Members of Winnipeg's newcomer and Indigenous communities came together in a circle Saturday afternoon as part of an effort to strengthen relationships between the two groups.

"We should be helping one another," said Danielle Morrison, who took part in the Building Bridges conference at Circle of Life Thunderbird House.

Morrison, who has the Anishinaabe name of Niiyobinaasiik, said newcomers and Indigenous people have many commonalities and should use them as a way to come together.

"The experiences of both groups are very similar in terms of colonization and the suffering and the trauma that we've all experienced," she said.

Shereen Denetto

Shereen Denetto says newcomers and Indigenous groups are often competing for limited resources. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The University of Manitoba funded the two-day conference, which included performances by Indigenous and newcomer artists, as well as panel sessions.

Mandela Kuet was one of the panelists. He came to Canada almost 20 years ago from what is now South Sudan and lives in Winnipeg's North End. He said when he first arrived here, he had misconceptions of Canada's Indigenous peoples.

"The only perception that I had was from the media."

Kuet said living and going to school in the North End helped change that and break negative stereotypes.

The issue of Indigenous and newcomer groups competing for limited social resources was part of the motivation for the conference, said Shereen Denetto, who co-organized it.

Mandela Kuet

When Mandela Kuet came to Canada, he knew little about Canada's Indigenous peoples. (Travis Golby/CBC)

"We see it play out in our neighbourhood," she said, referring to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, which is based in the heart of the inner city.

She added one of the goals of the conference was to build bridges between the communities so there can be safer inner-city neighbourhoods. 

Part of that involves educating newcomers about Canada's Indigenous population, she said.

Fighting stereotypes

"They have little or no understanding of Indigenous peoples, their history, the history of Canada and colonization, so all they have are a bunch of stereotypes."

For Morrison, educating Indigenous communities about newcomers and asylum seekers coming into Manitoba is just as important.

Danielle Morrison

For Morrison, educating Indigenous communities about newcomers and asylum seekers coming into Manitoba is important. (Travis Golby/CBC)

"What I end up seeing on my social media from members of my own Indigenous community is that there's frustration over why we're not helping our own people first."

She said she feels it's important to break down those misconceptions, which was a goal at the conference.

Denetto said about 100 people came out to Building Bridges, which wrapped up Saturday afternoon.