Reflection on CPAF Meeting
By Mariah Sockabasin
I had the pleasure of representing artsnb in Ottawa last week at the Canadian Public Arts Funders (CPAF) meeting, where the topic was “Indigenous Arts & Reconciliation”. We discussed our role as arts funders in the ‘Truth & Reconciliation: Calls to Action’ mandate, what we are doing to implement it and what more we could be doing. When I first learned I would be travelling to Ottawa to represent artsnb, I was nervous and excited. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure I was ready for such an important role and also because the topic we would be discussing hit so close to home. I was excited on the other hand, knowing this was a great opportunity to learn and grow, and that I would be able to bring any knowledge learned back to New Brunswick, to the Arts Board and beyond.
I had the honour of listening to guest speakers Ellen Gabriel, Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair and Ryan McMahon. All brought their own perspectives to the table and helped set the tone for the next two days. Their words were inspiring; I hung on to every syllable, hoping to retain the knowledge coming from such educated and respected people.
I’ve learned that we all have a part in Reconciliation. It’s on all of us, not just as a nation but as individuals, to create a renewed Canada. Ask yourself: what are you doing to reconcile our nation? Change starts with each of us individually. Share your knowledge, without ignorance or discrimination. Let’s teach our children differently; let’s teach them love and acceptance. That is how we will truly be reconciled, through our children and their children.
I am grateful for this experience and am proud to say that artsnb is already well on its way toward a renewed relationship with its First Nation communities. We are already doing so much here for Aboriginal Artists and we are always open to improvement within our arts funding programs. That is why we are now using the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a tool to ensure proper and respectful funding in our programs and proposed projects that involve Indigenous Culture. We understand that some things are sacred and want to take precaution to not fund projects that may unknowingly be culturally inappropriate.
I used to feel so powerless, not knowing what I could do to help with Reconciliation. I now know we all have the power to change our world, as long as we have the courage. We have the power to lead with kindness, to listen, to think before we speak, to teach those who do not know, and to be patient and understanding, even when it seems impossible.
Woliwon. Thank you. Merci.