In January 2018, The Winnipeg Foundation announced an investment of $1 million in a one-time call for proposals for projects that support truth and reconciliation.
“The community clearly, and very loudly, stated truth and reconciliation was an area that needed to be addressed. We discussed which grants addressed the 94 Calls to Action,” said Patricia Mainville, Chair of the Reconciliation Grants Advisory Committee, in 2018. “Reconciliation requires action. We are at a time in Winnipeg where we need to act; we need to have a deeper dialog and deeper conversations.”
The Advisory Committee identified both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – better known as UNDRIP – and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, as key documents for organizations to understand when applying for a Reconciliation Grant. Groups could apply for up to $100,000, for projects of up to three years.
In June 2022, all 20 organizations convened at the Ozhaawashkwaa Animikii-Bineshi Aki Onji Kinimaagae’ Inun (Blue Thunderbird Land-Based Teachings Learning Centre) in West St. Paul, just north of the perimeter, to discuss their experiences, share stories about their projects, and reflect on the past three years with a sharing circle.
“It’s wild to think that three years have passed and we’re in this stage of reflection,” said Alexis Nazeravich, Program Manager at the Blue Thunderbird Land-Based Teachings Learning Centre, who was also a grant recipient. “This gathering is the closing feast, recounting the stories and the struggles and the beautiful achievements.”
“I loved listening to the stories, learning, and being reminded of the sensitivities of truth and reconciliation,” said Nazeravich. “I loved how we all admitted that it’s challenging work. But we went in hopeful, we put out these ideas and asked for support for them because we believe that they are important and necessary.”
Two of the other 20 organizations that received funding are Ka Ni Kanichihk and MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art) and their respective projects aligned perfectly with the TRC’s Calls to Action and the path to truth and reconciliation.
MAWA’s program “Resilience” (resilienceproject.ca) focuses on education through art, and features both a textbook and a teaching guide distributed to Winnipeg’s schools. Yvette Cenerini is a Franco-Métis visual artist, educator, and MAWA’s Art Education Specialist who helped develop the Resilience project.
“The interesting thing about contemporary Indigenous art, is it can be art for art’s sake, but it can also bring awareness and it can inform,” said Cenerini. “Indigenous art is all of those together. It’s such an accessible way to see someone else’s perspective and understand it. Introducing images to children and to the public helps us all understand each other.”
Ka Ni Kanichihk’s project, the Butterfly Club, is a youth mentorship group that takes an integrated approach. Monika Pichor coordinates the group and helps Winnipeg youth reconnect with their culture through music, art, ceremony, and more.
“People are not one dimensional,” said Pichor. “We do not come in with just one problem. It’s usually a series of difficult moments we are having in our life. So being able to look at a holistic approach considering your body, your spirit, and being able to connect all of those together to really support one another is important.”
To Patricia Mainville, that is what it’s all about, as she reflected at the June gathering.
“I felt a sense of pride and a sense of community today. I was in awe. You felt the spirit within this circle,” said Mainville. “This is a different way of reporting and celebrating the organizations, and to honour the great work they are doing. They are laying seeds for the foundation of generations to come.”
This story is featured in the Spring 2022 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.