PRRC taking stock

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder

On March 27 members of the Prairie Rivers Reconciliation Circle met in Warman at the Communiplex to take time to revisit the vision of this Circle that took its first tentative steps on the path of reconciliation.

The PRRC developed in response to the reconciliation movement in Saskatchewan and is one of more than ten such reconciliation groups formed across the province. From a history, compiled by Amanda Dodge, the PRRC began with an invitation to individuals, organizations, businesses, and elected officials in the rural communities in the Twin Rivers region, inviting them to join with others invested in focusing on reconciliation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

The first meeting was held in January 2018 with 26 people attending including Elders Judy Pelly and Gilbert Kewistep. They began by envisioning the work they could do towards reconciliation and arrived at an initial vision statement of “neighbouring peoples, organizations, and communities working together in a good way to achieve reconciliation.”

Through the dedicated work of those first individuals, a mission statement was developed which states that the “PRRC is a partnership of diverse peoples, organizations, and communities from different cultures committed to creating inclusivity by building strong relationships, through education and by relearning our shared historical truth.” 

As with that very first meeting, both Judy and Gilbert were able to join with Circle members in taking stock of where the Circle has been and where it is going. Change takes time and significant energy from those who seek to create it and while some in the group chafe at the perceived lack of noteworthy change, both elders expressed their joy at seeing that the group was still working toward reconciliation, that there are old and new faces at the table and that the journey is continuing. The chafing, however, serves as a reminder to not get complacent in this process, as guest Neal Kewistep stated at the February meeting, reconciliation cannot be just putting on an orange shirt. 

This year has brought a time of reflection where the PRRC looks at its path ahead while also looking at the path already traveled. No journey is ever free of missteps and stumbles, but the destination is never reached without continuing to put one foot after another. PRRC is recognizing that it is in a state of transition, and Rhett Sangster from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) acknowledges that many reconciliation circles are at a similar stage.

There are many questions that members are asking of themselves and the Circle as a whole, including the whole area of youth engagement. How does this group of adults bring youth into the discussion? What is being done around economic reconciliation? Is it a goal of the PRRC? This was not an area identified six years ago, but should it be? These are discussions that continue to be pertinent and need to be held.

Any group, organization, or Circle needs to have a plan to move forward with…for some that is strategic planning, for some that is identifying events that will take place, but a goal needs to be identified to find ways to achieve it. So, what does that look like for the PRRC? What are the direct and indirect impacts of what the PRRC has done? Has the Circle achieved what it set out to do and what more can be done? 

This spring PRRC will engage in strategic discussions about its past, present, and future. PRRC’s educational work over the years has kept the Circle connected to foundational learning about the history of Indigenous peoples, the Treaties and the impact of residential schools, cultural education around language, protocols and medicines, and structural issues like systemic racism including economic racism. Re-visioning is a way of revitalizing, and it assists groups like the PRRC to check how they are doing in achieving what they set out to do. 

The Circle is not just a place for organizations to come together. It is a space for individuals to learn, grow, and engage with those they may not have opportunities to engage with otherwise. It is a space from which to reach out to others to create community. 

As members of the PRRC, we continue to walk the reconciliation journey, together.