The new Indigenous Engagement program is a spark of connection, igniting a deep sense of belonging through the customs that define Indigenous identities. Together, we remember the past, learn from our ancestors’ wisdom, and embrace it all with open hearts. In this shared journey, we strengthen our bonds and foster understanding.
Guided by the Seven Sacred Teachings: Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility, and Truth, this program serves as a bridge to Indigenous heritage and a platform for nurturing improved relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Canada.
Launching for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
“Listening attentively to the voices of our community, we have crafted programs that provide opportunities to connect with Indigenous roots,” says Sarah Higgins, Director of Indigenous Engagement at Bissell Centre. “We focus on celebrating age-old traditions while exploring new ways to honour them.”
The program has been active over 2023 but is officially launching at the end of September – consciously coinciding with National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Higgins explains how launching this new Indigenous Engagement program at the same time as this important ceremony for Indigenous communities is part of a larger reclamation of Indigenous culture and an important part of the healing that the community needs.
Reclaiming Indigenous Cultural Practices
“We have a large overrepresentation of Indigenous people accessing Bissell Centre programs,” says Higgins. “This program is a direct response to what we were hearing directly from the community. Holding our ceremonies, performing our smudges and our songs, collecting our medicines, and accessing the wisdom of our elders – these are all foundational to what we’re providing in this program.”
She goes on to point out that the ceremonies and customs practiced in the Indigenous Engagement program would have been illegal up until 1951, when the Indian Act was first amended to end its discrimination against Indigenous traditions. Higgins is proud to lead a team that ensures the customs and rituals practiced by Indigenous peoples have a home at Bissell Centre – where they can reach a lot of people who need it most.
Discover more about how the new Indigenous Engagement program by Indigenous folks, for Indigenous folks, is helping more people honour and connect to their culture.