Website to help people on personal journeys toward reconciliation launched

Reconciliation Saskatoon has launched a new website, ConnectR, aimed at building better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

ConnectR offers people a variety of paths

The ConnectR website offers different paths for people looking for a way toward reconciliation. (ConnectR)

Reconciliation Saskatoon is trying to bridge that gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with the launch of a new website, ConnectR.

Project manager Carrie Catherine said visitors to the site are offered different paths to start their personal journey of reconciliation.

"We wanted to make it really personal and open the door for people to take a step forward," Catherine said.

The ConnectR website is highly visual, with each path leading to a selection of relevant calls to action. Activities it might suggest include: reading a particular book, learning about Indigenous protocols, visiting an Indigenous cultural site or going to a local workshop.

Sienna Waskewitch (left) and Carrie Catherine are helping launch the website ConnectR. (CBC News)

One unique aspect of the project is the involvement of seven ConnectR Youth Ambassadors who come from Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomer backgrounds.

They are going to document their reconciliation learning journey and share their experiences with the community through social media.

"As Youth Champions, we want to tackle difficult conversations about reconciliation so that more people feel willing to engage in calls to action," says ConnectR Youth Ambassador Sienna Waskewitch, a member of the Onion Lake Cree Nation.

"Reconciliation in all is just having better relationships with people around you and creating a more harmonious relationship with your community so that we can have these conversations without feeling too uncomfortable."

Catherine said people can take little steps that will lead to bigger leaps. It could begin with just acknowledging you are on treaty land when signing an e-mail.

"This is for people who are just starting their journey and have no idea about reconciliation," Catherine said. "But it is also made so that as you continue doing these little things you build up to a point where you can (do things like) review work policies about Indigenous inclusion."

She said reconciliation isn't going to be a walk in the park.

"These are tough conversations and we have to get to a point where we are willing to make mistakes because we are going to make mistakes along the way," she said.

"We also have to be comfortable being uncomfortable with each other."

Elder and residential school survivor Gilbert Kewistep said everyone's journey to reconciliation will be different.

"ConnectR is a great resource that provides people of all ages a starting point for their journey," Kewistep said. "As a survivor, I'm excited about the future of reconciliation and seeing people, particularly our youth, respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's (TRC) calls to action."

Funding for the project came from Saskatoon Community Foundation and the Government of Saskatchewan, as well as in-kind support from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and the City of Saskatoon. The City of Saskatoon also provides website hosting services for the ConnectR website.

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Scott Larson works for CBC News in Saskatoon.