Program, facilitated by local Indigenous Syilx elders, is being hosted by the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives. The program provides training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, and anti-racism for partners in arts, culture, and heritage in the North Okanagan as they share positive information about Syilx people and participate in a process of reconciliation and future collaboration.

Syilx elders and program leaders, Christina Marchand is a Sixties Scoop survivor, and Eric Mitchell is a residential school survivor. Together, they created the Cultural Safety Program in 2008, initially for nursing students at UBCO. Since then, the training has expanded to students, professors and staff from all faculties – and now to partners from cultural organizations in the Greater Vernon area.

Marchand and Mitchell have dedicated their life’s work to educating non-Indigenous people about the impacts of racism and intergenerational trauma to begin the process of working toward reconciliation in the future. For their work, Marchand and Mitchell were honoured with honourary law degrees from UBCO in August 2020.

READ MORE: B.C. Museum releases more than 16,000 historical photos of Indigenous life

Providing this training to staff and leaders of cultural organizations, “is an important – and necessary – step towards answering the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 57,” Museum executive director Steve Fleck said.

Call to Action 57 calls for federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

The first group of North Okanagan cultural partners began the four day training in the Museum’s Community Hall Oct. 16. Marking the historical step in cultural connection, diversity and reconciliation, Mayor Victor Cumming joined the GVMA and the Arts Council of the Okanagan in welcoming the Elders at a private ceremony.

“As cultural partners, we hope to foster a safe and collaborative environment that results in deeper sharing, learning and understanding with the Syilx People in the Okanagan Territory,” Fleck said.

This program is supported by the Regional District of North Okanagan and the BC Arts Council. For more information, contact the Vernon Museum at mail@vernonmuseum.ca.

READ MORE: Fewer people but more visits added to Vernon Museum


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