Past truths are inspiring future approaches to early-year education.
Pathway to Truth and Reconciliation is a two-day conference scheduled for Nov. 23 and 24 at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus and is open to anyone who works with children and families in the region and those interested in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
“We want to provide this information for people who are working with children and families in the community, and those who want to know about the land they live and work on,” said Leola McMillan, chairperson of the Early Childhood Educators of B.C., North Okanagan branch.
“Usually you have to go to Vancouver for these types of conferences, but we are really proud that we have so many local Indigenous leaders to showcase.”
Local supporters of early years education and services came up with the idea following a presentation by Okanagan elder Mollie Bono, an Honorary Fellow of Okanagan College who was recognized for her longtime efforts to champion education, reconciliation and inclusivity in the region. Bono’s talk stirred a desire to gain more Indigenous knowledge.
“Mollie Bono’s stories were incredible, rich with history and information about the people, the land and traditional ways. That workshop was so inspiring to us that we wanted to share more and learn more,” said McMillan.
Workshops include topics such as the Kalamalka Indigenous Garden, Okanagan oral history, songs, stick game to Jordan’s Principle, in addition to presentations from elders and scholars working with knowledge keepers and leaders.
Keynote speaker Monique Gray Smith, an award-winning author and leader, will present the “4 Blankets of Resiliency” concept she developed to support wellness of children and families (strong sense of self; family; community; and culture, language and connection to the land) and how these factors might be used to strengthen programming and services.
“Everybody who is involved with the early years in any way understands that we have a responsibility to equip the next generation with the tools they need,” said McMillan. “The more knowledge we can share and acknowledge the past, we can then move positively towards the future with better outcomes for our children.”
Co-hosted by the ECEBC and Okanagan College, the Pathway to Truth and Reconciliation has taken shape from the contributions of multiple organizations on the planning committee: Children First BC, Success by 6, BC Aboriginal Child Care Society, Okanagan Nation Alliance, First Nations Friendship Centre, United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap, Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs and NONA Child Development Centre Society.
“The Kalamalka Indigenous Garden is one example of how the Vernon campus of Okanagan College works with the community toward preserving local knowledge and traditional ways,” said Jane Lister, Regional Dean North Okanagan. “Hosting this conference will support our commitment to working with and learning from the Indigenous community and enhancing ties with our Indigenous partners.”
Registration is open until Nov. 22. Conference participants can register for one or both days, and discounts are available for Okanagan College students and ECEBC members. For information and registration, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/pathwayconference.