By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today
NORTHUMBERLAND - A Cobourg woman will be taking municipal greetings to the First Nation Reconciliation event in which she will participate this week and next.
Taking place in northern Ontario community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) in the boreal forest about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, the Reconciliation offers those in the more southerly part of the country an opportunity to experience First Nation culture and day-to-day living at this "fly-in community," Laurie Siblock said.
"The youth of KI and their invitation to come to their community to experience both the good and the bad on their Northern reserve offers me a good starting point... to participate in First Nations-led initiatives (and) to be a part of their renewal," she said in an interview. "Their culture has a lot to offer."
The motivation to be part of the solution, and for this trip, has historical roots and probably stems back to her days in northern Ontario as a child, she explained. Although she wasn't thinking of it in those terms back then, she was likely influenced by what she saw.
"First Nation communities were healthy, self-sustaining and thriving prior to European settlement. They are working hard today to recover lost knowledge and traditional ways that were systematically devastated by our government’s policies and the residential school system," she said.
Siblock is assistant manager at the interpretive history of First Nations at Lang Pioneer Village near Keene, which including how First Nations helped early settlers survive their first winters in this country. It focuses on local and area First Nations including Alderville, Curve Lake and Hiawatha.
The young First Nations people organizing the event to share their pride in their community and the land also want to educate southerners about the housing shortages and level of poverty. For example, the cost of food and groceries in this northern community is very high, Siblock continued, with three bags of milk costing $14 and a single bar of soap $8.
Providing the opportunity for people to see what life is like is a way to "break through racism, stereotypes" by seeing the First Nations culture, living conditions, and getting to know each other and build relationships, she said.
Because Siblock has only recently returned part-time to her work after being off for a year of treatment for ovarian cancer, she said she is very interested in seeing the health-care system in KI.
In addition to tours and activities around the community, the trips that begins on Friday, Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 8, coincides with their biannual homecoming involving surrounding communities, Siblock said.