Celebrating unique and diverse Indigenous cultures and customs

June 21, 2019 by Janice Bandick

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Year-round, we encourage awareness and respect for Indigenous cultures, values and beliefs by supporting programs and projects that showcase the traditions and knowledge of these communities. Participating in events and celebrating culture helps us stay connected with the Indigenous communities we serve throughout BC. 

June is National Indigenous People’s History Month, a time in which Canadians can learn about and celebrate the cultures and histories of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Each year, on June 21, we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. On this day, communities across the country recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of Indigenous peoples in every province and territory. At FortisBC we’re celebrating the preservation, sharing and promotion of Indigenous culture with events throughout the province all month long. 

From cultural workshops and performances, to traditional foods and art fairs, employees are participating at seven FortisBC locations. Various Indigenous cultures are represented at each event including the: Cowichan Tribes, Stz’uminus First Nation, Musqueam Indian Band, Lheidli T'enneh Nation, Ktunaxa Nation and the Okanagan (Syilx) Nation Alliance to name a few.

These events feature educational experiences that allow our employees to learn about Indigenous values, beliefs, histories, languages and customs as well as entertain through amazing performances that showcase their traditions

Employees embrace Indigenous events

This week, our Springfield and West Kootenay locations hosted special Lunch & Learn sessions. The Springfield session was hosted by Tracey Kim Bonneau, the Education Coordinator at En'owkin Centre, an Indigenous cultural, educational, ecological and creative arts organization located on the Penticton Indian Reserve

Jared Basil was the host of the West Kootenay session. Jared is the Band Councillor from the Lower Kootenay Band (Yaqan Nukiy) in Creston. Attendees at each session learned about the principles and process of self-determination and the validation of cultural aspirations and identity. An Indigenous lunch that included bannock and bison stew was also provided for employees. 

At our Willingdon Park Customer Contact Centre in Burnaby, we hosted an Indigenous Arts Fair, featuring pieces from Richard Shorty, Skwachàys Lodge, Shelby Henry and Melaney Lyall, all of whom we were fortunate enough to have in attendance. Employees had the opportunity to engage with the Indigenous artists, and ask about the meaning of various pieces to gain more understanding of their cultural significance.

Deepening knowledge and understanding of Indigenous history

An Indigenous Arts Fair was also held at our Surrey Operations Centre, featuring art forms such as prints, paintings, blankets, jewelry and children’s books from a variety of artists. Bicycle Bearista – Creative Cafe was on site and provided bear themed espresso service and latte art, as well as Spirit Bear coffee and Indigenous teas. 

Beyond celebrations, National Indigenous Peoples Day was an opportunity for our people to learn about Indigenous culture and history. In Surrey, employees had the opportunity to attend an Indigenous awareness session on the Musqueam First Nation, hosted by Thelma Stogan, a spiritual healer and knowledge keeper from Musqueam First Nation. Thelma is also a residential school survivor and shared her perspective on the lasting effects of the residential school system on her community, as well as educating attendees about the unique heritage and hereditary knowledge of the Musqueam territory. 

At our Prince George Customer Contact Centre, employees were treated to a musical performance by Kym Gouchie, a singer/songwriter from the Lheidli T'enneh Nation. Kym is a self-taught guitar player and a traditional hand drummer, whose music moves audiences towards reconciliation with education and awareness.

In Nanaimo, employees were invited to participate in a condensed version of the Village Project workshop facilitated by Cultural Connections, with Elders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Cowichan Tribes. Cultural Connections shares Canada’s journey toward reconciliation; its highs and lows and the emotions it stirs up. As noted by Breannen Dick, Community and Indigenous Relations Liaison “The goal of these events is to provide FortisBC employees an opportunity to engage with the Indigenous communities we serve in an authentic and meaningful way. National Indigenous Day events give us all the chance to celebrate the diverse culture, unique heritage, histories and contributions of Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.”

Looking toward the future

At FortisBC, we provide service to 57 Indigenous communities while our natural gas and electricity infrastructure crosses more than 150 traditional territories in BC. In 2001, we adopted a formal Statement of Indigenous Principles that guides our approach to both day-to-day operations and developing effective relationships with Indigenous communities. 

Understanding, respect, open communication and trust are our key principles when working with Indigenous groups in BC. FortisBC is committed to building effective Indigenous relationships and to ensuring we have the structure, resources and skills necessary to maintain these relationships. Deepening of knowledge and understanding of the impacts and legacy of our shared history is essential as we work to strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities and pursue opportunities for partnerships. 

Learn more about how FortisBC is working with Indigenous communities throughout the province on initiatives like increasing energy efficiency for homes and buildings and supporting access to economic and employment opportunities for Indigenous People.