Stories and news from FortisBC

3 ways to get to know Indigenous culture and why it’s a great idea

June 17, 2020

FortisBC celebrates National Indigenous History Month

When the BC Elders Gathering in Duncan opened, in the Hul’qumi’num language of the Coast Salish people, Carmen Driechel, community and Indigenous relations manager for FortisBC, was moved when her non-Indigenous eight year-old son was able to provide her with a basic translation.

His learning was the result of Scia’new First Nation Elders generously sharing their time and knowledge at local schools with both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. This important work builds trust and familiarity, deepens respect and increases understanding between cultures. It’s likely to have a profound effect as these youth become leaders in their communities.

For those of us who grew up in less inclusive times, we have some catching up to do if we want to see that change sooner. But it can be hard to know where to start. It can also feel uncomfortable and daunting.

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of ways to explore the diverse culture and perspectives of Indigenous People in Canada.

In honour of National Indigenous History Month, we reached out to some of our colleagues at FortisBC who have strong relationships with Indigenous communities for their insight into how to get started and why it’s important.

Here’s what they had to share.

1. Exploring content from your local Nation

Carmen Driechel has worked on behalf of FortisBC to build relationships with Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island for six years, engaging Nations with the work that takes place in their territories and ensuring they see fair value from that work.

For her, building awareness works towards building better communities for everyone.

“There’s an incredible amount of understanding and listening that needs to happen.”

She encourages people to pursue their curiosity and learn more about the communities in their areas.

“Many Nations have great websites that explain their unique history and culture; it’s also a good way to better understand what’s important to each community.”

Carmen Driechel, community & Indigenous relations manager, recommends researching yourlocal community’s web pages, and following their social media feeds.

Carmen Driechel, community & Indigenous relations manager, recommends researching your local community’s web pages and following their social media feeds.

She also recommends following public-facing Facebook groups and the social media feeds of local community leaders.

Helpful websites

2. Experience Indigenous culture firsthand

“Give people time and try to understand. You might see things are different than you thought. If we treated everyone this way, things would get better for everybody.”

Tom Charlie, crew leader, is a member of the Cowichan Tribe, a proud grandpa of five and a 20-year veteran of FortisBC’s gas operations in Nanaimo. While his day job is maintaining the safety of the gas system, his real work involves preserving his culture for future generations so that everyone feels safe and valued.

For Tom, getting to know the Indigenous culture in your community is a gateway for patience and understanding.

“Give people time and try to understand. You might see things are different than you thought. If we treated everyone this way, things would get better for everybody.”

Many of the cultural activities within his community are open to the public and he wants people of all backgrounds to know they are welcome.

“When it’s safe again, attending a Pow wow is a great way to see a lot of Bands at once and experience firsthand how diverse Indigenous culture really is.”

Tom Charlie, crew lead, recommends attending cultural events like Pow wows, and offers a number of online experiences.

Tom Charlie, crew lead, recommends attending cultural events like Pow wows, and offers a number of online experiences.

In the meantime, there are many organizations offering a rich variety of virtual experiences, especially on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Virtual experiences

3. Reading books, watching movies and exploring creative content

What’s the number one reason to learn about Indigenous history and cultures?

“It’s fascinating,” said Bruce Falstead, Indigenous initiatives manager. “Do it for your own enjoyment — people travel from around the world to see what we have in our own backyard. So much is still intact.”

Like Carmen, he works closely with Indigenous communities on behalf of FortisBC to make sure the work done in their communities meets their expectations and provides opportunities for their members. He’s worked in this field for close to 30 years and was instrumental in developing FortisBC’s Statement of Indigenous Principles. He’s pleased with the progress in recent years but sees much more needs to be done.

“But don’t let any of the issues cloud your enjoyment; it’s a wonderful rich history.”

A history buff at heart, he started exploring his own Métis background after reading the books of Peter C. Newman, famous Canadian editor for Maclean’s Magazine.

“Reading his books really got me thinking.”

He also highly recommends the APTN television series First Contact where six Canadians go on a 28- day journey intended to challenge their beliefs and shed a light on the true Indigenous experience.

Bruce Falstead, Indigenous initiatives manager, recommends exploring books, TV and film.

Bruce Falstead, Indigenous initiatives manager, recommends exploring books, TV and film.

Bruce encourages people to explore the many works of fiction and non-fiction that reflect a history as adventurous, romantic and heroic as the much-celebrated history of our southern neighbors.

Books

TV and film

Podcasts


At FortisBC, we believe in active and meaningful relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities. Our gas and electricity infrastructure crosses more than 150 traditional territories and our company provides service to 57 First Nation communities. As a CCAB Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Committed member, we strive for continuous improvement in leadership actions, business development, employment and community relationships. Learn more about how we partner with Indigenous communities.

You might also be interested in:

Indigenous knowledge shared through partnership

Drum making with Scia'new Nation (Beecher Bay)

Find more news

Subscribe to FortisBC news

Our newsletters provide energy-saving tips, project news, contests and more for residential and commercial customers.

Newsletter subscriptions