Report highlights need for more educational tools for newcomers learning Indigenous histories

A new report is hoping to change the way newcomers in Winnipeg learn about the histories of the First Peoples.

Fostering Safe Spaces for Dialogue and Relationship-building Between Newcomers and Indigenous Peoples, facilitated by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, looks at ways to practice and promote healthy relationships between the two communities.

The organization found newcomers ideas of Indigenous people can be based off of stereotypes and misinformation.

“The gap that we have identified between those two communities was mainly driven by misconception, misunderstanding, myths and some type of racism in certain incidences, certain instances,” said Hani Ataan Al-Ubeady, interim director for Immigration Partnership Winnipeg.

When Al-Ubeady came to Winnipeg 20 years ago he says there were few spaces where newcomers and Indigenous people could come together.

He added this is changing but more work needs to be done.

The report includes recommendations to change this like creating safe spaces for dialogue and cross-cultural activities.

Another recommendation is the inclusion of Indigenous people from the beginning of the integration process for newcomers or “territorientation” as the report calls it.

“Any organization can partner up with a newcomer organization and welcome newcomers to Canada when they come into our territory… so essentially when they get off the place we have them welcome them at the airport and welcome them to our territory,” said Jenna Wirch, a researcher with the project.

Other educational opportunities include land-based activities, storytelling and sporting activities.

Ultimately, the organization would like to see the development of an orientation toolkit or a document newcomers are given when they first arrive outlining the histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“The newcomer population is increasing in Canada and so is the Indigenous population in Winnipeg and in Manitoba, and for that purpose we need to do something about it,” said Al-Ubeady.

“Giving it the blind eye would not solve the problem. The gap would get bigger and it would lead to negative results.”

Al-Ubeady says in the end the two groups are more alike than they may realize and they can learn from each other.

“Family unit is very essential to both communities [along with] elder respect, knowledge keeping, oral traditions…and sadly, in most cases, colonialism,” he said.

Al-Ubeady hopes the toolkit will act as a “living document” one that should be current and continuously updated.

For Wirch, the development of this report is the first step in creating a toolkit.

“We all come from villages and therefore we should all work together as one village,” she said.

Reporter / Winnipeg

Brittany joined the APTN news team in October 2016. She is Ojibway and a member of the Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba. Before coming to APTN, she graduated with a joint degree in communications from the University of Winnipeg and Red River College.