Things to keep in mind when going into a community for the first time
Lori StCyr, Community Learning Network
For those of you who do not know me, I am the Indigenous Liaison for the Community Learning Network. I am Metis from Peavine Metis Settlement and I have more or less spent the majority of my life in the Peavine area. I have worked closely with the 8 Metis Settlements in Alberta on different projects throughout the years. I have also worked with Native Counselling Services of Alberta and Rupertsland Institute Metis Employment and Training Centers. Being a Metis from a Metis community, I have a strong sense of connection to my fellow Metis Communities and peoples. Being a French/Cree Metis, I say I walk the line between 2 beautiful cultures. I am able to morph and combine the entirety of my two cultures like a beautiful tango or Metis Jig. I take from both worlds and live simultaneously in all worlds.
Throughout my not so many years on Turtle Island I have had the amazing opportunity to explore many Indigenous communities and have had many joyous conversations with community members. Going into these Indigenous communities for the first time can be exciting and scary. Each new adventure of entering into these new-to-me communities has always been done with an open heart, mind, eyes and soul.
Forget anything you heard before going. Expect to be an explorer, expect to be teased, expected to feel, expect nothing. For myself, if I am going into a new community for the first time. I like to do a little research on where I’m going. For example I might do some or all of the following:
- Who is my main contact and how are they connected to the community?
- What are some of the regional aspects of the area or tourist sites?
- I might ask what types of things are happening in the community such as community events, conversations, changes or growth in the community.
- Any recent traumas to the community? This would not be asked but could come up in conversations prior to going to community.
- Is there is anyone I should specifically talk to before going to the community? Will I be introduced at an event? Will I be introduced individually?
- Does my contact understand what it is I do and has the reason for my visit been clearly laid out?
- If I was going into a Metis Settlement I might ask if it would be possible to meet with the Administrator and the Grant Coordinator and if possible any council members (These people would be an example of a Board of Directors).
- If going into a Metis Settlement I would ask about cell service, gas stations, and restaurants in the area. (I currently live in a Metis Settlement where there are none of the above services.)
If I’ve never been to your community before, what questions would you like me to ask? What would you want to tell me about your community before I came for a visit?
In my short time with CLN, I’ve already had the opportunity to hit the road and meet some of you in your communities. I look forward to many more adventures ahead of me.
And if we haven’t had the chance to meet yet, I hope you will come find me to say hello at the Literacy and Learning Symposium in Edmonton.
Lori St. Cyr
CLN Indigenous Liaison
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