The 2017 CRE National Conference in Winnipeg brought together over 200 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from every province and territory across Canada. The conference offered reconciliation-based workshops, keynote speakers, discussion panels, and local excursions. All of these sessions stimulated dialogue surrounding decolonization and reconciliation – taking steps toward healing and building a safer and more united nation.
The conference theme was “Young People Leading the Good Life”. This theme played out beautifully throughout the conference; there was much encouragement that fostered a sense of empowerment for the youth of this generation. For example, for one of the local excursions, participants were able to take part in a local gathering of solidarity, “Meet Me at the Bell Tower” – an initiative by Aboriginal Youth Opportunities. This gathering has been part of an inspirational movement in Winnipeg toward building a better and safer community. Organizers Michael Champagne and Jenna Wirch shared their ideas of how to identify and carry confidence in our gifts, and to use them to rebuild our communities. Moreover, they shared the powerful wisdom of how to start a movement with the people and resources already available to us, with the community’s gifts already surrounding us.
Other local excursions included a trip to the Louis Riel Museum, which delved into the history and culture of the Métis people. There was also a trip to the Museum of Human Rights, with an amazing tour presenting Indigenous teachings and how they relate to human rights, as well as the incredible connection to the Museum’s architecture.
The richness of Indigenous arts was used in many of the workshops, allowing for opportunities to experience the power of healing through various creativity outlets. These workshops included different types of dance, poetry, beading, mini-moccasin making, and traditional games, all of which revealed the role of self-expression, laughter and play, as channels of healing, strength and decolonization.
An abundance of profound wisdom emerged from the many discussions that were ignited at the conference. The sessions revealed the necessity of everyone to seek out education from Elders and community members who hold the knowledge of truth, stories and culture – in order that we may dispel stereotypes, and carry forth the knowledge we gain to educate others. Furthermore, many of the sessions focussed on our need to address inequalities and stand in solidarity with each other, creating hope and creating safer spaces, recognizing that as we build relationships, we are building reconciliation.