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  • Nerida K

The Latest News From our Pathways Project

Can you believe it’s almost been one year since we officially announced the launch of our ‘Pathways’ project?

As we begin our second year, we wanted to celebrate some of the milestones we reached, the relationships we’ve built and the innovative and creative nature of all our project partners including Elders, Indigenous youth, and community leaders.

Here are a few highlights!

Pathways National Advisory Circle

Our National Advisory Circle (NAC) that leads the project’s work formed this year. The NAC is made up of Indigenous community leaders and youth, including the NAC’s Chair Ted Norris and Elder Vinnia Van Overdyk. The NAC guides the project, while also providing peer and cultural mentorship to the Indigenous youth members.

After several online meetings, the NAC was also lucky to meet in person in Vancouver and do some cedar weaving with Bill Davis!

Visiting Saugeen First Nation

In April, we were lucky enough to visit and explore youth leadership and governance in Saugeen First Nation with Elder Ningwakwe George, and Karri-Lynn Paul and Krista Hanscomb from the Coady International Institute. We spoke with Elders and knowledge keepers, youth, and community members comprised of past and present elected leaders about what makes a good leader. Ideas for how youth can become leaders, Indigenous youth leadership programs, and assessing the needs and challenges for aspiring youth leaders were the topic of discussion.

Some key themes from everyone’s insight included: culture and identity and the significance of staying connected to cultural roots, healing, mentorship, ongoing programs for youth, education and employment, and community.

A7G's Annual Round Dance and Adaawegamig Staff Development Workshop

We supported and connected with Indigenous youth in Ottawa at Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G) Annual Round Dance.

We also got to work with A7G youth that run Adaawegamig, a storefront and social enterprise that supports A7G in Ottawa’s Byward Market. The 2-day workshop included exploring the strengths and challenges for running the store, developing skills and selling techniques and an opportunity to highlight their abilities and the power of storytelling for Indigenous tourism and the products in the store.

Building connections in the Yukon

We explored, gained insight and built relationships with organizations and community members including the Yukon Literacy Coalition, Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association and Carcross Tagish First Nation Learning and Culture Centre.

Indigenous Workplace Learning Circles

Our Indigenous Workplace Learning Circles (IWLC) program continues to be adapted and incorporated into community and employment programs to support Indigenous youth to build confidence, workplace essential skills and life skills. We’ve also been training other community members and youth to deliver, facilitate, and adapt the IWLC program for their community.

IWLC helps foundational learners, youth, anyone knew, or anyone returning to the workplace to build literacy and essential skills. The program builds on participant’s strengths and incorporates traditional culture and language to build confidence and skills for work.

My favourite part about this experience is that I get to make new friends. I get to do activities that I probably wouldn’t have expected here. Like, I never thought that I would be beading and making drums and stuff. I thought this would be like school, like work, we’d be learning by writing on paper all the time not doing the exercises we do and the group activities that we do.
It helps you adapt to things better; I’m not scared to go out in public and talk to people now. Like, when I see people I’m familiar with in public I would not talk to them, I’d say ‘Hi, hello’ and just walk away. I wouldn’t conversate with them, my anxiety is too high for that, I can’t keep a conversation going with someone for long periods of time because I’m shy…
This program is helping me figure out who I am as a person, it’s helping me discover more things about myself that I didn’t know. When I first came here, I never thought I’d be here in this chair speaking publicly like this. – Gracie, Indigenous Workplace Learning Circles Participant

International Indigenous Tourism Conference

On March 8th we travelled to the International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) in Winnipeg, Manitoba to learn from Indigenous tourism operators around the world and to share our work, the Pathways Project, and our Cooks with Stones program. We met industry leaders and innovators, toured local Indigenous experiences and businesses, and enjoyed a “Taste of Turtle Island” and the amazing cuisine from Indigenous Chefs like Scott Iserhoff and Shane Chartrand.

Your Place in the Circle

We’ve also been busy developing programs and resources!

One of our highlights is the ‘Your Place in the Circle’ Indigenous online program. The program is designed to reach Indigenous learners who experience barriers to digital literacy and to bridge Indigenous traditional knowledge into today’s learning environment. The program is user-friendly and utilizes interactive storytelling to explore traditional talking circle teachings and the 7 Sacred Teachings, considered to be part of the natural laws of life from an Indigenous perspective.

The program was collaboratively and ethically created by FESA, the Pathways Project's project staff, consultants, Sweet Spot International, Elders and local Indigenous community members with a decolonized approach that respects the transfer of knowledge through protocol and ceremony.

An important part of the ‘Your Place in the Circle’ program was the opening and closing ceremony. It was guided by Elder Vinnia Van Overdyk’s suggestion that it’s good cultural practice to have a ceremony to bless the work and ensure, and it moves along in a smooth and ethical manner. And, to ensure that the teachings are passed down properly and well received by the end user, as to benefit as many learners as possible in a good way.

Cooks with Stones: London

Last but not least, Indigenous youth from the Cooks with Stones program were invited by the High Commission of Canada UK, in partnership with Rainmaker Global Market Access to showcase their culinary skills and cuisine at the Canada Day London 2023 Festival.

As part of the program, Cooks with Stones students built their culinary and workplace essential skills, through workshops and mentorship. The culmination of their time with us was the opportunity to showcase their skills to an international audience at the Canada House VIP reception and the Trafalgar Square celebration.

They served a menu of venison, wild rice, berries, and Chaga tea for the Canada Day Reception at Canada House under the mentorship of Chef Dean Herkert, owner of Toba Centric, operating as Bistro on Notre Dame. In Trafalgar Square, a venison shin poutine, created by the students and Chef Scott Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow, and inspired by the incorporation of potatoes in the First Nations’ diet was served from the food truck.

It’s an honour for all of us to serve the guests of Canada House Indigenous cuisine rooted in traditional food sources. Our dishes showcase how the Indigenous Youth have applied traditional cooking methods in a modern context with authentic, delicious results! - Chef Dean Herkert

These are just a few highlights from an incredible first year of the Pathways Project. We’ve been across Canada and beyond learning, connecting, building relationships, celebrating, and finding new opportunities. We can’t wait to see and share what’s next!

The Pathways project brings together Elders, Indigenous youth and their communities, mentors, bridging organizations (those that provide job resource and skills training support) and employers to create new pathways to meaningful work and employment in the Tourism and Government sectors. You can read more about the Pathways Project by exploring our blog and or on the website here:

The Pathways Project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.


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