Seeking truth: Anita Balsewicz’s journey on Indigenous learning
September 29, 2021 - Defence Stories
Anita Balsewicz is an employee of the Mat Group with many layers to her identity – she is the HR Services Manager for DGMPD (Air and Land) and (Sea), a first generation Canadian with Colombian and German roots, and a member of the L1 Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.
With an innate passion for creating learning opportunities that bring people together, Anita prides herself on helping others see diversity as a strength that binds rather than separates. “I want to grow by actively learning and challenging myself to understand other perspectives. I also want to be a part of creating these learning opportunities for others.”
As a Catholic, the recent discoveries of the deaths of hundreds of Indigenous children who attended residential schools weighed heavily on her heart.
“I felt shame, anger, sadness, intense grief and a great desire to do something,” she recalls. “I realized that I needed to educate myself about the past to help me better understand what I could do in the present.”
Anita took the opportunity to learn more about Indigenous history and culture by enrolling in a free 12-week Indigenous studies course run by the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. The course opened her eyes to Indigenous stories of struggles, resilience and hope. It also highlighted for her a gap in our history that wasn’t being addressed in our school curriculums.
“I learned more about Indigenous cultures and issues than I ever did in my elementary, high school, university, and college education, and the question that I kept asking myself was, “Why has common history been written in a way that we simply don’t get the full story in its chapters?”
The Government of Canada has declared September 30th as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, providing Canadians with the opportunity to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools. Anita is challenging everyone to take this opportunity to educate themselves about Indigenous history and culture, and to take some time for reflection. With that in mind she offers the following suggestions:
- Sign up to attend a free virtual Culture Night (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website) put on by the Wabano Centre in Ottawa every Monday night. These sessions are open to anyone wanting to learn more about Indigenous cultures and perspectives.
- Take the free 12 week Indigenous Canada (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website) course from the University of Alberta.
- Learn about Orange Shirt Day (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website)
- Event: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day at Beechwood (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website)
- Read a book by an Indigenous author (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website). Anita recommends authors such as Waubgeshig Rice, Thomas King, Eden Robinson and Cherie Dimaline.
- Explore Indigenous musicians and stories (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website). There is such a richness of Indigenous artists out there. Some examples are: Silla+Rise, Twin Flames, A Tribe Called Red and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
- Watch an Indigenous movie or documentary, like “Indian Horse” and start a conversation.
- Listen to a podcast (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website) series that outlines Indigenous history from Indigenous perspectives.
- Learn about the land you live on (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website). Which treaty does the land you live on fall under?
- Take a course on the Canada School of Public Service website from their Indigenous Learning Series.
- Research and donate to an Indigenous non-profit organization (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website).
- Plan to attend the Summer Solstice Festival (you are now leaving the Government of Canada website) in Ottawa next summer. They have excellent learning workshops and presentations.
- National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Anita recognizes that her personal learning journey on Indigenous cultures, perspectives and issues has only begun. “There is much more for me to learn and reflect upon, but I’m committed to staying on this journey to better understand Canada’s Indigenous peoples and their stories. Will you join me?”
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