March 2018 – Surrey Local Immigration Partnership: Building Solidarity Between Indigenous and Refugee Communities in Surrey
What was intended as a project to bring together Indigenous and refugee youth for intercultural exchange, celebration and community building grew into even more.
Through a series of dialogues – two dialogue circles and a traditional longhouse ceremony with Kwantlen First Nation – youth were able to safely share their individual journeys and find common ground with respect to experiences of displacement, trauma, and colonization.
The first dialogue circle was hosted by the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association (FRAFCA) Indigenous Youth Cultural Group. Refugee youth shared what they know about the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, and discussed issues and common misconceptions.
The second dialogue circle was hosted by the Surrey Refugee Youth Team. The focus was brought inward, as each individual was asked to contemplate their journey so far, both before and after arrival to Canada, or in connection with their family and history.
A full day retreat was organized at the end of January. Chief Marilyn Gabriel of Kwantlen First Nation and her family welcomed the youth into their longhouse for a day of ceremony and ritual at the Kwantlen First Nation Cultural Building in Fort Langley. Four youth were called upon to witness the day.
What unfolded over the day was a collaboration between the two youth groups, as both the Indigenous and refugee youth teams contributed pre-planned activities and workshops, including a Women INpowermentworkshop that addressed how colonization has affected Indigenous women, a mapping activity that allowed participants to visualize their journey, and the KAIROS Blanket Exercise that immersed the youth in the history of colonization in Canada.
As the day came to an end, the witnesses were called upon once more to recount their experiences and recall what was for many an intense, powerful day.
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