Debra Fisher, owner of Red Feather Consulting and Presentations, delivers a speech at the Community Cultural Connections Professional Development Day at the Dutch Lake Community Centre last week. Photo submitted

Presentation aims to open minds on Indigenous culture

Keynote speaker takes audience through history of residential schools

By Jaime Polmateer

Clearwater hosted a Community Cultural Connections Professional Development Day to share information on Indigenous topics and give attendees a better understanding of Indigenous cultures.

The event had keynote speaker Debra Fisher, owner of Red Feather Consulting and Presentations, cover topics like Indigenous and Metis perspectives, colonization and Canadian residential school history as well as residential school trauma and the effects that trauma has had through the generations.

“I did a presentation around the colonization through the Indian residential schools; basically it was the background and history of residential schools and how they came to be,” said Fisher.

“I shared quotes from important people in the government at the time, and hopefully the point gets across that it was the value and belief system of the day, of a perception that aboriginal people were of a lower status and they had to be colonized and civilized, and then how that lead to residential schools being established and run until 1996.”

Fisher added the event was well attended with people of all walks of life showing up to take in the presentations, saying out of all the event’s she’s organized, Clearwater’s had the most diverse crowd.

She said she believes people participate because they’re interested in reconciliation and want to open their minds and hearts on Indigenous perspectives.

“They’re willing to move forward, and by all of us moving forward together, we’ll get some good work done,” Fisher said.

In the afternoon she conducted what’s called the Blanket Exercise, which is a visual way to demonstrate the various losses of Indigenous culture from European colonization.

She admitted she’s modified the exercise from it’s original form to make it more impactful and more visual.

Essentially, a number of blankets are laid out on the floor, representing Canada before European contact, and as the exercise progresses blankets are removed, showing the land disappear.

“My exercise has evolved from an original one from years ago, and what it is, is I put artifacts in the middle (of the blankets) and we talk about the importance of those artifacts and how beautiful they are,” she said.

“Then we give participants scrolls, and within those scrolls are some more teachings, I work as the narrator, and we have someone that represents European contact and we take them through the process of colonization.

“As you go through the process, you start seeing the land disappear, you see the culture disappear—it’s a real quick, down and dirty visual on Canadian history.”

Fisher added she was honoured to bring her presentation to Clearwater and thankful to all those who attended the presentation.

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