Hi! I’m LeeAnne, and this is my first ever blog! Yes, I am that weird aged millennial, who is just old enough to have never written a blog until collaborating with Local Laundry and Wild Teas. So, my many thanks to them for challenging me to do something out of my comfort zone, and for offering this opportunity to USAY.
A little about me, I am a mixed race, Indigenous woman who primarily identifies as Anishnaabee, a people who are from the traditional territory contemporarily called the Ottawa valley. I have been the Executive Director at the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) for more than a decade, and I am proud of our mission to support Indigenous youth living in the City of Calgary.
USAY is a ‘strange’ charity, in that we chose not to focus on the barriers facing our community but rather the strength, diversity and resiliency of the amazing Indigenous young people we connect with. We combine often seemingly unrelated activities with traditional Indigenous values and learnings, such as our suite of virtual reality games or our 3D printing of Indigenous superheroes. Sometimes those stereotypes of what it means to be Indigenous, such as not interacting with technology or living in the past, creates confusion when people interact with USAY, because we definitely have a light, high-tech and fun vibe which does not align with their bias.
However, I called this blog, ‘Living Reconciliation’ because when Local Laundry and Wild Teas approached me, they did not have that bias, they saw a fun, youthful and BIPOC supporting agency that they saw as an equal: a true partner. When people talk about reconciliation, they often think it is about acknowledging colonization and then ‘saving’ someone, but it is really about using your privilege and power to create space for voice, action and equity. USAY is proud to be part of this collaboration because this brilliant initiative creates equity, space, and voice, and not just ‘help’ for young Indigenous people.
As we move forward with developing a friendship, partnership and equitable support for one another, as women and people from diverse backgrounds, we are creating ‘living reconciliation’, as space where we have equity in voice and power. I look forward to having more conversations, maybe even more blogs, and providing our community with a different perspective on what it means to truly collaborate and live reconciliation.
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